October 5, 1998

For Further Information Contact: Mark Tilden, (303) 447-8760; Peter Smith (516)283-6143

 

SHINNECOCK TRIBE OF NEW YORK FILES PETITION FOR FEDERAL RECOGNITION AS A TRIBE

BOULDER, CO – The Shinnecock Tribe filed a petition with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), U.S. Department of Interior for federal recognition as a tribe on Friday, September 25th. The State of New York acknowledges the Shinnecock Tribe and interacts with the Tribe as a political entity. However, since the Shinnecock Tribe does not have the same government-to-government relationship with the federal government, it is seeking an administrative determination by the Department of Interior that the Tribe has continued to exist as an Indian tribe from the first recorded contact with the European settlers in 1640 to the present day. Peter Smith, Chair of the Tribal Trustees, (the Tribe's elected governmental representatives) says, "This is an historic moment for the Shinnecock Nation. Our cultural heritage is strong and our community's continuous existence is well documented. It is time for the BIA to acknowledge us, too. It is the hope and desire of the Shinnecock people to enter into positive government-to-government relations with all federal agencies." Traditionally, federal recognition has been accorded to Indian tribes through treaty, land set aside for a tribe, or by legislative means. Of the more than 600 tribes in the United States, 510 are federally recognized and the remaining are unrecognized or were "terminated" as governmental units during the termination policy era in the 1950s and 60s.

Presently, the Tribe is based on the Shinnecock Reservation near Southampton, New York, on the lands that have remained in its possession since 1859. The Shinnecock Tribe has occupied the eastern end of Long Island since time immemorial. Since the 1970s, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) has provided legal and technical assistance to the Shinnecock Tribe in preparing the necessary historical, legal and anthropological documentation to support its petition for acknowledgement.

Mark Tilden, NARF staff attorney who represents the Tribe is optimistic about the move for federal recognition. "A new era in Shinnecock tribal history has begun for the Tribe as it files its Petition for Acknowledgement as an American Indian Tribe. It will firmly establish a government-to-government relationship with the United States. With that relationship the Tribe will finally be able to exercise all the rights and privileges held by federally recognized tribes."

The Native American Rights Fund is a non-profit organization that provides legal advice and representation to Indian tribes, individuals and organizations nationwide in the areas of: the preservation of tribal existence; the protection of tribal natural resources; the promotion of human rights; the accountability of governments to Native Americans; and the development of Indian law. NARF is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado with offices in Washington, DC and Anchorage, Alaska.