I recently took a trip to a Native American reservation in Southhampton, New York – Shinnecock Reservation. It belongs to an Indian tribe – Shinnecock Indian Nation. After 32 years in court battles the tribe finally became federally recognized in 2010 and reclaimed the 750-acre land. The reservation has its own government and laws and functions as a semi-sovereign nation. There are more than a thousand members in the tribe.
Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum is home to many fascinating artifacts from the lives of the original tribe members – from hand made household items to whale hunting tools to artwork. Whale hunting was a popular community activity in the past; a successful hunt would be followed by a Powwow celebration that included dance, music, arts and crafts. The annual Powwow is still held every Labor Day weekend and welcomes all who wish to attend.
Many paintings in the museum were created recently by carefully studying clothing, tools, and other elements of the indigenous tribes to most accurately represent the habits and looks of the natives. You will find impressive large canvases of bright and highly detailed works, some of which are life-size.
The beautiful bronze statues in the museum were created by Dave McGary, who became nationally and internationally recognized for his highly detailed bronzes of the Native Americans and was highlighted in Southwest Art magazine when he was just 19 years old.
The guy in the picture above, with the blue sky in the background, is a member of the tribe, who gave me a detailed tour of the museum. It was quite interesting to learn from someone directly involved in the community life.
There is a nice little gift shop in the museum, where I picked up a dream catcher.
The reservation is well known for cheap cigarettes. As I drove, there were stores after stores where you can buy cigarettes and cigars for half the regular price, or less.
There are a few antique stores in the area. I stopped by James Maguire Antiques that sells anything from old furniture and paintings to grandfather clocks and silverware. James Maguire Antiques is a small family business, operated by two brothers.
Don’t forget to check out the Shinnecock Canal – a prime fishing spot, where you can catch anything from fluke, porgy, snapper to bluefish and blue claw crabs. The canal is a gateway between Peconic and Shinnecock Bays and is accessible from Montauk Highway.
The prospect of the Shinnecock nation is much brighter now, after the successful outcome of the lawsuit case to reclaim the land. The opportunity to build casinos promises to restore the fortune of the tribe. There is more land the tribe wishes to get back, such as Shinnecock Hills, which was considered sacred by many Shinnecock people. It now houses multi-million dollar mansions and the prospect of severing the owners from their beloved summer homes is bleak at the moment, but the members of the tribe believe one day the land will be theirs again.
The address of the Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum:
100 Montauk Hwy, Southampton, NY 11968
Enjoy your visit!
Yours, Natasha Pea.