New York State lacks a simple process to protect previously undiscovered burials and known burials on private property. Regarding federal actions, some considerations are given as part of the National Historic Preservation Act. Similarly, the NYS Historic Preservation Act protects burials involving state actions, and incorporated cemeteries are under the jurisdiction of the department of state cemetery division. 1
Cultural resources are non-renewable parts of our environment. Once a site is destroyed, we lose forever it. The importance of cultural resources to preserve our national heritage has been recognized by all levels of government in the United States and around the world. The unprecedented destruction of these significant resources during periods of rapid development after World War II prompted national initiatives to preserve important prehistoric and historic sites and structures. Even archaeologists recognize that the act of excavation destroys a site. That is why specialized training in ways to conserve and protect artifacts, sites, and structures is an important part of the ethical training of all archaeologists.
The unprecedented destruction of these significant resources during periods of rapid development after World War II prompted national initiatives to preserve important prehistoric and historic sites and structures. Even archaeologists recognize that the act of excavation destroys a site. That is why specialized training in ways to conserve and protect artifacts, sites, and structures is an important part of the ethical training of all archaeologists. Adherence to standards and acceptance of ethics are ways archaeologists “police” themselves and ensure that fragile cultural resources are not wastefully excavated or irresponsibly destroyed.2
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
NAGPRA (the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) was passed on November 16, 1990. It defined ownership and provided for the return of Native American (including Hawaiian) human remains and objects from museums. It also established procedures for future acquisitions. Subsequently, human remains and certain objects could be claimed (or repatriated) by lineal descendants or federally recognized tribes under certain conditions.
NAGPRA also made it illegal to sell or buy or transport for sale Native remains or sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony without the legal right to do so. After 1990, a buyer or seller had to prove the right of possession by having the consent of the party with the authority to dispose of the items. Most states now have grave protection laws and some provide for repatriation.3
The work towards preserving the Earth extends beyond preserving sacred ancestral ceremonial and burial sites. Indigenous peoples defend Earth’s biodiversity. Despite comprising less than 5% of the world’s population, indigenous people protect 80% of global biodiversity.4
For decades, indigenous groups of Long Island have worked toward mapping out sensitive sites to overlook preservation and prevent future archaeological sites and sacred sites from being destroyed forever.
Shinnecock Tribal member Beverly Jensen said in 2013 that tribal members are currently talking with Southampton Town officials about mapping out likely burial grounds and other sacred sites to avoid instances like those in Water Mill and Shelter Island.5 In 2018, human remains were found on Hawthorne Road in the sensitive Shinnecock Hills in Southampton stirred another debate and attempt by local indigenous tribal nations to form a collaboration to preserve the lot.
Shinnecock Tribal Historic Preservation Officer David Bunn Martine wrote an open letter6 to Dr. John Strong regarding the preservation of sites;
In a recent issue of The Press, Dr. John Strong expressed his concerns that the Bayberry Hills site in Shinnecock Hills and the James/Klugh site on Mecox Bay would be destroyed if proper care weren’t taken in the proper study or each site.
The protection of the sites and other as of yet undiscovered sites of Native Americans is indeed of critical and of great importance. This can and should be seen in the context that this year is the 350th anniversary or the founding or Southampton.
It is always easy for Native American issues and concerns to be overlooked or disregarded. That is why I wholeheartedly support Dr. Strong’s efforts at preserving and understanding the history or my people, the Native American; and I respect his courage at speaking up for his convictions. Shinnecock culture and history is worthy of our respect and study.
It is equally important that we as Shinnecock and Montauk people should realize that our interests do extend beyond the borders of our current reserve. We must not fool ourselves into thinking that since we no longer occupy all of our ancient territories, that we abdicate all connection with that territory. Whether we as Shinnecock people realize it or not, we do speak today not only for ourselves and our ancestors but spiritually we represent all those countless people who lived on this Island long before the first white man set foot off his boat.
Again, thank you Dr. Strong for your intelligence, perseverance and courage in your important work.
Archaeology is one of the major disciplines associated with CRM investigations; history, architecture, geology, and Native American studies are some other common fields used in CRM. Archaeology is a social science and one of the four sub-disciplines in anthropology. Archaeologists study artifacts and other evidence in (and on) the ground to identify sites and interpret human behavior covering hundreds and thousands of years. Archaeology uses a variety of methods to locate sites and analyze cultural material. The results of these scientific studies yield clues about the past that cannot be gleaned from other sources, such as written histories. Archaeological sites are sometimes the only remaining traces of the earliest inhabitants of New York State.
The sites found in the Northeastern U.S. are not like those depicted in the movies. They do not involve massive temples and stone structures. Rather, most archaeological traces are invisible to the passerby, buried in fields, or hidden under asphalt. We know that the prehistoric and early historic peoples in New York State lived in structures that were relatively small; these dwellings were usually constructed of wood and bark, the types of materials that do not last long in our wet, acidic soils. For most of the prehistoric past, people lived in camps and they moved these camps as the seasons changed, leaving behind varying amounts of debris, broken tools, and features. With the start of farming in this region, around A.D. 800, people lived year-round in the same general area. It was not until European settlers arrived that people began erecting stone and wood frame structures, many with outbuildings, such as barns. Construction of roads, canals, railroads, and clusters of houses offer more visible signs of past occupations. Archaeologists must be well trained in their field and use the best methods available to locate these traces of the past that are no longer standing.7
The following criteria are used to evaluate properties for listing on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places.8
The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and:
- That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
- That is associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or
- That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
- That has yielded, or maybe likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.
Cultural resources are the collective evidence of the past activities and accomplishments of people. They include buildings, objects, features, locations, and structures with scientific, historic, and cultural value.” (NYAC, Appendix D). Cultural resource management refers to the processes and procedures for the identification, evaluation, mitigation, and conservation of significant sites and structures. CRM is grounded in federal and state laws governing historic preservation. A corresponding set of federal and state regulations spell out the general process and procedures for managing cultural resources. 7
Unmarked Burial Site Protection Act
In 2021, New York State Democratic Senator Leroy Comrie sponsored Senate Bill S5701 which “Enacts the “unmarked burial site protection act”, to regulate the discovery of burial grounds, human remains, and funerary objects; requires the reporting of such discovery to the local coroner; provides that if such remains are more than 50 years old, the state archaeologist shall be notified; requires state archaeologist to determine whether the remains are of Native American origin; provides that the lineal descendants or culturally affiliated group of such remains shall be notified and be given possession thereof; establishes the Native American burial site review committee to provide for notice and disposition of Native American remains; establishes criminal penalties for the violation of such provisions relating to the disturbance or failure to report the discovery of any such site, remains or objects; grants the attorney general and aggrieved parties a civil right of action for the violations of such provisions; requires inquiry by state agency preservation officers to determine whether any proposed project undertaken, funded or approved by a state agency will disturb burial grounds. “9
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Adds a new section 1517 to the not-for-òprofit corporation law regarding discovery and disposition of human remains and funerary objects at unmarked burial sites. The new section includes the following provisions:
* A Native American burial site review committee is established, consisting of members appointed by each of the Native American tribes in the state, state archaeologist, and one member appointed by the Commissioner of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
* Discovery of unmarked burial sites is required to be immediately reported to the county coroner or medical examiner, who in turn notifies the state archaeologist.
* The state archaeologist determines whether the remains may be of Native American origin and reports these findings to the burial site review committee. If they agree that the remains are of such origin, the committee determines affiliation and notifies the affiliated group or descendants. Otherwise, such determination and notice are made by the state archaeologist.
* Stewardship of the remains is with the committee until affiliation or descendants are determined, whereupon ownership, responsibility, and authority to determine disposition vests in the affiliated group or descendants.
* Burial sites, human remains, and funerary objects are to be left undisturbed except as otherwise provided pursuant to this act.
* Penalties are provided for failure to report the discovery of a burial site, removal of remains or objects from a burial site, defacing or destroying a burial site, remains or funerary objects, and possession with intent to sell or attempted sale of human remains or funerary objects.
* Violation of these provisions may be enjoined in an action brought by the Attorney General or an aggrieved party.
Section 235 of the Education Law is amended to add a state archaeologist to the State Science Service within the State Museum. A new subdivision three is added to section 14.09 of the Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Law to require the preservation officer of any state agency undertaking or financing a project to determine whether the project may disturb a burial site and if so, to consult with the burial site review committee to determine how to avoid such disturbances.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ORIGINAL AND AMENDED VERSION (IF APPLICABLE):
Numerous unmarked burial sites in the state are in danger of being damaged or destroyed because of a lack of adequate protection under current law. Such sites are sacred to the groups with which they are culturally affiliated and the lineal descendants of the dead.
New York is one of the only four states in the nation without statutory protection for Native American burial sites or unmarked burial sites in general. There have been several known incidents of negligent or deliberate failure to protect sites, which were disturbed by development activity, as well as looting. This legislation is necessary to prevent additional destruction of these sites, which are of great historical and cultural significance to all the people of the state.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
2017-18 A7256 referred to corporations, authorities, and commissions
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS:
Additional resources may be needed for the performance of the State Archaeologist.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect on the first of January next succeeding the date on which it shall have become a law.[1 https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/s5701]
Ayeuonganit Wampum Ayimꝏup, Here, Wampum Was Made, also known as Parrish Pond, is the site of a former Shinnecock wampum-manufacturing site. In 2000, a protest led by Shinnecock tribal member Rebecca Genia began at Parrish Pond. Despite a peaceful protest, three Shinnecock tribal members were arrested on the first morning of protest, and a fourth was arrested the next day when, once again, protesters gathered at the site. This time, however, the tribe had won an injunction against the subdivision and called in Bob Zellner, co-chair of the Southampton Anti-Bias Task Force, to help mediate the situation. Zellner had barely introduced himself to the supervising officer when he was “knocked to the ground and brutalized” by police. He, too, was arrested. All four of the Shinnecock protesters and Zellner were either acquitted or had their cases dropped or dismissed. In 2014, Southampton Town Board agreed to allocate $900,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to preserve the 1.5-acre cultural site. During this year, Shinnecock Tribal Member and cultural activist Elizabeth Haile shared the importance of this site, as it had the perfect combination of a running stream and a particular species of heather grass that was used to polish wampum shells for beads.
Rebecca Genia describes the preservation attempt of the Parrish Pond area by Shinnecock Tribal Members. (1:30 - 7:25)
Corey Dolgon describes [1.Corey Dolgon, The End of The Hamptons, 2005, pp. 191-193] the Parrish Pond protest in The End of The Hamptons;
On a cold Thursday morning in February 2000, state troopers arrested the Shinnecock activist Becky Genia for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Along with a few dozen other tribal members and supporters, Genia was protesting the development of a sixty-two-acre piece of land adjacent to the Shinnecock reservation in Southampton. The developers, Parrish Pond Associates, had hoped to begin work clearing the wooded parcel and building their thirty-eight-lot 'McMansion' subdivision. But local Native Americans argued that the land contained a sacred burial ground, and environmental groups claimed that a large residential development would result in hazardous groundwater runoff, eventually contaminating the reservation’s drinking water. Chanting “not one more acre,” demonstrators met bulldozers on Tuckahoe Road, and a standoff ensued.
Genia explained that she and others had made sure they weren’t trespassing and that they planned a “peaceful protest” that included possible civil disobedience. Before any formal activities had begun, state police moved in and, according to witnesses, “severely manhandled” some of the demonstrators. Three Shinnecocks were arrested that morning, and a fourth was arrested the next day when, once again, protesters gathered at the site. This time, however, the tribe had won an injunction against the subdivision and called in Bob Zellner, co-chair of the Southampton Anti-Bias Task Force, to help mediate the situation. Zellner had barely introduced himself to the supervising officer when he was “knocked to the ground and brutalized” by police. He, too, was arrested. [1. New York Times, 25 February 2000; Southampton Independent, 1 March 2000; Southampton Press, 2 March 2000. Bob Zellner and Rebecca Genia, in interviews with the author, used the terms “manhandled” and “brutalized.” While upcoming court cases will determine the legal outcome of these claims, the photographs and videos of the incident seem to support the use of the terms.]
Eventually, all four of the Shinnecock protesters and Zellner were either acquitted or had their cases dropped or dismissed. They are all currently suing state police for brutality and false arrest. The Shinnecock did, however, lose their court battle to stop the development, not on the case’s merit but on a technicality stemming from a missed deadline.
Today, Parrish Pond Associates advertise 4,000+-square-foot luxury homes on one-and-one-half-acre lots “in a unique community of meadows, tall pines, and a magnificent pond.” Realtors boast about the subdivision’s location, “[o]nly minutes from some of the most spectacular beaches in all the world, the famous Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, mere footsteps from fashionable shopping and the finest dining experiences imaginable, and completely surrounded by the history, culture, ambiance, and world-renowned style of Southampton.” Starting at about $1 million apiece, the Parrish Pond Estates homes now stand as the most recent symbol of the Shinnecock Nation’s long history of struggling land battles.
The following 27east article from 2014 describes the preservation of Parrish Pond;
The Southampton Town Board agreed this week to purchase a 1.5-acre lot in the Parrish Pond subdivision in Shinnecock Hills, a former wampum-making site cherished by the Shinnecock Indian Nation.
The site had been the focal point of days of protests and an aborted legal challenge by members of the tribe in 2000 over the approval of the 62-acre subdivision surrounding it.
“Years ago, the Iroquois chiefs would come to us to collect a fathom of wampum—that was enough to make a million wampum beads that they used in their wampum belts—because the Shinnecock were the best wampum makers,” tribe member Rebecca Genia said on Tuesday. Tribal elder Elizabeth Thunderbird Haile sat next to her in the hallway of Town Hall following Tuesday’s meeting, holding an earring made from the finely polished clam shells, or quahog, that served as a form of currency among Native American tribes centuries ago.
“Parrish Pond, as they call it, was one of the last two wampum-making sites on Long Island,” Ms. Genia said.
Ms. Haile said that the site had the perfect combination of a running stream and a particular type of heather grass that was used to smooth and polish the shells.
The town, on Tuesday afternoon, agreed to pay $900,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to purchase the 1.5-acre lot, known as lot 24 in the 38-lot Parrish Pond development. Tribe members implored the board to work to preserve a neighboring lot as well, an effort board members said they would pursue, and asked that they be allowed to hold an annual ceremony at the site.
The neighboring lot, number 23, is owned by another resident of the subdivision but has not been scheduled for development. The tribe says it, too, is part of the sacred site of the former wampum factory.
“We can do some homework there and see if the owners of the adjoining parcel are amenable to purchase as well,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst told the tribe members. “We don’t know their intention at this point.”
Ms. Throne-Holst noted that the town would have to look at the legal details of allowing the tribe to hold ceremonies on the property once it is owned by the town, as both the bylaws of the CPF and legal covenants and restrictions in the subdivision approval may pose hurdles. But, she said, the town would also do an investigation of the possibilities and make accommodations for the tribe during the purchase if possible.
After the Parrish Pond subdivision was approved by the Town Planning Board in early 2000, following a three-year review, the tribe sued to try to stop it, but the case was dismissed by a judge on a technicality. When the clearing of the property, which sits just across Montauk Highway opposite the tribe’s 800-acre Shinnecock Neck reservation, was set to begin, dozens of tribe members and supporters protested. Protesters stopped traffic on Montauk Highway, and five, including Ms. Genia, were arrested. Two later had the charges against them dropped, and two others were acquitted more than two years later in a town court of disorderly conduct charges.
One of those arrested, activist Bob Zellner, filed a $60 million lawsuit against New York State Police troopers, after he was injured during the confrontation.
The tribe contends that there were ancient remains of tribe members on the land that were unearthed and removed from the property by workers during the construction of the property.
“We could never prove that there were our ancestors remains on that land ... because the people who worked for the developers removed them and talked about it all over Southampton,” Ms. Genia recalled. “We know there were burials there.” [1. http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/General-Interest-Southampton/79248/Town-To-Preserve-Small-Slice-Of-Parrish-Pond-Sacred-To-Tribe]
The Canoe Place Chapel, erected circa 1820, was the primary Shinnecock church while they still resided at Canoe Place. The chapel is undergoing renovation to be used for social gatherings.
Timeline of Canoe Place Chapel preservation by Southampton Town; [1. http://www.southamptontownny.gov/947/Community-Projects]
2006 - Town purchased land with Community Preservation Funds
2015 - Building moved to its current location on Canoe Place Road
2015 - Interior and exterior renovation began
2016 - Restoration is ongoing.
2017 - The Canoe Place Chapel is now in the final stages of completion. Restoration is expected to be completed by the third week in April.
The Fowler House was moved from Indian Field in Montauk to the area then known as Freetown in East Hampton. During the late 19th century, Arthur Benson, who owned and developed much of Montauk, offered deeds to plots of land in Freetown to Montauketts Indians who still lived in Indian Fields to entice them to vacate their traditional tribal lands. The saltbox-style house, now owned by East Hampton Town, once belonged to Montaukett Indian George Lewis Fowler and his wife, Sarah Melissa Horton. George Fowler worked as a gondolier and gardener for the artist Thomas Moran, whose Main Street, East Hampton, house and studio, a national historic landmark, is being restored. Fowler was also a caretaker at Home, Sweet Home. Freetown received its name as because former slaves of wealthy local families settled it. The Fowler House is the only one that remains. The house was moved to Freetown around 1890 from Indian Fields and “is possibly one of the most historically significant structures in the Town of East Hampton,” according to town documents. Freetown is now gone, but the Fowler house is undergoing restoration in the historic district of East Hampton.
The Fowler House was designated as a historic landmark, after a public hearing on the 1.7-acre property, near the intersection of Springs-Fireplace Road and North Main Street in East Hampton.
The history of the area will be the subject of an oral history project, “Mapping Memories of Freetown,” for which those with connections to and memories of the Freetown neighborhood have been invited to the East Hampton Historical Farm Museum, at Cedar and North Main Streets, on Sunday between noon and 5 p.m. A program at 1 p.m. will include comments by researchers and others.
Allison McGovern, an archeologist and professor at the State University at Farmingdale who has been surveying the museum property (the former Selah Lester farm) for the possible remains of a wind-powered sawmill that was once used by the Dominy family of craftsmen, will be on hand, along with anthropologists, to collect oral histories about the neighborhood, as well as ideas about restoring and interpreting the Fowler house and lot.
A 1790 census reportedly recorded Freetown’s residents as 1,299 whites, 99 slaves, and 99 people classified as “all other free people,” according to the Center for Public Archeology at Hofstra University.
“The Fowler house completes the picture of the Moran house and Home, Sweet Home,” Robert Hefner, a history consultant to the town, said in a report. “This puts Main Street and Freetown together.”
With its connection to the former Indian Field site in Montauk (now Montauk County Park), and its archeological resources, the Fowler house is also likely eligible for a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, wrote Marguerite Wolffsohn, the town planning director, in a report delivered recently to the town board.
“The house and its property are a valued part of the cultural, historic, economic, and social history of the town,” she wrote. “History tends to record the wealthy and powerful. George Fowler was neither, and we have much less information about the ordinary and poor people in our history. Yet the people who lived in Freetown were the workers who supported the wealthier households in East Hampton Village, Gardiner’s Island, and elsewhere in town. His house and property have the potential to teach us about the lifeways of the Montauketts after they were dispossessed of their homes in Montauk and detribalized by the New York State government. It is a potential interpretive tool for understanding the history of Freetown, which is minimally understood by historians.”
The public hearing on the historic landmark proposal will begin at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday at Town Hall.
The Fowler House has been secured with new framing to prevent it from falling down more than two years after town officials voted to preserve the house. [1. https://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/fowler-house-east-hampton-preservation-1.15232748]
In late Summer of 2018, the Fowler House completed restoration.
“Our goal in telling the story of the house, and the people who lived in it, will be to revivify the history of the Montaukett people as an essential factor in East Hampton’s history through this family’s story,” Mr. Devine said. [1. http://easthamptonstar.com/Lead-article/20181115/Tiny-House-Reveals-Montaukett-Life]
Freetown was a mixed-race community north of East Hampton, established before 1790. In the late 19th century, Arthur Benson, who owned and developed much of Montauk, offered deeds to plots of land in Freetown, now East Hampton North, to Montaukett Indians to entice them to vacate their traditional tribal lands. Freetown received its name as it was settled by former slaves of wealthy local families. The Fowler house is the only original building that remains in the area, while the St. Matthews Chapel was moved further north in 1976 to the Maidstone Marina boatyard to be used as a chapel for mariners.
The history of the area will be the subject of an oral history project, “Mapping Memories of Freetown,” for which those with connections to and memories of the Freetown neighborhood have been invited to the East Hampton Historical Farm Museum, at Cedar and North Main Streets.
Allison McGovern, an archaeologist and professor at the State University at Farmingdale who has been surveying the museum property (the former Selah Lester farm) for the possible remains of a wind-powered sawmill that was once used by the Dominy family of craftsmen, was involved in the oral history preservation of Freetown along with fellow anthropologists to collect oral histories about the neighborhood, as well as ideas about restoring and interpreting the Fowler house and lot. [1. http://easthamptonstar.com/News/2016714/Memories-Montauketts-and-Freetown]
On Monday, August 13th, 2018, skeleton remains were found during residential development on Hawthrone Road in the Shinnecock Hills. The developers and homeowners contacted the Southampton Town and Suffolk County police department, who quickly disturbed the ground further for evidence of recent criminal activity. Along with human remains, a glass bottle from the 17th-century contact period was found, indicating a likelihood of the remains being of Native American descent with burial offerings. The Shinnecock Indian Nation arrived on the site soon after the detectives with the goal of overlooking the development. If the remains are from Native descent, the tribe encourages the town to use it's Community Preservation Fund to preserve the lot and respect the burial.
The Shinnecock Indian Nation Tribal Council met on Tuesday morning to discuss seeking a federal injunction against the Southampton Town and Suffolk County police departments to keep them from disturbing the site of the discovery of human skeletal remains at a construction site on Hawthorne Road in Shinnecock Hills on Monday. [1. http://www.27east.com/mobile/article.cfm/Hampton-Bays/566747/Skeletal-Remains-Found-At-Construction-Site-In-Shinnecock-Hills]
As of August 17th, the town of Southampton has expressed support in using its Community Preservation Funds to purchase the lot after assessment of the lot's value.
On September 4th, a GoFundMe was created to raise funds for a remaining 50.000 needed to restore the lot.
From the Go Fund Me:
"URGENT! PLEASE HELP PROTECT AND PRESERVE ANCESTRAL GRAVE!
On August 13, 2018, we witnessed firsthand the desecration of a Shinnecock Indian ancestor’s grave and we were helpless to stop the digging and raking of bones initially deemed by local law enforcement to be part of a crime scene. This tore at our souls and we could only offer songs, blessings, and prayers to heal our ancestor and ourselves. Our ancestors rest in the Shinnecock Hills—their graves facing west, so they may enter the spirit world through the sunset with ease and join the Creator. Our elders have always asked us to protect our land and protect our ancestors’ burial sites. In this way our next generation may know where we come from and that they walk in the footholds of their ancestors who sacrificed everything for our survival. Now, we cannot protect and preserve that which is sacred without your help.
We have now confirmed that $50,000 must be raised for the Shinnecock Indian Nation to pay for the reburial of our ancestor’s skull, bones, and glass bottle unearthed on August 13, 2018 as well as site restoration at 10 Hawthorne Road in the Shinnecock Hills. Originally, the Nation was told we would need to pay $185,000 for various costs. We are so grateful that the Property Owner and the Town of Southampton have graciously met with us and in good faith agreed to limit the Nation’s contribution to $50,000 for the purpose of site restoration today, on September 7, 2018, in a meeting with Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.
Please support the Shinnecock Indian Nation in raising $50,000 as an immediate need to preserve and protect our ancestors’ sacred burial site. If the goal is surpassed, the funds will go toward future preservation and long-term stewardship efforts for ancestral grave protection. For decades, we have pleaded with the Town of Southampton, Suffolk County, and State of New York to enact legislation and adopt protocols to prevent the desecration of ancestral graves. New York does presently have clear individual protections in place for graves found on private land unlike the policies of 46 other states. The time is now for us to achieve our elder’s directives and we hope you can join us. Tábūtní (Thank You).
Please read more about the efforts to protect the grave site and preserve the land below:
Indian Fields is a twelve hundred acre settlement site for the Montaukett Indians with evidence of occupation dating from the pre-contact Paleo-Indian period until May 1885. The area has two small ponds and bluffs that overlooks the Atlantic. This terrain of rolling grassland and brush is now a Suffolk County Park.
Indian Fields is protected as part of the Montauk Point State Park, prohibiting further potential land development and disruption.
The Jamesport Site is an Orient Period (1,000 - 1,300 BC) ceremonial burial ground.
During this cultural period, distinct spiritual and ceremonial burials were practiced; including “killed” steatite bowls, burial offerings, red ochre caches, and dog sacrifices.
In February 2017, Riverhead town purchased this site for due to its cultural significance. It is the last known Orient Period burial site still remaining.
A letter from Douglas Mackey of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation read into the record of the 2009 environmental impact hearing on the Village at Jamesport project that includes this hill, stated [1. https://riverheadlocal.com/2013/05/10/main-road-historic-resource-survey/] that:
ʺWhile the Jamesport Hill site had not been officially determined eligible (to the National Register), that is only because the site was not endangered previously and no request for a formal determination has been made. The site is clearly eligible.ʺ
In February 2017, Riverhead town purchased this site for due to its cultural significance. It is the last known Orient Period burial site still remaining.
County Legislature approves purchase of 11-acre Jamesport site
What was once planned for 10 mixed-use commercial buildings along the north side of Main Road in Jamesport will now become a hamlet park with a Native American burial ground that will be cordoned off as a “sacred site.”
The Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday approved the purchase of the 11-acre site as parkland, and is expected to approve another 33 acres to the north of that as protected farmland, according to Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue).
He expects that closing on the sale of both the hamlet park and farmland will happen concurrently.
The farmland could have been built with 42 homes under current zoning and was once proposed for a 160-unit retirement community prior to the town’s 2003 master plan update, which changed the zoning.
While those development efforts faced intense community opposition, the turning point came in late 2015, when developer Robert DiNoto purchased the property, which had been in foreclosure. After hearing feedback from the community, he began working with the county to preserve it.
“This is a major advance in preserving the character and the history of downtown Jamesport,” Mr. Krupski said in a press release.
“Saving this land was a community effort started long before the county became interested in acquiring the land,” he added.
Groups like the Greater Jamesport Civic Association, Save Main Road, the local Native American community and Riverhead Town all worked to preserve the site, he said.
“The Town has worked hard in partnership with the community and the county to preserve this land for future generations to enjoy,” said Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith in a press release. “It is so gratifying to see those efforts pay off for Riverhead residents, and all residents of Suffolk County, who come to enjoy the Town’s natural beauty. It’s a great addition to Jamesport.”
Mr. Krupski, who sponsored the legislation to preserve the land, said the parcel is home to Sharper’s Hill and an ancient Native American mortuary. Although the artifacts have been removed, he said, the area containing the burial grounds will be identified with signage and will be cordoned off as it is considered a sacred site.
“I am excited about the effort being made by Suffolk County regarding the historic preservation and protection of our local Native American burial mounds, and the Jamesport site,” said Sandi Brewster-Walker, a historian who is also a member of the Montaukett Indian Nation and board chair of the future Long Island Indigenous People Museum.
“All parties came together in unison and worked together to achieve this incredible outcome,” said Greater Jamesport Civic Association president William Van Helmond.
Photo caption: Phil Barbato of Jamesport pictured in front of the land in 2016. Mr. Barbato owns an organic farm next door to it. (Credit: Tim Gannon) [1. Tim Gannon, http://riverheadnewsreview.timesreview.com/2018/04/86936/county-legislature-approves-purchase-of-11-acre-jamesport-site/ 4/27/18]
Shinnecock Tribal Preservation Officer
David Martine, who represented the Shinnecock Nation and is their tribal history information officer, referenced the First People’s 10,000-year history on Long Island. “The site represents a most sacred time period of our life here. It’s so ancient it is hard to imagine. To have something like this preserved is very moving.” [1. https://riverheadlocal.com/2018/11/16/krupski-sharpers-hill-historic-site-and-farmland-preserved-in-jamesport/]
Formally organized in 1946, the Shinnecock Powwow is a decades long traditional and cultural celebration that takes place on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation. Every year on Labor Day weekend, the Powwow takes place on Shinnecock and is open to the public. The annual four-day Shinnecock Labor Day Powwow attracts more than 15,000 attendees each day and serves as both a cultural focal point and fundraiser for the Nation. The Powwow began as historical 'pageants' that took place throughout Southampton Town, Conscience Point, and the Shinnecock Indian Reservation. These pageants involved colonial/pilgrim figures with the intent of reenacting early contact-period historical interactions between Europeans and Indians (such as the 1640 arrival from Massachusetts).
The Southampton Rogers Memorial Library preserves a digital collection of Powwow Programs from 1955 to current;
Sugar Loaf Hill is an Orient Period burial site facing southeastern, the only Orient burial site known outside of the North Fork of Long Island. During the 20th century, despite being known and marked on maps as early as 1797, the burial grounds were desecrated and developed for a contemporary residence. After years of pleas by the Shinnecock Indian Nation to save ancestral burial grounds in the Sugar Loaf Hill area of Southampton, there was a victory in 2021 after 30 years: The Southampton town board voted unanimously to green-light a $5.3 million purchase of a conservation easement for 4.5 acres at the peak of Sugar Loaf Hill with assistance of the local non-profit Peconic Land Trust.
Shinnecocks Protest New Development At Sugar Loaf by Michael Wright
Members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation mounted a small protest Tuesday morning, objecting to new development in the area of Shinnecock Hills known as Sugar Loaf, which they have long claimed as sacred ancestral territory containing numerous ancient native grave sites.
A cluster of tribe members gathered at the site of a new residential construction project on Tuesday. No work was going on at the site on Tuesday, but a new driveway had been cut into the property and excavation had begun where the house’s foundation will go.
[perfectpullquote align="right" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]“This land is part of our ancestral history and remains hallowed and sacred to the Shinnecock Indian Nation,” said a statement released by the tribe on Tuesday morning. “Tribal members are protesting more development in this area where many ancient Shinnecock cultural and funereal artifacts have been uncovered.”[/perfectpullquote]
A few hours later, before the Town Board, some of the same tribe members who had held signs on Montauk Highway that morning sat solemnly listening to the Town Board members debate legal particulars of state legislation to codify strong protections of Native American grave sites. The board was considering a memorializing resolution—simply an official voicing of support by the board, carrying no legal weight—but one that has been a topic of divergence on the board for months.
The new house that drew the protest on Tuesday is going up in the same area where the development of three lots on land that the Shinnecocks say were their ancestors’ burial grounds centuries before European settlers arrived in what is now Southampton and Hampton Bays drew outrage and protests from the tribe in the late 1990s. That property was near but not within a recognized and protected Native American burial ground known as the Sugar Loaf Hill Shinnecock Indian Burial Grounds.
The tribe has been petitioning the town for formal protection of ancient burial sites, both known and yet to be discovered, since 2005, following a years-long battle over remains found during the clearing of the former Hotel St. James property in Water Mill.
State Assemblymen Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Steve Englebright introduced a bill providing strict protections for remains to the State Legislature that year. It has yet to be brought up for a vote.
In the boardroom on Tuesday, members of the tribe implored the board to take action on their behalf.
“This hole has been dug in the hills for another residence,” tribe member Becky Genia said, proposing that the hole dug for the foundation should instead be used to return the 16 sets of remains of Shinnecock ancestors, which have been uncovered by development over the years, to the hills that bear their name. “You may not desecrate our hills anymore.”
Councilwoman Bridget Fleming again proposed the memorializing resolution she has been pressing for months, throwing the town’s support behind the state legislation. With the tribe members looking on, Ms. Fleming said she planned to insist that the resolution be voted on by the board, even while acknowledging that she did not think it would garner enough votes from other board members to pass.
Other board members raised doubts about the state legislation, noting that since the bills have not yet been brought up for debate, they could still be modified, and the town might not necessarily agree with the final proposal. But the main hang-up, as it has been for seven years, continued to be that a provision in the legislation says any human remains discovered must, in “practicable” cases, be left in the ground where they lay—a wrinkle that attorneys and business interests have said is too vague and could disrupt business, unfairly restrict property owners and violate constitutional rights.
“The very crux of the state law is that the remains have to stay in place, on the site, which is what we haven’t been able to come to consensus on,” Councilwoman Christine Scalera said. “I still think we need a town policy, but I realize we’re at an impasse about the removal from the site.”
Councilman Jim Malone said that the legal hang-ups are unfortunate, because he thinks there is strong support for an official policy regarding native remains. Ms. Fleming was nonplussed and took Mr. Malone and Ms. Scalera to task about their steadfast opposition to the mostly symbolic resolution. “It depends on what you mean by support—whether you favor the protection of remains over property rights,” Ms. Fleming said. “That’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s not real support if you can’t even vote for this.”
The resolution failed, with only Ms. Fleming and Ms. Throne-Holst voting in favor. Ms. Scalera voted no, and Councilman Chris Nuzzi and Mr. Malone both abstained, with Mr. Malone explaining that he could not vote for a resolution expressing support for the state bills when he does not know what they will contain if they are ever adopted.
[perfectpullquote align="full" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]It’s frustrating to me that we are unable to come to consensus about protecting Native American burial grounds. We’re talking about the inhabitants of our land. We’re talking about human remains. - Bridget Fleming[/perfectpullquote]
Ms. Fleming nodded to the respect and reverence given to history just moments earlier by the Town Board, which granted landmark status to two North Sea Road homes, originally built in the 1700s. Yet, she noted, the board could not find a way, after years of appeals from the tribe, to formulate a policy on protecting the remains of the area’s first residents.
“I think there’s a certain cruel irony in today’s meeting. We’re landmarking two structures from the 18th century, a hundred years after the Europeans settled here and thousands of years after Native Americans arrived,” Ms. Fleming said. “It’s frustrating to me that we are unable to come to consensus about protecting Native American burial grounds. We’re talking about the inhabitants of our land. We’re talking about human remains.” [1. http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/General-Interest-Southampton/458740/Shinnecocks-Protest-New-Development-At-Sugar-Loaf/start/2]
After years of pleas by the Shinnecock Indian Nation to save ancestral burial grounds in the Sugar Loaf Hill area of Southampton, there was victory Tuesday: The Southampton town board voted unanimously to green-light the $5.3 million purchase of a conservation easement for 4.5 acres at the peak of Sugar Loaf Hill.
The Peconic Land Trust is set to close on the parcel next week, and after an existing mansion located on the parcel is dismantled and restoration work is done, the site will be returned to Shinnecock, Troge said.[1. https://patch.com/new-york/southampton/town-protects-ancient-shinnecock-burial-sites-emotional-vote]
Once a Native American hunting and fishing ground, Sylvester Manor has since 1652 been home to eleven generation of its original European settler family with a long intact history of America's evolving tastes, economies, multi-cultural interaction, and landscapes. Sylvester Manor is a house first constructed c. 1652 for Nathaniel and Grizzell Sylvester, their eleven children, and likely several slaves and indentured servants. This original house remained intact until c. 1737, until Nathaniel's grandson, Brinley Sylvester, rebuilt the residence close to the same location. Today, the house and acreage are known as the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm. Their mission is to cultivate, preserve, and share the lands, buildings, and stories inviting new thought about the importance of organic food, culture and place in our daily lives. [1. http://sylvestermanor.org/our-manor/the-house/]
Sylvester Manor, the Shinnecock Tribal Nation Graves Protection Warrior Society, Honor Our Indigenous Ancestors, Inc., Unkechaug Nation and representative descendants of tribal people of Long Island announced the Afro-Indigenous Burial Ground Partnership at Sylvester Manor. This fall’s inaugural project will focus on the archaeological study of Sylvester Manor’s Afro-Indigenous Burial Ground under the direction of Dr. Stephen Mrozowski of the University of Massachusetts Boston.
The focus of this year’s work is to survey an area of Sylvester Manor that has long been identified as the burial ground of the Indigenous, Enslaved, and Free People of Color who lived and worked at Sylvester Manor. The cemetery is considered to be an ancestral burial ground of the Manhansett People who made Shelter Island their home for millennia. It was also used as the burial site for Enslaved African People brought to work at the provisioning plantation on Shelter Island established by Nathaniel Sylvester and his partners in 1651. Native and Free People of Color continued to be buried at the site for over three centuries. Julia Dyd Havens Johnson, a freeborn woman of color, is said to be the last person to be buried in the Afro-Indigenous Burial Ground, in 1908.
The first phase of the Partnership project focuses on archaeological surveying to determine if the burial site is larger than currently described, map the area, and perform advanced ground-penetrating radar in an effort to determine how many graves are present.[1. https://mailchi.mp/sylvestermanor/burial-ground-partnership?e=8a58217f50]
The indigenous peoples who inhabited the general area of Noyack were a small segment of the Shinnecock, known as the Weckatuck (meaning "end of the woods or trees, or end of the cove or creek." Sometimes spelled Wickatuck, Wecutake, Wecatuck, Weckatuck, Weeckatuck) . Described by Southampton in a 1964 publication, they were peace loving Indians who settled in isolated groups and lived off shellfish and game. They farmed to a limited degree. Six or eight families lived on one site until the farming land was exhausted, or until collection of refuse became a serious problem. The largest known encampment of Noyack Indians was beside the Mill Pond, now known as the Trout Pond. The last known Weckatucks lived in a wigwam in the back of Mill Pond shortly before the end of the nineteenth century. [1. Southampton, Long Island 325th Anniversary 1640/1965 pp 33]
Houses now replace former Indian encampments; Wickatuck Spring was filled in, and William Wallace Tooker’s plaque marking the place was stolen.
Preservation and care for remaining open land around Trout Pond will protect rare evidence of Indian and white men’s settlements. [1. https://noyac.org/history]
- The New York State Archaeological Council, Cultural Resource Standards Handbook, 2000 pp. 5
- David Bunn Martine, The Southampton Press, January 25, 1990
- The New York State Archaeological Council, Cultural Resource Standards Handbook, 2000 pp. 8
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