For Montauketts, a Third Try

Legislation granting state recognition to the Montaukett Indian Tribe has passed the New York State Senate and Assembly, Senator Kenneth LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced Tuesday. It was the tribe’s third attempt at state recognition; similar bills had been vetoed twice. 

The Montauketts were declared extinct in a state court decision in 1910 and members have been trying to gain recognition ever since. The Assembly approved the legislation in a 137-1 vote; the Senate approved the measure 61-0 on June 5. 

The Montauketts lost state recognition in a legal case known as Pharaoh v. Benson. In declaring them extinct, a judge cited dilution of the tribe’s bloodlines through intermarriage.

 In 1994, the State Supreme Court, in the matter of Breakers Motel v. Sunbeach Montauk Two, subsequently described the Pharaoh case as of “questionable propriety,” according to a joint statement from Senator LaValle and Assemblyman Thiele, but it had no immediate effect.

“The designation was improperly removed from them in 1910, and it’s time the Montaukett Tribe receives the appropriate recognition,” Mr. LaValle said. “I am pleased that we were able to obtain the approval of the measure from both the Senate and the Assembly.”  

The legislation will now go to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and, if signed into law, would take effect immediately. The governor vetoed similar legislation in 2017 and 2013, but the lawmakers said the Montauketts had since met with the governor’s counsel and provided additional information.

“I’m delighted that the Senate came through in the 11th hour to vote in favor of this important measure, following the Assembly’s approval,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “The Montaukett Indian Nation is alive and thriving, and I’m proud the State is finally correcting a grave injustice.”