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What's next in Shinnecock quest for recognition?

The Bureau of Indian Affairs' favorable proposed finding on the Shinnecocks' request for federal

recognition sets in motion a series of steps.

A 90-day comment period.That allows parties to comment on the ruling, including objecting to the bureau's findings. Given that New York Gov. David A. Paterson and the Town of Southampton both backed the Shinnecocks' bid for recognition, it's

unlikely that any major opponents will emerge.

A 60-day period. The tribe can comment on any objections raised and rebut them.

Final decision. The bureau is expected to issue a final ruling granting recognition by May.

Recognition promises a river of federal money that could lead to big changes:

Life on the reservation. Federal assistance will be available for economic development, social and educational programs. Also, money could set up a tribal police force and court system.

Housing help. The federal programs include

federally backed loans and grants for home purchases and improvements. Nowadays, banks don't typically make loans for homes on the reservation because reservation land can't be foreclosed on.

Land claims. The tribe has a claim for 3,600 acres in Southampton - land that includes existing Southampton neighborhoods and a golf course.

Federal status could give them greater standing to make their case. Or they could parlay that claim for land elsewhere for a casino site.

Casinos.With federal status, the tribe gets the right to open a limited casino, the kind with video-

terminal gambling but no tables games such as poker or blackjack. Many say the tribe may yield this right in exchange for a better site elsewhere.

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