The flag of the Shinnecock Indian Nation will fly in the halls of the Suffolk County Legislature after a formal presentation Tuesday welcoming the tribe in its new federally recognized status.
The Southampton tribe's 32-year quest for recognition was granted Oct. 1 after years of setbacks and a last-minute challenge by two groups.
"Frankly, it was justice done, and we are very proud to be their neighbors today," said Suffolk Legis. Wayne Horsley (D-West Babylon).
The county presented the tribe with a proclamation to mark its recognition and cut a cake with the tribal logo made by the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts School. Shinnecock Trustee Gordell Wright led the tribe in traditional song before the legislature.
"We are truly touched by this gesture," tribal trustee chairman Randy King said. "It has been a long struggle. We give thanks for those [tribal members] not here today." More than 200 members died during the 32-year wait for recognition.
"We pledge to work together as we always have to meet mutually acceptable goals," King said.
The legislature formed a committee to work with the tribe to identify sites for a possible casino, an effort that yielded locations at Calabro Airport in Brookhaven and elsewhere. The tribe is still deciding on final sites and hopes to work with Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo on a compact to draw up terms.
Legis. William Lindsay (D-Holbrook), the legislature's presiding officer, accepted the tribe's flag from tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs. He said the legislature would proudly display the flag. "We'll treasure it," he said.