Saturday, June 25, 2005

Casino Interest in Land Bid Divides Tribe in Hamptons

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y., June 21 - The Shinnecock tribe likes to refer to itself as one big family. Now, like all big families, the tribe is having its brawls.

On June 15, the Shinnecocks, who occupy an 800-acre reservation here on the South Fork of Long Island, sued New York State, Suffolk County, Southampton and others in federal court, laying claim to 3,600 acres of local land, including the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, a site of the United States Open. A second suit, to follow, is likely to include the entire town of Southampton, whose property owners and taxpayers Gov. George E. Pataki has vowed to protect.

But the land claim and the reasons behind it have also created sharp divisions within the tribe, as well as with the people of Southampton. Critics, including tribal members, contend that the real issue is a bid to build a casino that was stopped by a court order in 2003.