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Jul 30, 2019 2:25 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Shinnecock Indian Nation Gets National Support From Tribes For Billboard Project

Jul 30, 2019 3:27 PM

As the Shinnecock Indian Nation is in court to defend its right to construct and operate revenue-collecting billboards along Sunrise Highway, the National Congress of American Indians, or NCAI, unanimously approved a resolution to support the Nation and others across the country that undertake similar projects.

The standing resolution asserts that tribes have the right to conduct economic development projects along highway easements on tribal land. It is an affirmation that affects many tribes across the country that have state or federal highways running through their ancestral lands.

The issue of whether tribes or states have jurisdiction over highway easements, or right-of-ways, on tribe-owned property has been the source of past conflict and stands as the reason why the state is suing Shinnecock leaders in State Supreme Court.

Construction of two 61-foot-tall electronic billboards began in late April across from each other along Sunrise Highway in Hampton Bays for the purpose of bringing in millions of dollars a year to fund public assistance programs for tribal residents.

Southampton Town and the State Department of Transportation made several attempts to stop the work shortly after contractors broke ground, but work continued, because the Nation claimed full authority of the site. Town officials opposed the billboards’ conflicting aesthetic and expressed safety concerns, while state officials claim that Shinnecock leaders and their contractors are in violation of state law because they do not have a DOT work permit.

A month later, the billboard at the southern site was completed and operational—the same day that the State DOT and the State of New York filed papers in State Supreme Court that resulted in a temporary restraining order. The lawsuit has been proceeding since then, and no work has commenced on the northern billboard, although the tribe has ignored the restraining order and continued to use the existing billboard for advertisements.

Tribal leaders requested a motion to dismiss the case, citing sovereign immunity from suit, and Justice Sanford Neil Berland has yet to make a decision.

Shinnecock Tribal Council Vice Chairman Lance A. Gumbs submitted and pushed for the resolution during the NCAI’s 2019 Mid-Year Conference held in Sparks, Nevada, in June. In addition to his local leadership role, he also serves as the NCAI’s Northeast regional vice president.

“This is something that, even though it’s localized in terms of what the state and town are trying to do, it has national implications for other tribes if they want to do the same type of things on their tribal lands,” Mr. Gumbs said.

He continued, “There is a unity across the country, because we’ve found and we’ve seen over the years where something that affects one tribe eventually, through the ripple effect, affects all tribes.”

The resolution condemns state regulatory efforts to restrict tribes’ rights to carry out economic development projects on tribal lands and calls on the federal government and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to protect the rights of all tribes.

“The action against the Shinnecock Indian Nation is but one example of a state attempting to exercise regulatory authority over tribal lands as a tool to intrude on tribal sovereignty,” the text read.

The National Congress of American Indians is the largest and oldest American Indian and Alaska Native indigenous rights organization in the country. Its executive committee is made up of a four-member board, 11 regional vice presidents and 11 alternate regional vice presidents.

“It’s a major accomplishment, and it shows that the tribes out there are taking this situation seriously as it pertains to the greater Indian communities around the country,” Mr. Gumbs said.

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Conflicting aesthetic???? Does anyone notice the high weeds and traffic cones everywhere!!
By hbram (1), Westhampton on Jul 30, 19 3:56 PM
That's your state in action. Your people filed a stop work order, so now efforts are divided. Who has time and resources to think about weeds when your fighting just to be able to make a dollar to pay the weed cutters?
By BlossomTuktu (1), SOUTHAMPTON on Aug 2, 19 10:42 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By guest (68), Bridgehampton on Jul 30, 19 4:41 PM
It’s amazing. The tribe fought for the sign and now it looks like a crap whole around it. All about he land and you can’t even clean up after yourselves. It’s a disgrace. Garbage, coolers, trash. And I thought it was bad when the tourists left there garbage all over the place. Respect your community and clean it up.
By guest (68), Bridgehampton on Jul 30, 19 4:42 PM
3 members liked this comment
Guest, I agree. Let’s get the tribe to clean up Shinnecock bay too, peconic bays also. It’s terrible how the tribe has polluted the entire east end.
Aug 2, 19 7:53 AM appended by Fred s
(S) sarcasm
By Fred s (3207), Southampton on Jul 31, 19 7:53 AM
Judging a person does not define who they are, it defines who you are
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Aug 2, 19 7:17 AM
It's ugly and disgraceful -- zero "respect for the land." I can't hang clean laundry in my front yard but I guess I could get away with a billboard?
By bettyboo (38), Southampton on Jul 31, 19 7:38 AM
Funny, respect was never an issue before 1640--I wonder where such uncivilized behavior came from... As for dirty laundry, that depends: has your community survived genocide only to be robbed of its basic means of subsistence and invaded by murderers and thieves whose affluent decedents do EVERYTHING in their power to constantly rip away any authority you have over what little remains of your home?
If that sounds like you, then by all means put a billboard up in your front yard and join the ...more
By AniiBrown (3), on Aug 2, 19 11:28 PM
@ AniiBrown

Yet again, a solipsistic Shinnecock dons the mantle of victimhood to justify his antisocial behavior.

If only the evil Pilgrims would stop preventing you from acting civilly.
By highhatsize (4187), East Quogue on Aug 3, 19 3:23 AM
May you enjoy a serving of humble pie through a tube.
By themarlinspike (521), Northern Hemisphere on Aug 3, 19 9:04 AM
Everyone is entitled
By chief1 (2790), southampton on Jul 31, 19 11:56 AM
Put the Welcome to NY in front of it. UUGGLLYY...
By knitter (1908), Southampton on Aug 1, 19 5:51 PM
In earlier articles, the Shinnecock Indian Nation was quoted as saying they would file an amended complaint in the existing federal court action, in the Eastern District of NY. Has that amended complaint been filed?

The federal district court is the one venue where ALL of the many factual and legal issues could best be resolved [IMO], many of them going back many many decades.

Have any of the parties to this state action asked for the case to be removed to the federal court?


By PBR (4954), Southampton on Aug 1, 19 7:42 PM