Shinnecock Nation's recognition opens doors
The federal government's official recognition of the Shinnecock Indian Nation as a tribe opens the door to a multitude of services, grants and other possibilities, from opening a casino to laying claim to historical lands to improving health care, housing and education on its reservation in Southampton.
Here is a rundown.
The approval means the tribe can now seriously enter into negotiations to open a casino, either on the reservation or off. By law, the Shinnecocks can almost immediately open a Class II casino on their reservation that would be limited to video lottery terminals. A Class III casino with slot machines, roulette wheels and table games such as poker and blackjack could be built only off the reservation, and would face multiple hurdles to gain approval in a process that could take years. Numerous sites have been proposed, from Calverton to Belmont racetrack to the Catskills.
The tribe has a claim for 3,600 acres in Southampton - land that includes existing Southampton neighborhoods, and the famed Shinnecock Hills golf course and the National Golf Links of America. Some tribal leaders say they could leverage the claims to win hard-to-gain approval for an off-reservation casino. Experts say it is highly unlikely they would take over the land of the country club and nearby exclusive estates to get a casino.
The Shinnecocks can now create their own law enforcement and court system, since they are officially considered their own nation. Their current small private security detail, which patrols unlighted roads on the poverty-plagued reservation, would be replaced by a formal police force, trained at a federal tribal academy in Artesia, N.M. Judges, court clerks, and other paid government officials and employees can also be appointed and hired. Federal money may be available to help.
The tribe has had trouble getting bank loans to buy and improve homes, since reservation land could not be foreclosed on. Now federally backed loans and grants may be available to improve the generally low quality of housing.
The tribe has one building on its reservation devoted to basic health care, but would like to add a dialysis center. Federal money may be available.
Most Shinnecock children attend Southampton public schools. Tribal leaders have said they will eventually look into opening their own school on the reservation. They have also floated the idea of a tribal college on the grounds of the former site of Southampton College. It's not clear when funding for these and other programs would be available - or how much, though it could easily be in the millions. Tribal leaders say they have started the application processes.