At Long Last, Ancestral Burial Ground To Be Returned To Shinnecock Nation

Jul 21, 2021

Decades of tribal advocacy has led to a historic deal in the Hamptons. The town of Southampton will return some ancestral lands to the Shinnecock Indian Nation in eastern Long Island.

The Hamptons were once entirely home to Indigenous people. Tela Troge is Shinnecock and an indigenous sovereignty attorney.

"Ancestrally, our territory spanned from what's now known as the town of Brookhaven to what's now known as the town of East Hampton," Troge said.

Shinnecock people buried their ancestors in what is now the Shinnecock Hills neighborhood of the Hamptons.

“This land is known as Sugar Loaf Hill. It’s extraordinarily sacred to us. It’s a parcel of land that was stolen from the Shinnecock Nation in 1859. This is the first time since 1859 that we have been successful in having the return of any of that land,” Troge said.

That was the year the town of Southampton and New York State forced the tribe to give up lands according to imposed borders.

A 2019 PBS documentary drew national media attention to the tribe’s fight to reclaim Sugar Loaf Hill. Earlier this year, Southampton agreed to spend $5.3 million on the property using its Community Preservation Fund. The Peconic Land Trust picked up the check with private donations.

The deal was completed this week, which gives the tribe stewardship of the land. A mansion on the property that overlooks Shinnecock Bay is scheduled for demolition.