Sunday, January 3, 2010

Apologies to the Shinnecocks

So the Shinnecocks finally have achieved federal recognition as an Indian tribe, only about 230 years or so belatedly. The basic criteria for federal recognition was whether or not you were fierce enough or formidable enough to require the federal government to recognize you in a formal treaty, and since the Shinnecocks were no longer a military threat when the Federal government came on the scene, they were allowed to languish for centuries without federal status, only with state recognition, But the Shinnecocks have been in the records of the English and Dutch since the 1630s and have managed to hold onto a reservation of about 800 acres, with about 500 residents, despite the best efforts of developers to despoil then of their land over the centuries.

The Shinnecocks want to build a casino, or somehow profit economically and I don’t blame them, though I hope they come up a more creative way of profiting from their new status than gaming. And I also hope they also find new ways to publicize their existence, perhaps through a museum. Of all the Alquonkian-speaking Indian nations, tribes, and bands that once roamed Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley, there are only two small reservations left, both on eastern Long Island, the Shinnecocks, and the tiny Unkechaung Poospatuck reservation, at a mere 50 acres. The federal recognition of the Shinnecocks is a triumph not only for them, but for the Munsee, the Delaaware, the Lenape, the Raritan, the Wekquaegeck, the Hackensack, the Canarsee, the Kichtawank, the Esopus, the Mattinecok, the Montauck, and many others. Let us hope that the federal recognition of the Shinnecock is a first step to a more general acknowledgement of New York State’s Alquonkian heritage.

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