The Shinnecock Indian Nation has had a lasting influence on the East End, and continues to be a rich source of culture. They are an Algonquin people, whose history stretches back thousands of years. Shinnecocks have used the sea to their advantage: they were the original whalers in the area, long before the whaling industry flourished in the 19th century, and much of their diet relied on shellfish and fish. In the 1700s, they became noted among the northeastern coastal tribes for their fine beads made from shells, called wampum. These were used as currency, as well as for record keeping and for decorative purposes.
Over the years, the Shinnecocks have been disrupted, mainly by colonists, but they have managed to maintain their community on their 800-acre reservation in Southampton. Today, they number over 1,400 people, more than half of whom reside on the reservation. They benefit greatly from their annual powwow, held every year on Labor Day weekend, hosting thousands of visitors and supporting both their church and tribal budgets.
In October of 2010, the tribe achieved federal recognition after a 32-year struggle. Their current reservation contains a church, museum, tribal community center, health and dental center, family preservation and Indian education center, and playgrounds for the children, as well as private homes.
The Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum is a particular point of interest for visitors. It is the only Native American-owned and operated museum on Long Island, and it serves to preserve and display the Shinnecock culture. The museum has two permanent exhibitions: “A Walk with the People” depicts the history of the Shinnecocks through murals, photo galleries, and collections, and “My Spirit Dances Forever” shows a collection of bronze sculptures of Native Americans by Frederick DeMatteis. This summer, an exhibition will be shown entitled “It is Good: Contemporary Life in the Shinnecock Community,” engaging tribal members and addressing their contemporary life as well as the history of the community. Some of the pieces on display came from members of the Shinnecock Reservation community, and others are from the museum’s collection.
Keeping their history alive through an interesting and interactive museum, the Shinnecocks are proud of their heritage and want to share it with others.
The Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum, 100 Montauk Hwy., Southampton. 631-287-4923, www.shinnecockculturalcenter.org. Open Thursday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sunday from 12-4 p.m.
Shinnecock Indian Nation 65th Annual Powwow, September 2-5. Friday 9/2, 3-11 p.m. Saturday-Monday 9/3-9/5, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. $12 adults, $10 kids, seniors free. 631-283-6143, www.shinnecocknation.com. [/expand]