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Don’t Lose This Culture

Posted on 07 October 2011

They’ve waited exactly 101 years for this.

In 1910, a court ruling in the State of New York stripped the Montaukett tribe on eastern Long Island of its state recognition, thereby robbing members of the rights and privileges afforded all people of Native American ancestry in the state. But above all, it formally denied the Montauketts the right to their cultural identity within the state.

At the time, the argument went that the tribe had physically dispersed. Members had moved away from the roots of their nation on Montauk Point and in so doing had therefore caused the tribe to cease to exist. While the former is true — many Montauketts moved west to find more opportunities than were afforded them her — the latter is egregious.

Since when does moving mean culture is gone? That’s not how it works. For over 100 years members of the Montaukett tribe have fought to preserve what they could of a culture that — since the 1600s — has been slowly whittled down to its current state: a tribe with just over 1,000 members, almost none of whom live in Montauk, with no land to call their own. State recognition would change that.

We applaud Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Senator Ken LaValle for working to draft legislation that would bring the Montauketts state recognition. Part of the proposal would include a piece of land in Montauk on which the nation hopes to build a cultural center.

We believe this is something we can all benefit from.

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