An April 19 pre-dawn raid by the New York State Police and DEA agents on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation in Southampton led to what law enforcement officials called the “dismantling” of “a major narcotics distribution network” on Long Island. Those arrested include eight residents of the Shinnecock Nation, as well as Awan Gumbs, son of tribal trustee Lance A. Gumbs, state police said. Vehicles, handguns, shotguns and rifles were seized, as well as marijuana, heroin, crack, drug paraphernalia, a computer and almost $2,000 in currency. The raid was the result of an investigation police said was opened at “a request from the Trustees of the Shinnecock Indian Reservation” in a letter to Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.
Local county and municipal police also participated in the raid, which was backed up by helicopters. Although the Shinnecock Indian Nation ostensibly requested the outside intervention, a state police told Newsday he did not believe Shinnecock authorities, who have their own tribal security force, were notified before the raid. Noted Newsday: “Several store owners on the reservation informed members of the media seeking information about the raid that they were trespassing on private property and asked reporters and a camera crew to leave.” (Newsday, April 19)
The Shinnecock Nation has been a state-recognized tribe for over 200 years. In 1978, it applied for federal recognition, and in 2003 was placed on the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ “Ready for Active” list. (Shinnecock Indian Nation website)
Ironically, the raid comes two weeks after the Shinnecock held elections on the reservation for the first time (rather than in a Southampton courthouse basement) and formally adopted a self-determined tribal government, abandoning the “trust system” imposed on the tribe by New York state authorities in 1972. (Indian Country Today, April 16)
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