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Shinnecock Nation wants Supreme Court to review land claim

The Shinnecock Indian Nation wants the Supreme Court

The Shinnecock Indian Nation wants the Supreme Court to take up its case to reclaim thousands of acres of Hamptons property, including the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

The Shinnecock Indian Nation has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up its 11-year case to reclaim thousands of acres of Hamptons property that the tribe argues was stolen by government officials in the 1800s.

The March 25 filing is a request for the Supreme Court to review the case, five months after it was dismissed by a federal appeals court in Manhattan on Oct. 27.

The Supreme Court receives thousands of requests each year, but typically takes just 100 to 150 cases.

“At its heart, this case is about American property law” and whether the rights of the Shinnecock Indian Nation “can be ignored and disregarded by the courts,” the tribe’s attorneys said in their appeal to the Supreme Court.

Attorney Richard Guest of the Washington, D.C., nonprofit Native American Rights Fund is representing the Southampton tribe. He did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

Shinnecock trustees planned to release a statement about the case Monday, the tribe’s director of communications said Friday.

The Shinnecocks argue that an 1859 state law illegally stripped the tribe of about 3,600 acres on the South Fork that has been developed into luxury homes, the Stony Brook Southampton college campus, and the famed Shinnecock Hills Golf Course.

Tribal leaders filed the lawsuit in 2005, seeking the return of the land and damages estimated in the billions.

Named among the defendants are New York State, Suffolk County, Southampton Town, and home developers and golf course companies that have developed the area now called Shinnecock Hills.

Also included are the Long Island Rail Road, whose expansion across the South Fork to Montauk Point spurred the 19th century land transfer; and Long Island University, former owner of the campus that is now Stony Brook Southampton.

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office, which is defending the state in the case, had no comment, a spokesman said.

State lawmakers who approved the transfer of the land to Southampton Town, the lawsuit argues, violated a 1790 federal law that barred states from taking tribal property without approval from Congress.

The Shinnecocks argue that a panel of three U.S. Court of Appeals judges erred in October when it upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss the case based on precedents in land claims by the Oneida and Cayuga nations of upstate New York.

Attorneys for the tribe say in the Supreme Court filing that the appeals decision represented “a governmental taking that violates the Fifth Amendment.”

In January, the tribe’s attorneys received an additional 60 days to prepare a Supreme Court filing after an initial 90-day window expired.

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