The Obama administration said Tuesday that the Shinnecock Indians on Long Island meet the criteria for federal recognition, signaling the end of a 30-year court battle and clearing a path for the tribe to pursue its plans for a casino in New York City or its suburbs.
The announcement all but assures that the 1,066-member Shinnecock Indian Nation will receive formal federal recognition, though a public-comment period of up to six months must be held before the final order is issued.
The news could mean significant changes for the relatively poor tribe, most of whose members live on 800 acres in Southampton, N.Y., not far from some of Long Island’s wealthiest communities and expansive celebrity-owned estates.
Shinnecock leaders have long argued that a casino could turn around the tribe’s fortunes.
“This recognition comes after years of anguish and frustration for many members of our Nation, living and deceased,” Randy King, chairman of the Shinnecock trustees, said in a statement, adding, “Perhaps this recognition will help some of our neighbors better understand us and foster a new mutual respect.”
Once it is federally recognized, the tribe would be entitled to build a “Class II” casino on its land that could have thousands of video slot machines but no table games. That has worried some local officials because of the implications that such a casino would have for traffic and tourism in the wealthy resort areas. ...
The tribe is also hoping to resolve more than $1 billion worth of land disputes in the Hamptons, including its claim to the site of the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, which has played host to the U.S. Open several times.
The article doesn't mention that the Shinnecock "Indians" are well known to be triracial, with ample African and white ancestry. That's just too complicated for New York Times readers, I guess.
Here, for example, is a photo I found of Randy King, chairman of the Shinnecock trustees, who is mentioned (but not, of course, pictured) in the NYT article. In the same picture there is also one white guy and three NAACP officials. Try to guess which is which. It's not too hard, but it's not totally obvious either. (The answer appears in the Comments.)
I'm not saying that zillion dollar casinos shouldn't be handed out to mixed race people based on their ancestry, just that you might think that the New York Times would at least mention in a long article why it took from 1978 until the Obama Administration for the federal government to accept that the Shinnecocks are Indians under the law. I mean, I live 3,000 miles away and I knew all about the Shinnecocks' ancestry for decades, but, apparently, no word about it is fit to print in the NYT.
Indeed, decades ago I read an article about how the first African-American to play in the U.S. Open golf tournament was in 1895, when a Shinnecock who had helped build the first course on the site, competed in the Open.
For example, here's the 1892 oil painting Shinnecock Indian Girl by William Merrit Chase. The text explains: "In the features was to be seen a curious blending of the two types, Indian and African."
Or, here's a picture of tribal trustee, Lance Gumbs, who looks a little like comedian David Allan Grier.
And here's a picture of Peter Smith, who was head groundskeeper at Shinnecock Hills, a position long reserved for a Shinnecock, for the 1995 U.S. Open. There was a big to-do about racism when he was replaced by a groundskeeper from Pebble Beach to get ready for the 2004 Open. Smith looks rather like Hugo Chavez, whose ancestry isn't that different from the Shinnecocks.
One interesting thing is how within a couple of hundred years, a moderately endogamous population of highly divergent antecedents can develop a fairly homogeneous look.