The Shinnecock Indian Nation has voted to re-elect Lance Gumbs, a former tribal chairman, to its council of trustees, in an upset that represented a vindication for the one-time leader.
Gumbs, who operates the Shinnecock Indian Outpost on Montauk Highway in Southampton, in 2012 was the subject of a tribal probe by a committee that ultimately recommended the ouster of Gumbs and four others.
Gumbs denounced the probe as “illegal,” and refused to acknowledge the ouster, as did the U.S. Department of Indian Affairs. Gumbs also was banned from running for re-election but successfully fought that edict last year.
But Gumbs said in an interview, “I’m all about healing right now. This nation needs to move forward.”
Tribal spokeswoman Beverly Jensen said “the tribe has spoken” with its vote.
Gumbs won re-election to the general council of trustees with 122 votes, ousting the Rev. Michael Smith, who received 81 votes.
Another trustee, Sachem Eugene Cuffee II, who received 94 votes, was ousted by Dondi Williams, who got 121 votes. Andre Denis, who received 26 votes, did not win a seat.
Linda Franklin, the tribal elder sunksqua, who ran unchallenged, was re-elected with 204 votes.
The seven-member governing body has staggered trustee terms. Charles Smith remains tribal chairman, Randy King is vice chairman of the trustees, Daniel Collins Sr. is secretary to the council, and Terrel Terry is general council secretary.
Gumbs said his re-election will rekindle tribal matters that have remained dormant or unresolved since he left office. The issues include the tribe’s relationship with Gateway Casino Resorts, its one-time casino partner.
Gumbs also said he wants to restart the tribe’s oyster business, consider a tribal gas station and possibly examine smaller-scale gaming than some of the Islandwide projects considered over the past decade.
“We have to start here,” he said. “I have to put whatever happened in the past behind me. None of us can go back and change the past but what we can do is come together collectively and move forward.”
Gumbs and four others in 2012 were accused by a tribal committee of clandestinely working on casino development projects apart from Gateway. Gumbs and the others denied the charges and refused to accept the findings, and he and trustee Gordell Wright remained in office for the remainder of his term, despite his attempted ouster.
Last year, a tribal member who had been charged with stealing emails that were the basis of the tribe’s investigation pleaded guilty to federal charges and was sentenced to probation.