Meeting House and the Women’s Way Mystery School in Southampton: “I have heard it
from my Turtle Island teachers and have passed these words on to my students, if you
have relatives buried here in Turtle Island then you are a Turtle Islander. All the
inhabitants of Turtle Island, especially here on Long Island where the environment is so
alive and obviously fragile, are entrusted with the charge to be the Keepers of the Earth.
Whether we are fishermen, artists, farmers, developers, retailers, service or health care
providers, our focus is united in the name of Turtle Island. Without her we have nothing
to sell or buy, or promote, or eat or expound. What we do to Turtle Island, we do to our
selves and to those who follow us. To walk gently upon her is to live in beauty and
gratitude and this is the wise and courageous thing to do.”
Walt Whitman helped to revive one of the American Indian names for Long Island with
his poem “Starting from Paumanok” (also spelled, Paumanauke), which begins: Starting
from fish-shape Paumanok where I was born . . .
Whether fish or turtle, the point is: we are surrounded by water! Scientifically speaking,
water makes for about 70% of the total surface area of the planet, and the human body is
50 to 70% water — we are all little islands, connected to Long Island, connected to Turtle
Paumanok means “land of tribute” because smaller tribes paid bigger tribes a tribute or
tax of shells, according to Evan T. Pritchard’s book, Native New Yorkers: The Legacy of
the Algonquin Peoples of New York. According to Harriet Starleaf Gumbs, the
Shinnecock ancestors called Long Island, Sea-Wan-Hak-Hee (sometimes spelled,
Sewanhacky), meaning “Shell Heaven.” This writer prefers that name because it honors
the seashells, and not some financial purpose that they were used for.
Along with having many lovely beaches and bays, Suffolk County is the top agricultural
county in New York State. As sure as the sunlight sparkling on the water whose timeless
metronome of motion and sound touches the earth, both land and ocean provide the many
gifts that Mother Earth nurtures us with.
In these fast-changing times, as human beings we have a responsibility to take care of the
land, as well as the water and air around us. There is much work to do together on Long
Island, a vital section of the “East gate” of Turtle Island.
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