A nearly five-year legal battle between the Shinnecock Indian Nation, the state of New York and the local Southampton Town has reached a turning point, or possibly an end.
This week, a federal appeals court has overruled a permanent injunction granted in 2008 by a federal judge at the request of the state and town that prevented the Shinnecocks from using the tribally owned Hampton Bays property called Westwoods for a casino, reported the Southampton Press. The tribe first proposed developing the site for gaming purposes in 2003.
The court has determined the case belonged in state court, rather than federal court, because it concerns local zoning jurisdictions. It will now be remanded back to a state court, although it remains unclear whether the state and town will instigate the fight again.
Immediately after the ruling, the tribe requested a meeting with Governor Andrew Cuomo to discuss the tribe’s economic development plans including a casino far from the originally proposed Southampton location—in western or central Suffolk County, Nassau County, or even New York City.
“Now that the Nation has been federally recognized as an Indian tribe and has been freed from the effects of that judgment and injunction, we again ask Governor Cuomo to sit down with the Nation to discuss how the Nation and the State can move forward together,” stated a tribal news release dated June 25. “Our ancestors and tribal leaders, both living and those who have gone before us, always have maintained our tribal lands for the benefit of all tribe members. This always will be our starting point for any discussions, and we look forward to finding an agreed basis with the State for realization of our common goals.”
The same judge who issued the injunction, Judge Joseph Bianco, also ordered in 2008 for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to expedite its excessively long federal recognition process. The Shinnecocks faced a 15-year-long or longer process. But two years later, in 2010, the tribe received federal recognition—the first step necessary to apply to build and operate a casino.