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