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Cuomo Vetoes Montaukett Recognition Bill; Thiele Vows To Press On

Montaukett leader says veto may be a blessing in disguise.

Sachem Robert Wyandance Pharaoh Credit: Courtesy of Leighton Delgado
Sachem Robert Wyandance Pharaoh Credit: Courtesy of Leighton Delgado

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vetoed legislation that would have established a procedure to evaluate the Montaukett Indian Nation for state recognition.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., I-Sag Harbor, and State Sen. Ken LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, would have permitted the Montauketts — with about 1,500 members — to file a petition with the New York State Secretary of State.

In 1910, the state court declared the Montauketts extinct while resolving a land dispute in the case Pharoah v. Benson, a decision that was later questioned in a subsequent court ruling.

"My legislation was designed to give the Montaukett Indians an opportunity to reverse this century old injustice. Unfortunately, the veto will only serve to perpetuate this questionable court decision," Thiele said.

In a message accompanying the veto, Cuomo said that the bill would strain state resources because it would create a new recognition process like the one used by the federal government.

However, Thiele refutes that statement and said he is disappointed with Cuomo's decision.

Thiele said the state does not have the extensive resources necessary conduct such an investigation.

“First, the legislation only required that the state use the federal standards for recognition, not the same federal process. In fact, the bill expressly states that the Secretary of State shall 'establish the level of proof and documentation that shall be necessary to meet the mandatory criteria'," Thiele said.

Sachem Robert Wyandance Pharaoh posted a message to the Montaukett Indian Nation on its website saying that while it may seem like a "terrible blow" to keep the faith. "It is not as bad as it might seem, nor will it delay our ultimate goal of recognition for the Montaukett. It could actually accelerate it," he said, calling it "a blessing in disguise."

"In his rejection letter, Governor Cuomo directed the State Department to 'study the issue to determine the merits of Montaukett recognition'," Pharoah said. "Ironically, this was our ultimate goal in the first place," he said.

"Governor Cuomo’s veto allows us to bypass that complicated step and negotiate the criteria for recognition directly with the Secretary of State," he said.

The bill would have authorized the Secretary of State to adopt rules and regulations, such as the level of proof and documentation necessary to meet the criteria, Thiele said, adding that the burden would be on the Montauketts, not the state. The final decision about state recognition would lie with the State Legislature.

In June, the State Legislature passed the bill, as did the State Senate, unanimously.

The Secretary of State could have charged a review fee to cover the review, similar to the review of permits and environmental impact statements. 

"This would not have cost New York State taxpayers a nickel. The better question is 'what is the cost to our state to perpetuate this injustice?',” he said.

“My resolve to obtain justice from New York State for the Montauketts is in no way diminished by the veto," Thiele said.

Conservative Underground September 29, 2013 at 06:25 AM
Fed Thiele is on the case....hope it works out better than his much touted gas law which did NOTHING. Here is a suggestion for the Montaukett...get a good lawyer (not double dipper Fed Thiele) and sue, that is the only way to fight the Tyrant in Albany.
tito September 29, 2013 at 11:39 AM
It's another case in which arthur benson was dishonest. He screwed the montauk Indian tribe and also the other freeholders of east hampton many of times. Benson has shown a prescriptive stance as lies and cheats. Hopefully this case and others in east hampton that benson has his fingerprints on will be resolved positively for the residents of east hampton.
Surfprotector September 29, 2013 at 12:12 PM
Is this the same Fred Thiele who wants to give Camp Hero land back to the Indian tribe? Are he and his buddies cooking up a scheme to try and ram a casino through?
Conservative Underground September 30, 2013 at 08:06 AM
It is the same Fed Thiele who talks a lot but only manages to produce a lot of hot air just like the rest of the so-called smart people in Albany. But his check clears every week, he gets paid no matter what he does...working on State business or working on his law practice. Say, how does that work, how does a State rep seperate his work for the state from his private practice? Sounds like a potential conflict of interest to me....sure would nice if Patch asked Fred Thiele that question.....Patch, you there? Taylor, Henry?

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