Shinnecock Nation Has First Female Head in 200 Years

First female chair since 1792 hopes to ease conflict on reservation, with other governments
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2024 6:00 PM CDT
Lisa Goree Plans New Approach in Leading Shinnecock Nation
Shinnecock Indian Nation trustee James Eleazer Jr., third from right, addresses the media as tribal Chairman Randy King, center and Charles Smith, left, listen outside court in Central Islip, New York, where King filed papers claiming tribal ownership of 3,600 acres of land in Southampton in 2005.   (AP Photo/Ed Betz, File)

The Shinnecock Indian Nation in New York has been led by women before, but it's been more than 200 years. Lisa Goree has ended the run of male governance that has included tension with officials of surrounding governments and conflict on the Eastern Long Island reservation, planning a change in approach. "Women are nurturing and maybe more sensitive to people's issues," Goree said, per the New York Times, "so maybe there's a different way of going about how to handle things and be more responsive."

Chairing the tribe is a big job. Goree oversees daily tribal operations and land, business, and economic matters; presides over leadership and public meetings, and casts the deciding vote when the tribal council is deadlocked. Her predecessor stepped down this spring with a year left on his term, blaming exhaustion. He supports Goree's ascension. "Having a woman as the face of our nation for the first time since 1792 is remarkable," Bryan Polite said. Goree already bridges both worlds, which she expects to be an advantage: She's town assessor for surrounding, far wealthier, Southampton.

"She comes with the connections and knowledge of the town government and knows all the players," Polite said. The Shinnecocks have clashed with local, state, and federal officials, often over projects planned for their land, such as a casino in the past and a gas station now. Adding to the disputes is the fact that Goree says neighbors' land was "stolen by false agreements' with the tribe in the 1660s, per the Times. Considering her Southampton office, she said, the issue with landowners has "come full circle because they contact me if they feel their assessment is too high." (More Shinnecock stories.)

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