Shinnecock Nation: Measure That Protects Unmarked Indigenous Graves Must Be Enforced

Sep 18, 2020

On Long Island, members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation want the Town of Southampton to enforce a measure passed earlier this month that protects unmarked Indigenous grave sites discovered in wealthy Hamptons neighborhoods.

Rebecca Genia has fought for protection for decades with the Graves Protection Warrior Society. The group wants the town to help them preserve land where ancient human remains and artifacts are found.

Genia said the tribe has to have a seat at the table to be involved in the process.

“You know, due diligence and slacking off are two different things and we're not ever overreaching when calls and letters and concerns come in about the protection of this area, you can't, you can't do too much,” Genia said.

Jennifer Cuffee-Wilson is also with the Graves Protection Warrior Society.

“We're gonna stay on them now, because now they have something in writing. OK, so they have to do what they're supposed to do. And we have to make sure that we are there. And we are watching them like hawks because otherwise that, nothing's gonna get done,” Cuffee-Wilson said.

The group is concerned that New York City residents will continue to flee the pandemic and permanently settle in the Hamptons. They say over development would contribute to hiding the graves of their ancestors.

The group says their next steps include helping the town hire an archaeologist to review potential unmarked graves. They also want to guide the town on which graves should be preserved first.