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Shinnecock tribe to get status decision Tuesday

After a wait of more than 30 years, the Shinnecock Indian Nation expects to receive word Tuesday in its quest for recognition by the federal government.

A "proposed finding" by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is to be issued Tuesday. It follows a court order earlier this year mandating a decision.

The tribe, which has 1,300 members, including 600 on its reservation, has long been recognized in New York State. A 2005 federal court ruling also recognized the tribe as sovereign under federal court rules. But seeking formal federal recognition is a complex process that involves meeting a range of criteria to become eligible for federal programs.

The Shinnecock tribe first applied for federal recognition in 1978. Recognition would give members access to housing, health care and education loans, grants and programs - and the right to open a low-level gambling facility on their Southampton reservation.

The tribe is expected to use that leverage to open a larger-scale casino elsewhere on Long Island or the state.

Federal status also gives the tribe greater standing to make land claims. Federal housing grants and loans are needed because banks won't lend money for houses on reservation land, because it cannot be foreclosed upon. Tribal leaders declined requests for interviews in advance of the decision.

Once a decision is rendered by Indian Affairs, there's a 90-day comment period to allow the tribe or opponents to appeal. After that, there's a 60-day period for the tribe to respond to comments.

If the bureau recommends recognition, the tribe could get federally recognized status by spring.

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