Afternoon Visit to the Shinnecock Indian Nation

By Jennifer May

I recently tagged along on the EPA Regional Administrator’s first official visit to the Shinnecock Nation in Southampton, Long Island.  It was a great way to spend a Wednesday afternoon!  The RA and a few other EPA staff were visiting the nation because it recently got designated as a federally recognized nation.  The Shinnecock have been awaiting this designation for over 30 years, and it is very significant because this new designation provides the basis for EPA to have a more formal relationship with the Shinnecocks. This is great news, making the Shinnecock is the most closely located tribe to New York City of the eight Indian Nations we work with in Region 2.

We met in the Shinnecock Community Center – a great big room that was nicely decorated. The Shinnecock Trustees, Tribal Council members and others joined us as we sat at large round tables and discussed environmental issues that the nation is facing. We were then treated with a tour of the nation.  Throughout the visit, we discussed a range of issues from waste dumping to water draining problems to brown algae.  With each issue raised, EPA had a whole bunch of suggestions to help improve these environmental challenges.  It seemed very much like a brainstorming session – which existing EPA programs could be paired up with the environmental issues of the nation?

I found the whole interaction fascinating!  I have to admit that my initial interest in being a tag-a-long on this visit was selfish. One of my earliest memories as a kid was going to a Shinnecock Nation Pow-Wow.  I couldn’t have been more than 8 years old.  My family has a beach house not far away on the North Fork of Long Island and my parents took me and my siblings to the Pow-Wow to experience something new.  It was a vivid childhood memory for me.  I remember the dancing, the drum beats, the chanting and most vividly the dance outfits.  I haven’t been back to the nation since until this meeting.  What a treat it was!

I look forward to keeping everyone posted on the dialogue and relationship between EPA and the Shinnecock Nation!

P.S. If you want to check out the Shinnecock Pow-Wow for yourself (which I highly recommend), their 65th annual Pow-Wow will take place over Labor Day weekend.