Members of the Montaukett Indian Nation during the dedication of a...

Members of the Montaukett Indian Nation during the dedication of a stone on Oct 8, 2022, that honors graves that have been lost to time, including those of Native Americans who became slaves and indentured servants in the Oakdale area. Credit: John Roca

Members of the National Congress of American Indians on Thursday rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have limited the status of state-recognized tribes in the influential Native organization.

The vote among member Native nations at the group’s annual convention in New Orleans this week was 56.1% against and 43% in favor of the resolution, according to members in attendance. The resolution would have mandated that only federally recognized tribes could be voting members of the congress, relegating state-recognized tribes to “associate” nonvoting status.

The NCAI didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Among the most forceful opponents of the amendment was Harry Wallace, chief of the Unkechaug Nation, a state-recognized tribe, on the Poosptatuck reservation in Mastic. The Unkechaug tribe, like the Shinnecock, Montaukett and other Long Island tribes, predates Colonial America.

Wallace on Thursday said he was “glad that this effort at disunity was soundly defeated,” but added, “It’s obvious that we must be ever vigilant in the protection of our rights and our sovereignty and to have an organization that speaks with a powerful voice and represents all our interests.”

Members of the nearby Shinnecock Indian Nation of Southampton also weighed in against the amendment, including former Shinnecock tribal chairman and NCAI regional vice president Lance Gumbs, who told Newsday the bill would have set “a very dangerous precedent.”

The move comes as the Montaukett Indian Nation awaits word from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office on whether she will sign a bill passed by the State Legislature that would restore the tribe’s state recognition. The tribe’s status was undone by a widely criticized 1910 state Supreme Court ruling that determined the Montauketts were dispersed and “disintegrated,” despite members of the tribe being physically in court at the time.

Sandi Brewster-walker, executive director of the Montaukett Nation, on Thursday urged the governor to sign the bill, noting that November is Native American history month. She said she looked forward to becoming a member of NCAI. (Brewster-walker was previously an associate member.)

Wallace said it was time the governor and the state “acknowledge the mistake that was made in the past and hardships that it caused the Montaukett people. Do what everyone in the State Legislature and in the state feel is right and sign this bill.” A Hochul spokeswoman this week said the governor was reviewing the legislation.

Hochul has until Nov. 24 to sign it.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

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