Shinnecock Indian Nation

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Shinnecock Indian Nation
A group of Shinnecock people, 1884
Total population
1,292 enrolled members[1]
Regions with significant populations
United States (Long Island)
English, formerly Mohegan-Pequot language,
Christianity, Native
Related ethnic groups
Montaukett, Pequot,
Narragansett, African-Americans

The Shinnecock Indian Nation is a federally recognized tribe of historically Algonquian-speaking people based on Long Island, New York. The tribe is headquartered in Suffolk County,[1] on the southeastern shore of Long Island. The tribe's landbase is the Shinnecock Reservation within the geographic boundaries of the Town of Southampton. They are related to the historic Pequot and Narragansett peoples of southern New England.

Federal recognition[edit]

The Shinnecock were recognized by the United States government in October 2010 after a 30-year court battle.[2][3] The Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, George T. Skibine issued the final determination of the tribe's recognized status on June 13, 2010.[1]


Cultural Center and Museum in Southampton

The Shinnecock Indian Reservation is a self-governing reservation. By 1859, the current borders of 800 acres (3.2 km2) were established. Every Labor Day Weekend since 1946, the reservation hosts a powwow. Ceremonies beginning in 1912 developed into the powwow held today.[4] The Shinnecock Powwow is ranked by USA Today as one of the ten great powwows held in the United States.[5] In 2008 the powwow attracted 50,000 visitors.[6]

In 1972 the Shinnecock Native American Cultural Coalition (SNACC) was formed to establish a Native American arts and crafts program. Traditional dancing, beadwork, Native American crafts and music are studied. A group called The Youngblood Singers was formed. Dedicated to learning traditional Algonquian songs, chants, and drum rituals, they travel throughout the Northeast performing at powwows and drum contests.[7] The Cultural Enrichment Program is a sharing and learning process that the community has engaged in to ensure that the ideals and traditions of their ancestors are passed down through the generations. It involves sharing knowledge of food, clothing, arts, crafts, dance, ceremonies, and language.[8]

The reservation has a museum, shellfish hatchery, education center, community center, playground,[9] and Presbyterian church. The reservation is three miles (5 km) west of the village of Southampton, New York. In 1903, it had a population of 150. In 2012 the Shinnecock Nation numbered more than 1,400 people and more than half reside on the reservation.[10][11] Thunder Island Coffee Roasters is a Shinnecock-owned and operated business located on the reservation. The coffee is roasted by Ben Haile, the owner. His business ships whole bean and ground organically grown coffee throughout the United States.[12]


Shinnecock and their neighbors

The Shinnecock are believed to have spoken a dialect of Mohegan-Pequot-Montauk, similar to their neighbors the Montaukett on Long Island. Their western neighbors were Lenape people, who most likely spoke an R-dialect of Munsee. The languages became extinct sometime in the mid-19th century, as numbers of native speakers were drastically reduced. A few words have survived to the modern day.

The Shinnecock were culturally affiliated with, as well as politically subject to, the Pequot and Narragansett, the more powerful tribes of southern New England across Long Island Sound.

Like the other Native peoples of Long Island, the Shinnecock made wampompeag (wampum), shell beads strung onto threads that were used as currency, for record-keeping, and for aesthetic purposes. These shell beads have been found at inhabited sites as far west as the Rocky Mountains, showing their value in trade. Although other New England tribes produced wampompeag, the Indians of Long Island are reputed to have made the best. The tribe was subject to raids by the Pequot and other New England tribes to control this valuable trade commodity. The Europeans quickly learned the value of the Shinnecock wampompeag in trade with other tribes.

Native Americans populations on Long Island declined dramatically after colonization due mostly to new infectious diseases carried by European colonists. In addition, their communities were disrupted by land encroachment by Dutch, and later English colonists. After the American Revolutionary War, many Shinnecock left Long Island to join the Brothertown Indians in western New York (and later migrated with them to Wisconsin); they lost their distinct cultural identity. Others intermarried with local colonists, including African-American slaves, but often reared their children as Shinnecock, maintaining their identity and culture.

In 1703, English colonists established a leasehold for tribal members in Southampton. In 1792, the state of New York passed a law reorganizing the Shinnecock Indian Tribe as a trusteeship. The law also established annual elections for three tribal trustees, which have continued from 1792 to the present. In the Fall of 2010, the Shinnecock gained federal recognition and had their reservation put in trust. For over two centuries, the trustees have managed the tribe's land and resources.[1]

The Shinnecock were at home on the water, long being fishermen and sailors around the island. Through the 19th century, Shinnecock men worked as fishermen and sailors on the whaling ships based at Sag Harbor and other ports.[13] At the start of the 20th century, the Shinnecock were described as "daring seamen," and "furnishin[g] efficient recruits to the United States Life Saving Service" (Coast Guard),[14] In December 1876, ten Shinnecock men died while trying to save a ship stranded off East Hampton.[15] The tribe is famous in local lore for their heroic efforts.

Land claims dispute[edit]

In 2005 the nation filed a lawsuit against the state seeking the return of 3,500 acres (14 km²) in Southampton located near the tribe’s reservation, and billions of dollars in reparations for damages suffered by colonial land grabs. The disputed property includes the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, which Shinnecock say is the location of tribe burial grounds.

The tribe has challenged the state legislatures' approval of an 1859 sale of the 3500 acres of tribal land. This broke the terms of a 1,000-year-lease signed by Southampton colonial officials and the tribe in 1703. The suit charges that in 1859, a group of powerful New York investors conspired to break the lease by sending the state Legislature a fraudulent petition from a number of Shinnecock tribal members. Although other tribal members immediately protested that the petition was a forgery, the Legislature approved the sale of 3,500 acres (14 km²) of tribal land.

Casino proposals[edit]

In 2007 the tribe proposed building gaming casinos to generate revenues for welfare and education, but it has not proceeded to development.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d Darling, Nedra. "Skibine Issues a Final Determination to Acknowledge the Shinnecock Indian Nation of Long Island, NY. Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs. 15 June 2010 (retrieved 12 July 2010)
  2. ^ Hakim, Danny (June 15, 2010). "U.S. Recognizes an Indian Tribe on Long Island, Clearing the Way for a Casino". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  3. ^ Hakim, Danny (December 15, 2009). "U.S. Eases Way to Recognition for Shinnecock". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-17. 
  4. ^ Laudin, HarveyG. (1983). The Shinnecock Indians: A Cultural History Readings in Long Island Archaeology and Ethnohistory. Lexington: Ginn. ISBN 1-55787-152-3. 
  5. ^ "Shinnecock Powwow recommended by USA TODAY as One of America's Great 10 Powwows". USA TODAY. Apr 2011. Retrieved Dec 2012. 
  6. ^ "Shinnecock Powwow draws 50,000 visitors". Newsday. 31 Aug 2008. 
  7. ^ Strong, John A. (1998). We Are Still Here! The Algonquin Peoples of Long Island Today. Interlaken: Heart of the Lakes. ISBN 1-55787-152-3. 
  8. ^ "Shinnecock Indian Nation". Retrieved 3 Dec 2012. 
  9. ^ Shinnecock Indian Reservation", Parrish Art Museum. (retrieved 12 July 2010)
  10. ^ "Shinnecock Indian Nation". Retrieved Dec 2012. 
  11. ^ "Shinnecock Indian Tribe History." Access Genealogy. (retrieved 12 July 2010)
  12. ^ "Thunder Island Coffee Roasters". Retrieved 3 Dec 2012. 
  13. ^ "Metoac History". Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  14. ^ Gilman, Daniel Coit; Peck, Harry Thurston; Colby, Frank Moore (1906). The New International Encyclopaedia 18. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company. p. 88. Retrieved 2010-06-24. 
  15. ^ Rattiner, Dan (January 15, 2010). "The Circassian: The 19th Century Shipwreck That Devastated the Shinnecock Tribe". Dan's Papers. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  16. ^ Landes, Jennifer (October 18, 2007). "Tribe Bids for Casino". The East Hampton Star. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 


  • Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 145. Washington DC.: Government Printing Office, 1952.
  • Hodge, Frederick W. Handbook of North American Indians. Washington, DC.: Government Printing Press, 1910.

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