Tag Archive | "shinnecock nation"

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Members of the Shinnecock Nation, along with other non-Native American volunteers, help move a canoe from the beach into the water as the Shinnecock Indian Tribe recreated a canoe trip from a beach on their lands in Hampton Bays across the Long Island Sound to meet their Connecticut bretheren on Friday, 6/22/12

Members of the Shinnecock Nation, along with other non-Native American volunteers, help move a canoe from the beach into the water as the Shinnecock Indian Tribe recreated a canoe trip from a beach on their lands in Hampton Bays across the Long Island Sound to meet their Connecticut bretheren on Friday, 6/22/12



By Mike Pintauro


It’s not often that East End residents have an opportunity to witness history in action. But an event of both historical and spiritual significance took place last weekend among Southampton’s Native American community when dozens of members of the Shinnecock Nation boarded canoes at their Southampton reservation and embarked on a three-day paddle across the sound to visit sister tribes along the Connecticut coast.

It was the first time in hundreds of years that members of the tribes came together via canoe in a celebration that many hoped would bring peace of mind.

The trip across the open waters of Peconic Bay began on an overcast day last Friday morning. From a point on a bluff looking out over the water, it was barely possible to see the shores of the North Fork. Yet from this spot on the west side of the Shinnecock Canal, the second stop for the Shinnecock rowers who began their journey from Cuffee’s Beach on the Shinnecock Bay side of the reservation the night before, they would head north. Gathered in a circle, tribal members and friends held hands to make a spiritual connection, as they prepared to leave their tribal lands for those across the sound. Among the rowers was Chenae Bullock, whom, along with several others, was inspired to organize the trip.

“I had a vision this would happen after going out to the Northwest tribal canoe journey,” said Bullock who traveled with fellow members of the Shinnecock Nation to Washington State to take part in a similar paddle from Seattle to the Swinomish tribes. They were the only group representing the Eastern Coastal tribes. “They have over 90 to 100 canoes in the water at a time and I was hoping one day we would have canoes in the water like that.”

“You have to start somewhere,” she added.

This inaugural Shinnecock trip appeared to trigger great emotion in tribal members who gathered along the beach and out on the bay to provide prayers, thereby sending the canoe off in traditional Shinnecock fashion. Several Shinnecock members traveled alongside the canoe in support boats and periodically participated in the rowing.

From Friday’s launch point, the rowers paddled towards Conscience Point in Southampton, where they made a short stop before continuing on to the North Fork and, after a portage, to Connecticut.

As the rowers entered the mouth of the Thames River in Connecticut, Bullock reported that something amazing happened.

“I was singing a traditional paddle song, and there was a bald eagle that flew over our canoe and flew in the direction we were heading, and circled the Pequot territory,” said Bullock who described the experience as very powerful, given the rough weather and rough seas that blew them towards the Connecticut shores.

Once arriving safely in Connecticut, Bullock described how the Shinnecock rowers were joined by members of the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, who joined them in several other canoes to continue the trip upriver to Mohegan.

For many members of the Southampton tribe, the trip signifies a quintessential component of Shinnecock culture.

“This is bringing back our ancient traditions of crossing the sound and visiting one another again,” said Josephine Smith, Shinnecock Tribal Council Leader. “This is a way of teaching our children that this is a way of being together—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.”

The connection between the Shinnecock and the Mashantucket Pequots is strong and the tribes travel to one another’s festivals, pow wows, and funeral services. Tribal members, however, recognize the turmoil that exists in society and the difficulties it often poses in their lives today. So the Shinnecock look to find solace and strength in canoe trips like this one, which they hope will include members from more tribes in the future. For Bullock, last weekend’s trip served to strengthen not only the Shinnecock, but all coastal tribes.

“Our ancient way of life — this is the way we need to return to it,” she said, “It’s the way we need to live every day to help us not be so influenced by all of the negative forces that have been imposed upon us by greater society that we have often strayed into.”

The Accidental and Intentional Neighborness of Our Communities

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convo H Haie A Cornish

A Conversation with the Rev. Holly Haile Davis and her mother, Elizabeth Haile, two prominent members of the Shinnecock Nation who recently took part in “The Accidental and Intentional Neighborness of our Communities” a discussion with Rev. Alison Cornish held at the meetinghouse of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork.

You led this discussion at the UU Meeting House last week. How did it go?

Holly: I’d like to define discussion. Alison and I decided to begin a conversation last year at this time. It took the form of a dialogue sermon at the meeting house. A conversation between us in a public arena. It was very tentative, opening a door that in my mind has never been opened. What I mean by that is outsiders wanting to have more than a one-way conversation with the Shinnecock. It’s been very one-sided for 370 years. To have a conversation where more than one side’s will was being considered was represented in our dialogue sermon last November. And so this was then part two of that continuing conversation. The second installment was this past Sunday. We wanted to expand that conversation to include what I might offer in terms of the conversation, but also what my family elders and younger people in our family would have to say if asked by our long time neighbors what we had on our mind.

Alison: Both of our roles shifted this year — we’ve committed to having this conversation privately as well as publicly. Holly and I meet regularly not just as colleagues and friends, although we are that, but to continue the conversation of ‘what does this mean to be these communities on the East End?’ My charge to my congregation was to bear witness, to hold space in as nonjudgmental and as open minded a way as possible to allow representatives of Holly’s family and the Shinnecock people to speak their truth. From my perspective, I could have heard a pin drop for a long time in that sanctuary (Elizabeth nods). It took a long time for the young people to feel moved to speak, but they got there. Some of the things they said revealed deep feelings of hurt and pride and love and worry. For my part, we were on the edges of our seats. It was empowering. We closed the service both years with a seminal handshake, which our friends have introduced us to — standing in a circle around the perimeter of the sanctuary, and people shake hands in chain, and each person in the room gets to shake hands with everyone else in the room. Holly and her family were all in one area of the circle. As members of the congregation arrived in that area, things slowed down. People didn’t want to move on from that spot. I was really touched by that. Whatever was being handed, whether it was gratitude or questions, clearly it was being communicated.

Holly, do you have any recollection of what was being conveyed as things began to slow down?

Holly: It illustrates like few other events can illustrate, the distance between our communities. If I have lived next door to you for 370 years, why doesn’t a passing greeting represent all that we share? That part hasn’t even happened yet. So if I haven’t spoken to you in 370 years and I finally get a chance to speak to you, it’s gonna be more than a passing handshake — those opportunities are not created. That’s why last year when Alison invited me into a conversation with her, I thought it was a wonderful, unique invitation. Because that doesn’t happen.
We tease and call November Indian season — there will be lectures at schools, before Thanksgiving there’s a moment for Native American singing or dancing. Local people don’t often go to the powwow. The only people who say “I’ve never been” are people who live right here. That’s because of the atmosphere of what Eastern Long Island has become so far. So someone inviting the Shinnecock to speak and attend and create a space where that could happen was valuable and rare. I hope our neighbors will be willing to hear what we have to say.

Elizabeth: I looked at it as an opportunity to express Native American awareness. I use that term because it represents the willingness of our people to put into a nutshell our way of life, our being, our very presence, that has been here and of which our immediate neighbors are not aware. (Laughs). They really don’t know us. It’s easier to make a category than to know individuals. I would like to remind Southampton township that there’s an office of liaison between Southampton and the Shinnecock Nation. It was established in June of 2009 and I was appointed to be the person to fill that desk and represent my nation but they have never found a place for my desk yet. I was invited last June to go and look at a space that had been vacated and would be appropriate for the Native American liaison office and that was the last I ever heard from them.

So you went and approved of the office…
Elizabeth: Oh yes. I said that would be fine, and then I never heard from them again. Is that awareness or what? How about unawareness? It’s because we have a wonderful sense of humor that we’ve survived all of this. And I think our young people who have told of the hurts they have experienced in middle school and high school in Southampton public, that they came out with a very positive comment on the whole situation, I thought they were beautiful in their understanding of what happened to them, and how, as my granddaughter said, they thought she would never make it into private boarding school, that she wouldn’t be accepted and she couldn’t afford it anyway, from which she graduated and then went on to college, from which she graduated, and now she is teaching in the schools, public and private. So what happened to all those predictions?

Alison: She was so magnanimous in saying that the doubt made her stronger. Holly and I joked about having started this dialogue last year at Indian season, in November. It’s more than true — it’s metaphorically true. I’ve lived here for 21 years and my understanding of the greater community’s relationship with the Shinnecock Nation is to make the Shinnecock Nation into something two dimensional rather than three-dimensional. Fortunately we have people like Holly and Elizabeth who go to schools and at least get past the cardboard cutouts that are stuck in the windows and past the mythologies we were all raised with. But I also feel like a part of the two dimensionalizing is to turn the Shinnecock Nation business into headlines. As soon as it becomes a media story, it has all of those things you need for a newspaper story: conflict, colorful characters, language. People begin to walk around the East End thinking they know who the Shinnecock are and what they’re doing. And they have lined themselves up on one side or the other without any relationship. And what it all boils down to for me is relationship. I wanted a relationship with Holly. I wanted to know Holly and her interests and passions and struggles. Not the way she presents them on a pulpit or in a press release, but as a person. The only way to do that is to sit and to talk and to laugh together and to cry together and to know each other’s lives a little bit.

Holly: I am very grateful to Alison for having so much courage. It was courageous to ask the question: would you like to start this dialogue?

I see this conversation is a great step in the direction of creating a relationship between our neighboring communities. What else do you see as a step for us to take to make a relationship so people can see you as three dimensional?

Elizabeth hands me an official document signed by the president.

Alison: This was an amazing proclamation issued by President Obama and one of the young women read this as part of Sunday’s service, and she became choked up. She teared up in reading an official government proclamation. As she said, she saw herself as a real person in his words… The relationship is a new beginning. This is spiritual work first and foremost. The political process has been dominant in pursuing nationhood with all their vigor and all resources and all their time. Things have to be legislated. We all know that, for example, the civil rights movement changed laws, but we don’t have equality. The only way that’s going to happen is person by person. My hope is that after somebody comes to a service like we had, they’ll read the newspaper differently, maybe they’ll go to a powwow, not just as a consumer but as a participant, that when kids come home from school and talk about what happens on the playground they might hear those stories more fully, more compassionately, with more advocacy. One thing Holly’s sister [Rebecca] spoke about that moved me deeply was about the most difficult thing she’s ever done in her life — to go to the Southampton town board and ask them to protect Native American burial sites. Can you imagine as a white privileged person to have to go and plead with government officials to not unearth the remains of ancestors? What would it be to walk with Becky across that line as you would walk with a pregnant woman to a clinic — I see the relationship and the conversation being one and the same. But ultimately it’s about changing one heart at a time. It’s slow work and you have to be committed to it. We like each other, are committed to the work, but it’s still hard to find the time to go deep enough.

Elizabeth: I am going to be teaching people that the president has indeed established a proclamation of Native American Month and Native American Day (November 26) as an annual event; it gives a place in the curriculum. We can say this is the national day of celebration in honor of our ancestors. How about that?

Holly: Don’t judge a sister or brother until you’ve walked three moons in their moccasins. That human to human thing — I laugh when I’m walking down the street and I wave my arm — I don’t even know who the person is. On the outside I walk down the street and people walk right by you. No good morning, no hello. The human to human thing is often the element that we’re missing. That’s why we can’t get to step two, because we haven’t gotten to step one. We haven’t decided — what is it like to get up on a November morning with no heat? What is it like to go to a food pantry the day after Thanksgiving and get spoken to in such a manner that you leave there crying? Where is the human to human? That’s what Alison’s invitation represents to me.

Alison: A place is shaped by the people who inhabit it. When we think about the East End, it has not been shaped by the values and experiences of the Shinnecock people. It’s been shaped by the values of people who have come from away. There’s a disjunction between the people and the land. What I said on Sunday is this is a very small stab at giving equal time but we have a lot of time to make up.

East End Digest: June 11 through June 18

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“Landscape Pleasures,” the Parrish Art Museum’s annual two-day horticulture event and fund-raiser, will explore the use of color in the garden, fashion and the world around you. Scheduled for Saturday, June 13, and Sunday, June 14, the program will kick off with a morning symposium, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., featuring a conversation between renowned designers Isaac Mizrahi and Charlotte Moss, as well as talks by landscape historian and author Judith B. Tankard and garden designer Dan Pearson.

Self-guided tours of six private Southampton village gardens — those of Bruce and Maria Bockmann, Mr. and Mrs. Brownlee Currey, Juergen and Anke Friedrich, Parker and Gail Gilbert, David and Simone Levinson, and Betty and Virgil Sherrill—will round out the program on Sunday.

Judith Tankard will start off the symposium with a lecture on the color theories of influential female gardeners including Gertrude Jekyll, Beatrix Farrand and Ellen Biddle Shipman. Tankard received her M.A. in art history from New York University and has been teaching at the Landscape Institute, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University since 1987.

Dan Pearson will discuss the importance of color in his extensive garden designs, which include an Italian garden where white is the predominant color, and his own London garden. One of Britain’s foremost garden experts, Pearson has created and starred in several popular British television series on gardening. He is on the editorial board of Gardens Illustrated magazine and is a weekly gardening columnist for The Observer.

Keynote Speaker Isaac Mizrahi will take the stage with celebrated interior designer Charlotte Moss for a lively conversation about color. A leader in the fashion business for almost twenty years, Isaac Mizrahi is Creative Director for the Liz Claiborne brand, has been awarded four CFDA awards, written the book “How to Have Style,” created costumes for movies, theater, dance, and opera. A Parrish trustee since 2002 and co-chair of Landscape Pleasures, Charlotte Moss is founder of Charlotte Moss Interior Design, the author of six books, and the designer of houses throughout the United States and Canada. Her design work has been featured in numerous publications.

Sag Harbor

Candidates Lobby for Support

With elections for Sag Harbor Village mayor just around the corner, on Tuesday, June 16, this week candidates Michael Bromberg, Brian Gilbride and Jim Henry worked the campaign trail, visiting constituent groups, talking to residents, announcing endorsements and hosting a press conference in an effort to take the helm of Sag Harbor’s Board of Trustees.

Bromberg, the current chairman of the zoning board of appeals, was a guest at Friday’s Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee meeting, talking to the group about some of the issues he sees the village coming in the next two years.

Bromberg sees himself as representative of both the old and new Sag Harbor, and said he would like to see a village government elected that is interested in reaching out to the myriad of people in Sag Harbor who can aid government in accomplishing their goals. He said he was also concerned that an affordable housing trust, created during the approval process for luxury condos at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory, had yet to get off the ground, something he would like to see changed. Bromberg has also suggested the village could consider building both additional parking and affordable housing over the current village lot behind Main Street.

On Saturday morning, with roughly half a dozen residents in attendance, Henry threw a press conference at Havens Beach, stating a need for a village government willing to address a storm water runoff issue at the bathing beach and calling for the creation of a dog park. Henry, an attorney and economist, said while village officials “may be proud of a tight budget” projects like the $500,000 Cashin plan, proposed years ago to create a bio-filtration system for the Havens Beach drainage ditch have gone unfunded.

Henry also announced the endorsement of Congressman Tim Bishop, who on Tuesday withdrew his endorsement.

“As a Southampton Village resident, I understand that village politics occupy a special place, free of outside interests,” said Bishop in a statement. “As a rule, I do not insert myself into village politics. I recently made a snap decision and broke that longstanding rule. Upon reflection and with apologies, I withdraw any endorsements I have made in village races and I look forward to working with Sag Harbor’s next mayor.”

On Tuesday, Henry did pick up the endorsement of Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley, who called Henry a “person who puts community first and exhibits sound decision making.”

On Monday, Brian Gilbride said he had been sticking to a basic campaign strategy of knocking on doors and visiting with residents to share his goals for the village, which center around maintaining a fiscally conservative budget, he said. In addition to residents, Gilbride hoped to reach out to members of the business community as well as local not-for-profits.
Sag Harbor

Column Award
A column by Karl Grossman, published in the Sag Harbor Express last June, was chosen last week in the annual competition of the Press Club of Long Island as the best general interest column published in a weekly newspaper on Long Island in 2008.

The column — titled “Legally Corrupt” — concerned the selection of “official” county newspapers. It noted how each year the Suffolk County Legislature — and because of New York State law, governing bodies throughout the state — pick two “official” newspapers, one “representing the principles of the Democratic Party,” the other “representing the principles of the Republican Party.” These are then paid to publish legal advertising.

This “selection explicitly based on politics is a throwback to an era in American journalism when newspapers were avidly partisan, indeed many declared that in their names,” the column noted. It pointed to such “newspapers (still) called the Tallahassee Democrat (in Florida), Democrat and Chronicle (in upstate Rochester), Star-Democrat (in Easton, Maryland), The Republican (in Springfield, Massachusetts).”

It continued: “Change came to journalism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as many and then most newspapers sought to report the news objectively.”

The column stated that this selection of “official” newspapers “based on their ‘representing the principles’ of the major parties is antiquated—and corrupting to journalism.” It questioned whether a paper “would get such a designation if it offended” the politicians who do the choosing and declared: “Independent journalism is sacrificed by this system.”

In an acceptance speech upon receiving the award Thursday in Woodbury, Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury, said the system should be changed.

Sagaponack

Road Repairs
After years of drainage issues, Sagg Dune Court is creeping into a disheveled state, said members of the Sagaponack Village Board of Trustees, and is in need of repair. Mayor Don Louchheim reported driving on the road last week and said it was in a “horrendous” condition. However, Louchheim added that the village wasn’t looking to invest in a major road construction project, but did want to solve the underlying drainage issues at the site. Drew Bennett, a consulting engineer for the village, presented the board with three separate plans varying in cost and construction intensity. Bennett also noted that only 26 percent of the road was in fair condition, with the rest of it being in poor to very poor condition.

Trustee Lisa Duryea Thayer suggested the board explore going out for a bond for general road construction throughout the town not just at Sagg Dune Court.

“We could get some kind of statement from [village attorney] Anthony Tohill on if we can acquire performance bonds for not just here but for the whole village,” said Louchheim.

East Hampton

Muskets, Militia and More

History lovers of all ages are invited to experience an historic reenactment with the 3rd New York Regiment or the Brigade of the American Revolution and revolutionary encampment at Mulford Farm on James Lane in East Hampton Village.

Visitors will have the chance to meet the “Colonial Kids” between 10 a.m. and Noon, try on 18th century costumes, take part in butter-churning and play colonial games.

Free, half-hour guided tours of the Mulford Farm House restoration will be given at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and will offer clues to the 350-year history of the house. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again between 3 and 5 p.m., costumed interpreters will demonstrate traditional methods of spinning yarn with a drop spindle, weaving on the historic barn beam loom and basket making using age-old techniques.

The farm will reopen for a candlelight tour of the Revolutionary encampment at 7:30 p.m., and contra dance and refreshments in the colonial barn. Music will be provided by “Dance All Night.” The group features Larry Moser on hammered dulcimer, Mary Nagin and Jack Dillon on fiddle, and dance caller Chart Guthrie. All are members of the Long Island Traditional Music Association and have a wide repertoire of fun and easy dances for all ages.

For more information, please call 324-6850.

Shinnecock

D.C. Meeting

Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot and leaders of the Shinnecock Indian Nation met in Washington, D.C., on June 3 with representatives from the Office of Federal Acknowledgment (OFA) to participate in the process to secure recognition from the federal government for the tribe. The session was an integral part of the time line agreed to in a court-ordered settlement arising from litigation the tribe launched against the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The forum was hosted by the Department of the Interior in order to provide an opportunity for the Shinnecocks and other interested parties to present additional background on the documents submitted in response to OFA’s March 16 letter to the Shinnecocks. The letter, which was circulated to interested parties, identified records known to OFA that were not part of the information submitted with the Shinnecock petition. The petition seeking federal acknowledgment comprises over 500 pages, with 40,000 pages of additional documentation.

The settlement reached between the Shinnecocks and the federal government provides for expeditious review of the tribe’s original petition and its more recent submissions, as well as that provided by the interested parties. OFA sought materials from Southampton Town and New York State that were used in the earlier lawsuit over the Westwoods property, a 79-acre parcel in Hampton Bays which the tribe had began clearing for a casino. Additional records sought included expert reports from New York State’s genealogical researchers and a trove of historical documents from town clerk Sundy Schermeyer containing Indian lands, deeds and statistics.

Since first applying for recognition in 1978 and more formally in 1998, the Shinnecocks have litigated over what the tribe has called the Bureau of Indian Affairs “unreasonable delay.” With the agreement reached May 26 that led to the June 3 gathering, the Department of Interior must issue a preliminary decision on recognition by December 15.

“As town supervisor, I attended in order to represent the town board and show our support for the settlement with the Department of Interior, and to obtain a better understanding of the rigorous standards the Shinnecocks must meet to become federally acknowledged,” said Kabot, who was accompanied by the town’s legal adviser, Michael Cohen.

The meeting was moderated by OFA Specialist George Roth and attended by representatives of the U.S. Solicitor and U.S. Attorney General. Several representatives of the Shinnecock Indian Nation were also present, including Tribal Trustees Randall King, Gordell Wright and Frederick Bess, as well as their attorneys and research team.

Another purpose of the meeting was for federal researchers to explain the process, methodology, and general status of evaluating a petition. The OFA research team is comprised of historian Francis Flavin, anthropologist Holly Reckord and genealogist Alycon Pierce. There are seven mandatory criteria that must be met under federal regulations to establish that an American Indian group exists as a tribe. Questions posed to the Shinnecocks focused on membership lists, their functioning as a single autonomous political entity, while explaining how evidence is reviewed to determine parentage and descent to establish family histories.

“The Town of Southampton appreciates that the OFA will be completing a thorough, objective review of current and historic documents,” said Kabot. “We have fully cooperated with the requests of OFA for town documents. The Town of Southampton did not engage any researchers as part of this federal acknowledgment process sought by the Shinnecocks, nor do we intend to do so, and therefore we did not pose any questions on the submissions made by the Shinnecocks. Our relationship with the Shinnecocks is not an adversarial one. We are friends and neighbors.”

According to Kabot, Shinnecock Tribal Chairman Randall King requested an opportunity to convey remarks and “spoke eloquently about the need for the federal government to humanize the process, rather than making repeated requests for more documentation.” She also described the meeting as “exciting and interesting, but highly technical,” as it focused on federal criteria mandating extensive research, a peer review process and lengthy comment periods to raise inquiries and objections.

“At the end of the day, the Shinnecocks have long-awaited a decision on federal recognition,” concluded Kabot. “This meeting brings them one step closer to realizing their vision of sustaining their culture and enhancing the prosperity of their people.”

Shinnecock Trustees Gordell Wright and Frederick Bess

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Last Wednesday, officials from the Shinnecock Indian Nation and Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot sat down with members of the Office of Federal Acknowledgement for preliminary proceedings regarding the Nation’s application for federal recognition. For nearly three decades, the Shinnecock Nation has lobbied the federal government for official recognition, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs is expected to reach a preliminary verdict on their application by December. Shinnecock trustees Gordell Wright and Frederick Bess discussed the case, the tribe’s history and what this verdict means to the Shinnecock people.

How long have the Shinnecock people lived on the East End?
G: Basically, we have been here for 10,000 years or more. This gives you a time span of how far back our people go.
F: Archaeologists have used carbon dating of pottery and other Indian artifacts dug up in Southampton to show how old our tribe is. The Old Fort Site dates back almost a thousand years. Sugar Loaf Hill is just as ancient. There is a well-documented ancient Shinnecock village on or near Bullhead Bay as well. The history of our tribe is very well documented.

How large is the land owned and controlled by the Shinnecock Nation?
G: At present, we have title to approximately 1,000 acres of land, in two parcels.
F: We have 80 acres in Hampton Bays and more than 800 acres south of Hill Street, but our aboriginal land stretched at least from what is now the Brookhaven Town line to what is now the East Hampton Town line – essentially, we had aboriginal title to the entire area of what is now the Town of Southampton. As the years passed, our land holdings became smaller and smaller, through theft and misappropriation by English settlers.

How does it feel to be a part of a group of people who can trace their roots back thousands of years, in a time when many have very little knowledge of their ancestry?
G: To be part of such a group … such a people … It is a hard feeling to put into words. Our culture is so tied to the land and the land is us. There is a strong sense of pride and cultural identity among our people, which helps us carry on the tradition. It can bring you to tears sometimes.
F: We are the caretakers of this land. We were here before the English settlers. But it can be hard to hold onto our land and our traditions when we are smack dab in Main Street America.

How do you continue passing down your traditions and continuing your way of life?
F: We have a word of mouth tradition. The old stories are passed down from grandparent to grandchild and then they pass them down to their grandchildren
G: Every Wednesday, we hold social classes. Sometimes we teach regalia or dances. It takes a lot to make sure our stories continue. It is a community effort. Hunting, fishing and clamming is also a part of our tradition, though most people wouldn’t say that that is culture.
F: In the last few years, we have brought back the making of our famous Wampum. Wampum used to be traded amongst the tribes. It is made from clam shells and slowly we have been bringing it back. Wampum signified coming together and would seal deals and treaties. It is a very common thing for tribes on the Eastern Coast.

How long has the Shinnecock Nation been petitioning for federal recognition?
F: The first petition was filed back in 1978 … But you really need to understand the history of how we got this land. Back in 1703, the settlers took our land illegally and then leased part of it back to us for a term of 1,000 years. But in 1859, the New York Legislature illegally approved a termination of that lease in return for ‘giving’ us a deed for some 800 plus acres south of Hill Street we already had the right to use for 1,000 years. We are trying to undo that illegal land grab in court right now.
G: Most of our land was basically stolen because New York State made the land swap using a forged petition, which was illegal according to the laws at the time. We had 3,600 acres, but we had to settle for much less because the tribe’s petition that led to the state legislature [approving the 1859 transaction] was forged … the signatures of long dead and under age tribe members appeared on the petition.
F: In 1978, we said that we wanted this land back and tried to have the federal government help us to do so, but they said we had to file for federal recognition which should have taken only a couple years. That was 31 years ago. When a tribe is federally recognized it means that they are under the jurisdiction of the federal government. This would bring a big change, from a practical point of view, in our relationship with the state and the town and make our people eligible for significant federal aid and assistance that only tribes recognized by the Department of the Interior may receive.

Why has it taken so long for the federal government to recognize the Shinnecock Nation?
F: We already have been federally recognized by a federal court – in 2005. Recognition by the Department of the Interior is a tangled bureaucratic process that takes a lot of time and research. To become federally recognized by the Department of the Interior, a tribe needs extensive documentation like birth certificates and lists. You have to prove that you are a community and have a working government. We have done that.
G: You have to prove these things going back to the founding of the United States [in the late 1700s], but we have filed all of the required historical documents, many of them from the records of Southampton Town.
F: I believe that we are one of the most well documented tribes. Most tribes who apply for federal recognition by the Department of the Interior have only a few thousand pages of documentation, but we have submitted around 40,000 pages of documents. And in 2005 a federal judge said we were a federal tribe as a matter of federal law. That should have been enough for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs [who creates the list of federally recognized tribes and decides which tribes are added to the list]. In 2007, we sued the Department of the Interior to be added to the federal list. That lawsuit is pending.

Is that why your application for federally recognition has been expedited?
G: Basically, if we hadn’t sued them they would have taken their sweet time. Carl Artman [the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs] was the one who put together a waiver so that we could be expeditiously put on the active list of federally recognized tribes. That saved us about five to 10 years in the process of being federally recognized.

When will the BIA tell you if you have made the list?
G: We hope they will issue a proposed decision in December, with the final determination coming as early as 2010.
F: [This timeline] came out of our settlement of a part of our lawsuit against the Department of the Interior.

What are some of the benefits of being federally recognized?
G: You become eligible for certain federal grants and funds.
F: There is increased funding through the BIA for housing, education and health programs.
G: Right now, the way we run our operations is through grants. Everything we do is grant based. So if we don’t get a grant for an Indian Education Program, then there is no program.
F: It is also very hard to generate money here, because we have basically no tax base. We don’t have property or income tax here for our people. Our people also can’t take out mortgages because banks cannot foreclose on reservation land, which is held by the tribe in community ownership. There is very little that we can do to generate housing, so we have a lot of generational housing. A grandchild might move in with their grandparents when they are just starting their family. Instead of building a house, people will often add additional rooms when a child is born. We are a very modest community and we do the best we can. One of our biggest money makers is the PowWow that we hold over Labor Day Weekend.

Your community could be federally recognized by next summer. After fighting for decades for this, how do you feel?
F: We are very confident that it is going to go well because we are so well documented. The fact that we aren’t on that federal list is almost criminal.
G: But I think there is a mixed feeling in the community. People are excited that it is finally going to be done, but some are downright angry that we had to jump through all of these hoops to prove who we are.
F: The state has recognized us as a tribe since its inception and in 1974 the state legislature unanimously petitioned the federal government to recognize us, based on our long history of state recognition. Why should we have to prove we are Indians when we have had a documented board of trustees, governing us as an Indian tribe, since 1792?
G: At present, we have a board of trustees and a 13 member tribal council and dozens of other subcommittees.

In the past, the Shinnecock Nation has explored establishing a casino. If you become federally recognized, will the Shinnecock construct a casino?
G: That is one idea that is at the forefront of our ideas for economic development.
F: Gaming is one tool offered by the federal government to become self-sufficient and self-determining, but gaming is also highly regulated. We would probably pursue a Class 3 Casino, but in order to establish this we have to go into a compact with the state. The state would get a certain amount of the money made.
G: But a casino would also create jobs and infrastructure.
F: We would plan to establish a relationship with local unions and this project could be a significant employer and generate significant income for the state and the county in which it is located. Once a compact is made, it takes on average two years to build the casino. We still have to sit down with the governor to find a location for a casino that works from a practical business sense . . . Supervisor Kabot did say she was in full support of us being federally recognized, so is our local representatives and our congressman. In fact, Congressman Tim Bishop was here today in support of one of our other programs. We hope and expect to work with the state, county and town to reach a decision for casino location that all constituencies support.