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Shinnecock Nation hits the end of the line with 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 U.S. Supreme Court on Monday put an end to a land claim filed by the Shinnecock Nation of New York.

Without comment, the justices issued an order denying a petition in Shinnecock Indian Nation v. New York. That means a 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decision that went against the tribe will stand.

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

The 2nd Circuit agreed in October 2015. The decision was the latest in a string of defeats for tribes in the Northeast that have been trying to reclaim their ancestral lands.

So far, the 2nd Circuit has ruled against the Shinnecock Nation, the Cayuga Nation, the Oneida Nation and the Onondaga Nation. The court never considered whether the tribes were right on the merits but instead determined that pursuing the land claims would be too "disruptive" to local governments and non-Indian residents.

That finding was based on the Supreme Court's decision in Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation. Although a land claim wasn't at issue in that case, the 2nd Circuit has used the decision against the tribes. The Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to consider whether that approach is correct by denying petitions filed by the tribes.

The Shinnecock Nation has lived on Long Island for tens of thousands of years. Tribal leader say their land was taken by fraudulent means and theft by the colonial and state governments.

The tribe had limited options to pursue justice through the courts due to its lack of official federal recognition. That finally changed when the Bureau of Indian Affairs finalized the tribe's status on October 1, 2010.

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

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