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Jul 18, 2012 10:29 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Group Plans Protest Of Circus At Shinnecock Reservation

Jul 18, 2012 11:13 AM

Local animal rights activists plan to stage a protest near the Shinnecock Indian Reservation on Monday afternoon, just before the Cole Brothers Circus opens for a two-night run on the reservation.

The activists said the circus and tribe are flouting a Southampton Town ban on the display of large exotic animals for entertainment purposes and promoting the inhumane treatment of animals, such as tigers and elephants, that perform at the circus.

“It took us years to get the town to pass a law banning bringing exotic animals into the town and the circus is just going around the ban and went to the reservation,” said activist Dorothy Frankel, who led the push for the exotic animal ban in the town that was approved in 2005. “For a long time we worked with the tribal council to see if we could get it to where they could have the circus but without the elephants and tigers, but they wouldn’t agree to that. This year I said we can’t look away.”

The protesters will gather near the East Gate entrance to the reservation, on public property, at around 5 p.m. on Monday as the circus is preparing to open its big tent for the first of four shows on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Tribal leaders said this week that they have discussed the concerns raised by the animal advocates in the past and reviewed the manner in which the animals are treated by the circus handlers. Tribe officials said they found nothing objectionable with the operation that would warrant them insisting the animals not be brought to the shows at the reservation.

“We’ve looked at how and what they do with the animals, and we didn’t find any issue with the treatment of the animals,” Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs said.

Ms. Frankel pointed to a press release issued just this week by national animal advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, that claims the Cole Brothers Circus recently agreed to pay a $15,000 fine issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for failure to provide adequate veterinary care, following a series of complaints filed by PETA stemming from at least two instances of what the group says was the brutal treatment of animals. The PETA statement includes video footage of what it alleges is one of the circus’ employees striking an elephant.

A call placed at the Cole Brothers Circus headquarters in Florida was not returned.

The circus has been holding its shows on the reservation for the past four years, after pitching its tents for decades—including three years after the town’s exotic animal ban was adopted—on the Southampton Elks Lodge parade grounds along County Road 39. Hosting the circus, as well as last year’s Escape To New York music festival, are examples of the tribe taking advantage of its freedoms from local laws as a sovereign Native American nation to generate some revenue.

Mr. Gumbs pointed out that the tribe does not actively seek out groups to hold events on its powwow grounds.

“We don’t advertise it, but when people are interested, we’re here—we get lots of inquiries, some that we accept, some that we don’t,” he said. “We’d like to be one of the places that people consider for certain functions out here.

“We don’t have as much red tape as you get with the towns,” Mr. Gumbs continued. “We have our requirements and procedures, but it’s not the crazy permitting process. It’s a good thing for the tribe.”

Ms. Frankel said she and her fellow activists are investigating other avenues by which they could pressure or force the circus to stop using the animals, including possibly inquiring whether just transporting the animals through the town, on the way to the reservation, could be considered a violation.

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 18, 12 1:43 PM
3 members liked this comment
First thing I thought!

The Shinnecocks need to take care here -- animal rights activists are a savage and aggressive lot.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jul 18, 12 8:27 PM
As usual Tribal Grounds are exempt...maybe us taxpayers should demand that Tribal Nation being so independent and all, have their own Ambulance and Fire Services so as not for us to provide it. Maybe SHTown and SHVillage could pass a resolution banning any transporting of those exotic animals on their roadways, similiar to dangerous cargo, ie. chemicals, explosives, etc.
By The Squirl (36), Red creek on Jul 18, 12 3:20 PM
3 members liked this comment
Mr Gumbs said the reservation does not have much red tape??? What red tape?? How much is the Circus paying you Mr. Gumbs?
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Jul 18, 12 6:36 PM
“We’ve looked at how and what they do with the animals, and we didn’t find any issue with the treatment of the animals,” Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs said.

Of course you didn't. Hard to see abuse when you are counting the cash.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Jul 18, 12 10:03 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By johnnyhampton (82), Southampton on Jul 18, 12 10:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
That last paragraaph is just plain chilling. These people are so jaded that they woud attempt legislation like that. The circus people were smart to move to the res. They knew that they would get a "pass" for few years from the animal rights group, who would never want to offend the Native Americans. Now they are walking on egg shells as they try to impose their standards onto the reservation. It just keeps goin and going.
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Jul 19, 12 6:58 AM
A circus within a circus
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jul 19, 12 7:16 AM
What I find interesting is that a people who insist everything has to be done with respect and care for the earth and all nature would be ok with this kind of show on their land...
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Jul 19, 12 7:23 AM
1 member liked this comment
For all the shooting comments and racist overtones allowed on this thread (and others) - The next time there's a story about a white person committing a crime, I'll be sure to assume all white people do exactly that. I'll be sure to follow every story with a comment that says "there goes those savage white people again! They can't be trusted with tying their shoelaces!" Sound ridiculous? Well it is. But it's exactly how every story that mentions the word "Shinnecock" is treated. If you are someone ...more
By LMVT (56), Shinnecock Indian Reservation on Jul 19, 12 7:37 AM
1 member liked this comment
It has nothing to do with the circus but a shooting did occur because someone got too close to Shinnecock Land. Do you think that was ok to shoot at someone Lisa (LMVT)? The town passed legislation not to allow the circus to have some animals. The Shinnecock Tribal members should honor that and not allow it. This has nothing to do with anyone being a racist. This is about how the animals are being and have been treated by the circus. Cole Bros Circus have gotten fines now and in the past for abusing ...more
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Jul 19, 12 10:05 PM
What I love about this story is that the circus keeps coming to town. That is because the general public wants the circus and pays to see it every year. Animal rights groups can yell all they want-the general public does not care. If they cared and didn't support the circus it would not be here. The Shinnecock's provided a public service by allowing the circus on their land. They should be thanked.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jul 19, 12 9:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
Perhaps the tribe could offer premium tickets to those patrons who wish to avoid being shot at. (Such tickets to include a scarlet top hat to distinguish non-shootable from shootable spectators.)

Nonetheless, it would be a good idea for Lance Gumbs to advise his fellow tribesmen to refrain from igniting "firecrackers" while the circus is in town to avoid frightening the animals.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 19, 12 8:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
What on earth was the cause of the Press censoring my initial post? I simply inquired whether or not the Shinnecocks could be expected to shoot at the protesters as they have been alleged to have shot at the baymen.

Is there a significant difference between baymen "dissing" the Indians by "trespassing" on "their" bay waters and protesters "dissing" them by claiming that they are cold-blooded money-grubbers?

A simple promise by Lance Gumbs would go far to assuaging the fears not ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 22, 12 5:14 AM