Law | National | Federal Recognition

Vice: Shinnecock Nation treated with disrespect in own backyard






The flag of the Shinnecock Nation. Photo from SN

Justin Doolittle of Vice tackles the struggles facing the Shinnecock Nation in the Hamptons, one of the wealthiest enclaves in the country:
The Shinnecock Indians have lived on Long Island's famed East End for thousands of years. Like so many other tribes along the east coast, the Shinnecocks were ravaged by disease brought by European settlers. Today, the Shinnecock Indian Nation consists of less than 1,500 members, about half of whom live on the tribe’s 750-acre reservation on the island’s southeastern shore. The Nation finally earned federal recognition in 2010 after a brutal, decades-long legal battle that one tribal leader described as a “degrading, humiliating, intrusive experience.” Four years later, though, some of the optimism that accompanied that historic moment has dissipated. Economic development remains a serious challenge. It would not be a stretch to describe the Shinnecocks as desperate.

The story of what has happened to this proud tribe over the past century and a half involves some fundamental questions about the American project: Who owns what? What is to be done for those victimized by the system and left with nothing? When do grievances from the past cease to be legitimate? As with so many other native tribes, none of these questions have thus far been resolved in the Shinnecocks’ favor. Their saga serves as a sobering reminder of how those who stand in the way of the capitalist mission—merely by existing—get bulldozed and forgotten.

The Shinnecock Indian Nation’s tribal lands are entirely within the parameters of the Town of Southampton, which happens to be a favored vacation spot for economic elites, including some of the most powerful people in the world. Tycoons like George Soros and David Koch own mansions there, as do a bunch of faceless financiers, those people no one’s ever heard of who somehow become billionaires by doing work no one understands. They are joined by the likes of Howard Stern, Kelly Ripa, and other big shots from the entertainment industry. Truth be told, if you don’t have a place in the Hamptons, you’re really not balling like you should be. It’s a place for obscenely rich white people, and P. Diddy, to just get away from it all, and spend their summers lavishly.

Anyone who has ever walked the streets of Manhattan—or any other major American city—has witnessed the acutely nauseating spectacle of extreme poverty and egregious wealth existing side by side. What makes the contrast between the Shinnecocks’ exceptionally modest existence and the virtually unrivaled affluence that surrounds uniquely jarring, though, is that all that land on which the Masters of the Universe play their precious golf and throw their fabulous parties once belonged to the tribe. Today, this land is considered some of the most valuable real estate in the world, worth billions of dollars. And the Shinnecocks want it back.

Get the Story:
Justin Doolittle: This Tribe Wants to Kick Rich People Out of the Hamptons (VICE 9/3)

Related Stories:
Shinnecock Nation spent $32M in 32 years for federal recognition (08/12)