April 12, 2006
The Shinnecock Study Fiscal Prospects
Evaluating an assortment of business ventures other than gaming, the Shinnecock Indian Nation is taking steps to improve its economic standing and infuse an impoverished community with much-needed cash flow.
The tribe has been speaking with officials at Stony Brook University to see how it could help the nation revitalize its defunct oyster hatchery.
Tribal Chairman Lance Gumbs said that Stony Brook President Shirley Strum Kenny "was very receptive" to his suggestion of jointly working together on the oyster project.
"She was enthusiastic about the idea" of collaborating with the nation, Stony Brook public relations director Patrick Calabria confirmed. "The discussions are in the formative stages; there will be a number of different ideas being explored."
Stony Brook is near a final approval from New York State to move onto Long Island University's Southampton campus, although it already leases LIU's marine science center.
It is unclear how the partnership would work but the alliance would compliment Stony Brook's curriculum in Southampton, which will stress environmental sustainability and marine science.
The Shinnecock's hatchery was established in 1974 but the brown tide events in 1985 derailed the program. Lack of funding has prevented the tribe from reviving the business.
In addition to Stony Brook's interest, aquacultural specialist Gregg Rivara at the Cornell Cooperative Extension for Suffolk County, has spent the last two years advising the Shinnecock on shellfish hatcheries as well as trying to obtain federal and state grant money for the tribe's oyster project.
"The Shinnecock have a lot of
work to do on that site," since the facility has not been in recent use, Rivara said.
Meanwhile, the tribe is working in
the waters to get the program off the ground.
"We have been reseeding our local waters to get the shellfish growing again and I know that we will continue to
reseed and [this is] one of the industries we're hoping to revitalize," said
Gumbs, adding that the tribe could experiment with fish or shrimp hatcheries as well.
The Shinnecock also have been approached by other tribes about becoming a distribution center for affordable pharmaceutical prescription drugs on the reservation, much like the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head in Martha's Vineyard. The Southampton tribe has not fully reviewed the option but has not ruled it out.
"It's really just a question of sitting down and looking at what's available and then trying to make some informed decision as to what would be the best route for the Shinnecock Nation to take because not everything is good for every tribe," said Gumbs.
Recently, the Shinnecock aligned forces with the Unkechauga Nation on the Poospatuck Reservation in Mastic to form the Long Island Native American Business Alliance. Comprised of mostly business owners and distributors, the group is tasked with generating ideas to improve the economic standing of both tribes.
"We felt it would be more productive to collaborate and to start to look at what is available, what we can do, what are the ideas, and how we can combat some of the negativity that's coming at both tribes," said Gumbs. "Together we can take a look at where we're at and where we'd like to go."