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Sep 9, 2019 4:25 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

The Shinnecock Nation's Land: Is It A Territory Or A Reservation?

Official Shinnecock Indian Nation signs say
Sep 10, 2019 3:06 PM

The Shinnecock Indian Nation’s 800-acre peninsula of land, known as Shinnecock Neck, has been called both a territory and a reservation — state law, Wikipedia pages and Google Maps list it as a reservation, but official tribal signs call it a territory.

So, which one is technically correct, and what is the distinction between them?

Tela Troge, the tribe’s attorney, and Bryan Polite, chairman of the Council of Trustees, cleared up the ambiguity.

The officials said that their land is considered a territory and not a reservation — and calling it the latter would be inaccurate. Ms. Troge defined a reservation as “land reserved by the United States for an Indian tribe,” which, in most cases, meant relocating tribes from their original land, but also is a specific land designation.

The federal government never had to reserve a site for the tribe, because members have been living on their original land since long before the first English settlers arrived in 1640.

“We’ve never been removed from our original territory, like a lot of other tribes were, so that’s where the difference really comes in,” Ms. Troge said. “We weren’t placed onto a reservation, we weren’t relocated onto a reservation, and we don’t have federal land. So that’s why you hear our land referred to as a ‘territory.’”

The chairman offered the legal definition of their tribal territory: “All lands described as Shinnecock Indian Nation tribal land, including the reservation at Shinnecock Neck and Westwoods, all lands over which the Nation retains jurisdiction, all lands held by United States of America in trust for the Nation and any lands, which may, in the future, come within the jurisdiction of the Nation by any lawful means.”

Referring to the land as “territory” became more frequently used among members after the tribe earned federal recognition in 2010, the two officials pointed out. The decades-long effort to gain such recognition required a “deep dive” into the tribe’s history, Mr. Polite said, in turn educating the community about the correct land designation.

“I would say that it was because of federal recognition that made people more interested,” the chairman said. “Because we were spending a significant amount of money on genealogists and people going through our entire history, people started to understand the distinction between sovereign territory and a reservation.”

Mr. Polite said that the Nation officially changed its letterhead in 2013 from “reservation” to “territory.”

Before being federally recognized, members generally called their land a reservation, which is how it is referred to in New York State Indian Law. Shinnecock land is considered one of the state’s 11 Indian reservations under the law, which did provide state recognition prior to the federal recognition in 2010.

“If you do hear Shinnecock land being referred to as reservation, it’s in reference to a state reservation status, not federal reservation status,” Ms. Troge said, adding that tribal members have taken pride in calling their land a territory rather than a reservation because of the higher level of sovereignty associated with the distinction.

Regardless of the correct term, many members will stay in the habit of calling their land “The Rez,” Mr. Polite said.

“That has little to do with the distinction of the actual classification of the land and more to do with just, like, a local name for an area,” he explained.

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Will the Shinnecock Indian Nation be filing an amended complaint in its federal court lawsuit about the electronic signs on 27 near the Canal?

There has not been an update recently on the status of this federal case, nor on the state case.

Thank you for any updates.

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 9, 19 5:36 PM
If the FEDERALLY reconized tribe is not a STATE tribe, why is the state giving them money for schooling, roads and other benefits??? Why are they putting a sign on STATE land that was part of the STATE Highway system>??
That land was seized to add to the state highway system as was houses and land. They do have land to the south and north of the of the fenced land. I do think they they are mistaken that they still own the condemed land that the STATE took over years ago before they became ...more
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Sep 9, 19 6:17 PM
They do own it, not the State. NYS has an easement across it.
By East End 2 (151), Southampton on Sep 10, 19 8:21 AM
It is my understanding that the area known as Indian Territory centered around Oklahoma, for the use of Native Americans transferred or moved from other places. Maybe someone should check with the federal government for the proper definition or use of territory.
By SusieD (115), Southampton on Sep 9, 19 7:18 PM
The Rez is a Hamlet, much like North Sea.
By themarlinspike (542), Northern Hemisphere on Sep 10, 19 8:30 AM
The US Census Bureau refers to it as a "State Reservation".

Shinnecock (state) Reservation, NY
Total 662
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Sep 10, 19 8:58 AM
All of these issues, plus the 27 sign issues, could be decided by the federal judge in charge of The Nation's federal case in the Eastern District of New York. Recently it was announced that the court complaint was going to be amended.

Is The Nation going to file this amended complaint soon?

Sweep all the issues into one comprehensive court case, and see if the various parties [NYS, SHT, federal BIA, etc.] can work out a settlement, in order to set The Nation on a good and prosperous ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 10, 19 12:31 PM
Since when does one group have more rights than others? This is America you live you have you give back when you die the concept of forever is ludicrous
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Sep 10, 19 4:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
not sure which America you've been living in but there are all sorts of people with different rights here.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Sep 12, 19 9:35 AM
Change of a letterhead doesn't qualify...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Sep 17, 19 1:49 PM
Such silly complaints about land originally owned by Indians as a whole, Then had America white settlers , now local white political officials trying to take back and control land that stole firstly. What the hell is wrong with America that we take and take and try to starve the only non immigrant to America .
By 1percent (52), Quogue on Sep 18, 19 8:36 AM
LOL, the "Indians as a whole".

Take a moment to explore some of the more creative ways tribes treated the tribes they conquered. I don't mean the women and children, we know they were taken away. I mean the men and boys. Millions killed and tortured over the history of the "native" Americans who wandered into this land from Siberia, likely displacing those already here.

I don't think any of the peaceful agrarian tribes slaughtered by the war tribes though of themselves being a ...more
By MoronEliminator (215), Montauk on Sep 20, 19 3:50 AM