New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced his bill, which would set forth an acknowledgement and recognition procedure for the Montaukett Indian Tribe by the State of New York, has passed both the Assembly and the Senate and now awaits approval or veto from Governor Andrew Cuomo
The Native American Montaukett Tribe has a long, culturally rich history on the East End of Long Island. The Montaukett Indians had been formally recognized by the State of New York, until their acknowledgement was removed, in what Thiele called a “questionable” manner, in 1910 in the land claim case of Pharaoh v. Benson when the Montaukett Indians were declared extinct. This case was subsequently described in a 1994 State Supreme Court case, Breakers Motel, Inc. v. Sunbeach Montauk Two, Inc., as being of “questionable propriety.”
“Over a century ago, in deciding a land claim in the case of Pharaoh v. Benson, the courts of New York State did a grave injustice to the Montaukett Indians by declaring that they no longer existed,” said Thiele. “This misdeed has been perpetuated over the years despite the fact that the members of this sovereign Indian nation have continued to live in our community, maintain their culture, and govern themselves.”
“In 1994, the State Supreme Court referred to this case as being of ‘questionable propriety’. Today, we take the first step toward reversing this wrong,” added Thiele. “This legislation will permit the Montaukett Indians to petition the State of New York to restore their sovereign status. The Secretary of State would be required to evaluate the petition and make a recommendation to the State Legislature. Then, the State Legislature would make a final determination on state recognition. I am confident that if the Montauketts are given the opportunity to petition, they will regain their state recognition.”
Historically, the New York State Legislature has granted recognition or acknowledgment to Indian groups in the state of New York by an act of the legislature. There currently are no objective standards in place to consider a request by an Indian group to obtain recognition by the state, according to Thiele. This legislation would establish objective criteria for consideration of acknowledgement or recognition which may be used by the Legislature in evaluating such request.
“The Montaukett Indian Nation is alive and thriving and deserves to be acknowledged by the State,” noted Thiele. “Passage of this bill in the Assembly is a huge step forward for the Montauketts who, for over 100 years, have been trying to reverse this injustice. It is time for their rights as a New York indigenous nation to be restored. I am hopeful that the Senate will act to ensure its passage before the end of the 2013 session.”