Island Harvest, Southampton school district, and others donate food to tribe during COVID-19 pandemic

Shinnecock Indian Nation Supporting Its People




The Shinnecock Indian Nation boasts a food distribution tent that is allocating food to be passed out to the members of the community, especially elders.

“We have finished up week one under these very trying circumstances with New York being the new epicenter of this pandemic, and I just want to give a great big thank you to all of the volunteers we had this week that participated inside our Shinnecock food distribution tent,” Council of Trustees Vice Chairman Lance Gumbs said. “They worked tirelessly in bagging and boxing food for the walk-ups and delivered to our shut-ins and homebound. We are not a community that says thank you often to one another, so I just wanted to take a moment to make sure that each and every one knows how greatly appreciated he or she is for their service to our fellow tribal community citizens.”

The tribe’s Shinnecock Revival organization secured the donations through Island Harvest, Panera Bread, and the Southampton Union Free School District. A production line was set up, where members divvied up the food to be handed out and delivered to residents. K&M Reliable Transportation Service, a private, service-disabled, veteran-owned, and women-owned small business transportation company that provides non-emergency medical transportation for the residents of Suffolk and Nassau counties, offered up its services to help.

Shinnecock Indian Nation tribal members divide donated food to be distributed to community members. Independent/Shinnecock Indian Nation

“Elders first. We’re giving extra just in case,” Gumbs said. “We have been handing out school breakfast, lunches, and meals to our tribal children and elders/seniors every day.”

Many commended the tribal leaders and volunteers for their efforts.

“Great job,” Carole Washington Brown said. “It’s always a loving touch to look out for the needs of others.”

“I’m proud of the leaders of our Nation,” Eric Phillips Nice said. “I hope the boxes helped out.”

Others praised Gumbs specifically, too.

“May God bless everyone and may the ancestors continue to watch over,” Angelique Monét said. “You certainly are a leader.”

The food was distributed from a tent. The volunteers handled picking out items from each box to be sent out.

“Good to see securing of the food area and volunteers with masks and gloves,” Teelow T. Birdsong said. “May the nation continue to be safe and healthy.”

Social Distance Powwow

Tribal members, like Sunshine Gumbs, have also been participating in virtual powwows.

Shinnecock Indian Nation Council of Trustees Vice Chairman Lance Gumbs, on right, with volunteers. Independent/Shinnecock Indian Nation

“I dance healing over this pandemic we are facing right now. I dance for those who can’t, for those ill and going through their struggles. I dance for our sisters and brothers missing and murdered, for our waterways, and the healing and cleansing of our Mother Earth and for our people,” she said. “I’m dancing some good medicine we need right now. Now is the time that we come together in strength to be that medicine for the world and each other. We are being called upon to be the medicine that we need to be for each other right now.”

Members of Indian Nations from across the country were sharing in the healing-during-social-distancing spirits.

Young Shinnecock tribal member Savanah Phillips even posted a powwow side step.

During this quarantine period, Shelisa Faria-Smith, a certified personal trainer and boxing trainer at Southampton’s Hill Street Boxing, has been posting total body fitness class videos for tribal members to follow along with.

“A coach is nothing without their team by their side,” Faria-Smith said. “I love my warriors. Thank you to all that support me every day and give me motivation to continue and make great workouts.”

Supporting Southampton Town

Island Harvest, Panera Bread, and Southampton Union Free School District donations. Independent/Shinnecock Indian Nation

While members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation know they’ve had their qualms with Southampton Town in the past, the two have come together to fight against what both sides see as injustice. The local governments, like many East Enders, fear the flocking of New York City dwellers — at the epicenter of COVID-19 — to homes in the Hamptons will spread the novel coronavirus.

“The Shinnecock Tribal Council always envisioned the signs to be used in times of public emergencies, and when the town sent over the first two public service announcements, they were immediately posted onto the billboards,” Gumbs said. “The Shinnecock Indian Nation and the Town of Southampton working together to protect our East End Communities.”

The sign erected on the south side of Sunrise Highway in Hampton Bays currently reads: “Federal Advisory:  NYC area travelers recommended 14-day in-home quarantine.”

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he’s most worried about hospitals, which have also been at the center of the debate. While Stony Brook Southampton Hospital is working on restructuring to meet Governor Andrew Cuomo’s mandated increase in capacity, it currently has around 125 beds.

From supporting the tribe’s neighboring government, to fighting the coronavirus, to providing for his people, Gumbs only had one thing to say: “Mamoweenene. We move together.”

desiree@indyeastend.com