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Shinnecock dedicate new recovery home

LONG ISLAND, N.Y. - The Shinnecock Indian Nation held a special ceremony May 20 to dedicate a new recovery house for tribal members who are struggling to free themselves of drug or alcohol addiction.

In February, the Shinnecock Presbyterian Church congregation voted to authorize the board of directors of the tribe's Substance Abuse Mobilization Project to renovate the 100-year-old cedar-shingled pastor's residence for use as a recovery home for tribal members who are trying to change their lives.

SAMP is a faith-based health ministry of the church of the Shinnecock Presbyterian Church.

The recovery home will serve as the centerpiece and focal point of SAMP's stated mission to ''promote and create an environment of healing and wellness within the Shinnecock community.''

Around 60 people attended the dedication, the Rev. Michael F. Smith said.

''It went well. We've been working on the SAMP project for about a year and a half, and we finally acted to put together a board of directors. Many of them attended the church service on Sunday, and afterwards some individuals went over and smudged the house and offered their prayers and blessings and it was a really good day,'' Smith continued.

Smith and his family used to live in the pastor's house.

''Because I am from the reservation I have access to some property and my family has been building a home up here for a number of years; and when we moved into our home, the church residence became vacant, and the congregation decided it would be alright to use it as a recovery home,'' Smith added.

Although the project has been in the works for some time, the arrest in April of nine reservation residents during a raid by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies prompted the SAMP board of directors to take a ''leap of faith'' and begin renovation work on the recovery home, trusting that the necessary funds will materialize, Smith said.

''We're considering a number of grants. We've received some funds from state government through one of our local politicians. We've got some funding from a program in the town of Southampton, and some private individuals have donated, and we're soliciting some funds from foundations and private corporations. We'll also be looking to the federal government for some possible funding,'' Smith commented.

The tribe is in a kind of limbo between being state recognition and federal acknowledgement. A federal judge gave the tribe federal recognition in 2005, but the BIA insisted that the tribe go through its federal acknowledgement process, despite a federal law that says tribes can be recognized by the BIA, Congress or the judiciary. The tribe has a pending lawsuit against Interior to compel the BIA to add the tribe's name to its list of federally recognized tribes.

''As for federal recognition, we pray on that one, too,'' Smith said.

The April police raid resulted from a request last fall - from the tribe's leaders to the local district attorney - to conduct a drug investigation on the reservation. The leaders had been asked repeatedly by tribal members to take action against the drug activity which they said threatened the tribe's way of life on the reservation.

''At any given time, we probably have two or three members of the tribe in treatment programs. The recovery home will be for five to seven male members of the tribe who have gone away to rehab and are coming back to the community and will live together in a safe and sober environment. Some of the people arrested might become eligible down the road to live in the recovery home,'' Smith added.

The house needs a lot of work. The interior will be stripped, new plumbing and electrical systems will be installed, and then the interior will be rebuilt.

''I know it's an ambitious time schedule that I'm envisioning as one person on the board, but I'd like to see it at least close to occupancy by the time of our pow wow, which is Labor Day weekend. We'll do what we can with the belief that the necessary funds will materialize. It's all in the Creator's time and if it's meant to be, it will be,'' Smith said.