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Sep 10, 2014 10:47 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town To Preserve Small Slice Of Parrish Pond, Sacred To Tribe

Sep 10, 2014 10:47 AM

The Southampton Town Board agreed this week to purchase a 1.5-acre lot in the Parrish Pond subdivision in Shinnecock Hills, a former wampum-making site cherished by the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

The site had been the focal point of days of protests and an aborted legal challenge by members of the tribe in 2000 over the approval of the 62-acre subdivision surrounding it.

“Years ago, the Iroquois chiefs would come to us to collect a fathom of wampum—that was enough to make a million wampum beads that they used in their wampum belts—because the Shinnecock were the best wampum makers,” tribe member Rebecca Genia said on Tuesday. Tribal elder Elizabeth Thunderbird Haile sat next to her in the hallway of Town Hall following Tuesday’s meeting, holding an earring made from the finely polished clam shells, or quahog, that served as a form of currency among Native American tribes centuries ago.

“Parrish Pond, as they call it, was one of the last two wampum-making sites on Long Island,” Ms. Genia said.

Ms. Haile said that the site had the perfect combination of a running stream and a particular type of heather grass that was used to smooth and polish the shells.

The town, on Tuesday afternoon, agreed to pay $900,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to purchase the 1.5-acre lot, known as lot 24 in the 38-lot Parrish Pond development. Tribe members implored the board to work to preserve a neighboring lot as well, an effort board members said they would pursue, and asked that they be allowed to hold an annual ceremony at the site.

The neighboring lot, number 23, is owned by another resident of the subdivision but has not been scheduled for development. The tribe says it, too, is part of the sacred site of the former wampum factory.

“We can do some homework there and see if the owners of the adjoining parcel are amenable to purchase as well,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst told the tribe members. “We don’t know their intention at this point.”

Ms. Throne-Holst noted that the town would have to look at the legal details of allowing the tribe to hold ceremonies on the property once it is owned by the town, as both the bylaws of the CPF and legal covenants and restrictions in the subdivision approval may pose hurdles. But, she said, the town would also do an investigation of the possibilities and make accommodations for the tribe during the purchase if possible.

After the Parrish Pond subdivision was approved by the Town Planning Board in early 2000, following a three-year review, the tribe sued to try to stop it, but the case was dismissed by a judge on a technicality. When the clearing of the property, which sits just across Montauk Highway opposite the tribe’s 800-acre Shinnecock Neck reservation, was set to begin, dozens of tribe members and supporters protested. Protesters stopped traffic on Montauk Highway, and five, including Ms. Genia, were arrested. Two later had the charges against them dropped, and two others were acquitted more than two years later in a town court of disorderly conduct charges.

One of those arrested, activist Bob Zellner, filed a $60 million lawsuit against New York State Police troopers, after he was injured during the confrontation.

The tribe contends that there were ancient remains of tribe members on the land that were unearthed and removed from the property by workers during the construction of the property.

“We could never prove that there were our ancestors remains on that land ... because the people who worked for the developers removed them and talked about it all over Southampton,” Ms. Genia recalled. “We know there were burials there.”

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It should be preserved. Let us hope the owners of the second lot will be willing to allow the town to buy it also.
By oystercatcher (126), southampton on Sep 10, 14 11:44 AM
Protection of this parcel while small, is exceptionally important and should be pursued with all vigor. Sadly, in 2000 the Town could have designed this development to save an extensive portion of this 63-acre site which was well-known to have ecological, recreational and archeological significance at no cost. Unfortunately, despite the pleas of conservationists and the Shinnecock People, the Planning Board majority did nothing to prevent the desecration of this land adding further insult to the ...more
By Group for the East End (13), Bridgehampton on Sep 11, 14 10:08 AM
One must compare this story of a $900,000 Town purchase to preserve in perpetuum a plot of land "sacred" to a group of people either because some ancestors may have been buried there at some unknown time, or because it's an ancient site of "wampum-making" (an early Wall St.?), with the controversy surrounding the Town permission to allow the erection of some plastic strips (at no cost) to preserve the even more imaginary wall within which some Orthodox Jews will allow themselves to carry on the ...more
By Bruce A. (5), Southampton on Sep 12, 14 12:28 PM
What property did the Town SH purchase at 2021 Flanders Road. With CPF ?
I never heard a discussion on that purpose. Hush, hush
By Swissy (1), Flanders on Sep 12, 14 5:33 PM
The town should have asked the tribe to get rid of their disgusting signs on 27A in exchange for this.... the signs are so out of place with flashing neon.....

By JohnSmith (25), Johnson City, Tennessee on Sep 22, 15 8:12 AM