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Feds grant Shinnecock Nation reservation status in the Hamptons. (Casino coming soon!)

After a 32 year court battle, the Shinnecock Nation has been awarded “semi autonomous reservation status” right in the middle prime Long Island real estate.

Reservation status means a massive windfall of money for the 1,300 member “nation.” They get access to the vast financial entitlements given to reservations by the Federal Government.

Of course, the big money will be the casino. They already have congressional backers to help get the rights to build a casino.

From UK Guardian…

Historically – and indeed pretty much since Europeans first arrived in the area in the 1600s – the Shinnecock have been on the retreat. They lost land steadily as more and more Europeans began to farm their traditional territory, eventually leading to an agreement in 1703 that saw them confined to a broad swath of land around Southampton under a 1,000-year lease. However, in 1859 the pressure of development saw that deal scrapped by the settlers and the Shinnecock reduced to their current tiny holding. For years tribal members then eked out a living working on white farms or helping local fishermen and whalers.

Now that is all set to change as a key part of federal recognition allows the Shinnecock to do the one thing that has changed Native American fortunes more than anything else in the last 100 years: build a casino. Gumbs now sees real power finally in Shinnecock hands. “We are going after everything we are entitled to,” he said. “I am not a big fan of Southampton. They were happy as long as we were the good little Indians in the corner. Well, that’s changed now.”

It is unlikely that the Shinnecock will build their casino in the Hamptons itself, which is already notoriously crowded and traffic-clogged. Instead the simple threat of it is likely to eventually see them negotiate the right to build a casino elsewhere in Long Island, an area that is seen as ripe for the development of a gambling mecca.

Either way, it seems Shinnecock fortunes are set to be dramatically reversed. For many tribal members it is a chance to rescue what remains of the tribe’s culture. Sitting in the tribal museum and cultural centre, Winonah Warren, 71, remembers being taken as a young girl to see a Shinnecock medicine man. She sees the deer that she spots in her garden as a spiritual sign.

She practises a Native American religion in which she takes peyote. It is about as far from the Hamptons scene as it is possible to get. “I love being on the reservation. Even when I am not here, I feel that my heart is,” she said, touching her chest.

Some even feel that federal recognition – and the prospect of a casino – might be the beginning of a wider Shinnecock resurgence. In the white land grab of 1859 an area of land called the Shinnecock Hills was taken. Many Shinnecock held it to be sacred ground. It is now full of rich houses and the famous Shinnecock Hills golf club, with total real estate worth more than a billion dollars. The Shinnecock have sued to get it back.