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Shinnecock tribe wants free beach access from Southampton Village

Terry Ballard

Members of the Shinnecock Nation are urging the Southampton Village Board of Trustees to allow free beach access to tribal members.

Tela Troge, a Shinnecock citizen and tribal sovereignty attorney, said the beach was stolen from them hundreds of years ago, and the village still wants them to pay for a beach permit.

“It's really, vitally important for our people to be connected to the land that we’re from,” Troge said.

The Shinnecock tribe are the largest recognized tribe on Long Island and have lived on the East End for around 10,000 years. Since the mid-19th century, the tribe’s territory has been restricted within the Town of Southampton.

Troge said the tribe never relinquished the rights to use the oceans and beaches, and its citizens shouldn’t be forced to pay fees.

“We have been in this peculiar situation where the beach has been stolen from us and now the Village of Southampton wants us to pay $500 per [vehicle] in order to get a permit to access the beach, so it’s fundamentally wrong on a whole host of levels,” Troge said.

In Rhode Island, the Narragansett Town Council recently voted to offer free beach permits to members of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. On Cape Cod, the towns of Truro and Wellfleet will begin to offer free permits to anyone with proof of tribal identification this summer.

Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren and the Board of Trustees did not return a request for comment.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.