Shinnecock Nation loses attempt to revive ancestral land claim

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, in blue jacket, visited the Shinnecock Nation on October 1, 2015, for the launch of the Tribal Solarthon. Photo from Shinnecock Nation / Facebook

The Shinnecock Nation of New York appears to be at the end of the road with one of its land claims.

The tribe sued the state of New York and other parties to assert ownership of about 3,600 acres on ancestral territory. A federal judge dismissed the claim in December 2006, holding that the tribe waited too long to bring the case.

The tribe immediately took the matter to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. After some procedural issues were resolved, briefs were finally filed this year.

"From time immemorial, the Shinnecock Indian Nation owned and occupied the land in and around what is now the Town of Southampton," the tribe said in its opening brief. "Agreements between the Nation and the English settlers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries memorialized the Nation’s rights to this land."

Despite some lengthy arguments from both parties, the 2nd Circuit issued a short summary order on Tuesday that affirmed the dismissal of the case. The ruling cited two precedents, one from the U.S. Supreme Court and another from the 2nd Circuit, that have made it nearly impossible for tribes to reclaim ancestral lands due to the "disruptive" nature of the claims.

The tribe's next option would be an appeal to the Supreme Court but the justices have not been receptive to land claims in recent years.

Turtle Talk has posted briefs from the case, Shinnecock Indian Nation v. State of New York.

2nd Circuit Decision:
Shinnecock Nation v. New York (October 27, 2015)

Related Stories:
Shinnecock Nation asserts ownership of shoreline by reservation (07/05)

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