For my Dreamstarter project, I am using art and photography to preserve sacred indigenous landscapes throughout my region of Long Island, New York - starting from my home of the Shinnecock Indian Reservation.
At the beginning of my project, I spoke with both tribal historians and local archaeologists specializing in the North Eastern region, whose reaction was entirely encouraging and supportive.
Living close in proximity to the Shinnecock Reservation, Anthropologist and Professor John Strong has given me much guidance throughout my project, revealing the ways he has combined both the humanities and archaeological fields to demystify the history and presence of indigenous peoples on Long Island. During my research, I came across a 1988 newspaper clipping featuring interviews with Professor John Strong, along with Gaynell Stone and Ralph Solecki - both of whom also studied and published papers on Long Island archaeology. From their perspective, it made clear the urgency of my project.
"For archaeologists, the changes sweeping the East End are particularly alarming. They fear that history - that of an entire race of Native American who lived on this gentle land for 10,000 years - is being paved over."
Much of the interest in Native American cultures comes from archaeology, but often times, and especially for Shinnecock, the tribe isn't part of the field work and research - but that is changing. Recently this year, David Martine became Shinnecock's Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, allowing our nation to have a say in cultural land preservation throughout our surrounding community. David has also assisted me by offering oral histories of some of the sites.
Outside of these two resources, I've gathered many historical resources through local libraries and museums, spanning 1640 to the present. For much of what has been found, it was my first time learning about these histories. A major goal of the project is not only to find where these events happened but to make these things accessible and give the story from the indigenous perspective.
Holding a tribal meeting at the Shinnecock Community Center allowed me to present my project to tribal members to create an awareness for those who want to participate, to make aware this new cultural resource, and to receive questions and feedback.
Sugar Loaf Hill - A tragically destroyed 3,000-year-old cemetery of the Shinnecock.
Coming up soon on November 9th, I'll be presenting my findings thus far at Stony Brook University in observance of Native American Heritage Month. The presentation will encourage other Native students to be involved in Running Strong programs by showing my experience and will also cover much of the research that I've found so far for my project. In addition, the presentation will create an awareness for the Water Protectors gathered at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
My future plans include the continuation of;
- Weekly photography and cultural classes based on sites found
- Gathering more research and oral histories from elders
- Travel to New York's State Historic Preservation Office, the New York State Museum, and The National Museum of the American Indian to conduct research
- Produce an art exhibition and book that combine landscape photographs and their associated indigenous history