In lieu of a previously discussed stewardship agreement to manage the Shinnecock Hills property on Hawthorne Road, where suspected tribal remains were found in August, Southampton Town unanimously voted to create a joint-management advisory board for culturally sensitive properties.
“I’d like to thank the Shinnecock Nation for its heartfelt advocacy for the preservation and the sanctity of this property,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. “There were concerns about insurance issues and liability issues for the Shinnecock Nation to manage the property outright, but I look forward to working with this nation to manage this property so that its importance is forever protected.”
The coordinated communication will have members of the town and Shinnecock Nation on a committee that will guide the management of properties where gravesites or historic artifacts are found.
“We’re not at the table that you’re sitting at, and it may be difficult because we have a cultural way of looking at and speaking about things, but we ask that when you’re making decisions — at meetings, making conference calls, and sending emails — that you include us,” tribal member Chenae Bullock said. “There are times when my ancestors have been in a similar position to this talking about similar issues, so we hope going forward we can all uphold our word, because that hasn’t always happened.”
That’s exactly what Schneiderman is hoping to do. He said there will be three members of the Shinnecock Nation and the town’s CPF Manager Mary Wilson, Chief Environmental Analyst Martin Shea, and Historic Landmarks Committee Chairman Edward Wesnofske on the committee. Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer voiced her opinion on also bringing aboard Southampton’s Historic Burying Ground Committee Chairman Roger Tollefsen.
“He has some recommendations from other areas for this type of situation — creating a protocol for when remains are found on private property,” she said. “I think it would behoove the committee to have his input. He does a tremendous job.”
The supervisor said he would think about this suggestion, adding that there would also have to be a tribal member added to balance the committee.
“This is not going to be the last time this happens,” tribal member Kelly Dennis said, referring to finding remains. “I hope there’s policy and protocol put in place, but thank you for taking our concerns seriously and for meeting with us when our tribal members have called for them.”