The New York State Department of Transportation served the Shinnecock Indian Nation with a cease-and-desist order Friday, May 17, sparking a legal battle between the two sides regarding two 61-foot-tall, double-sided electronic billboards being built along Sunrise Highway in Hampton Bays.
“Today, the New York State Department of Transportation continued an unjust pattern of mistreatment and total disregard for the economic welfare and sovereignty of the Shinnecock Nation,” the Council of Trustees said in a press release, “without any legal basis. We have been good neighbors since 1640, but our good nature has been met with encroachment, theft of land, racism, and double talk.”
The NYSDOT and Southampton Town officials, the trustees said, have attempted to illegally impose state and town law on sovereign territory by mischaracterizing a questionable easement that grants limited rights to build and maintain a highway, but never grants ownership rights. The members opined that the town mischaracterized the project in an effort to sow seeds of fear in the public and smear “the Shinnecock people as the harbingers of the end of the beauty of the Hamptons.”
The council reaffirmed the need for the project to maintain economic stability, saying the advertising revenue from the billboards would provide substantial resources.
“The project in question is going to allow our people to finally address the economic disparity that has plagued our community for generations,” the council said. “The Shinnecock Nation has been through many trials and tribulations throughout our history and we are still here. With the strength of our ancestors and the blessings of the creator, we will fight this injustice, continue our project, uphold our sovereign rights, and protect our territory.”