2016 Running Strong for American Indian Youth Dreamstarter Jeremy Dennis’ (Shinnecock and Hassanamisco Nipmuc) original dream was a photography and awareness project titled “On This Site” with the goal of preserving culturally-significant locations around his community in Long Island, New York.
Through photography, Jeremy provided insight into how the Shinnecock people and reservation were able to remain on Long Island. The project presented an opportunity to reflect upon archaeological and oral histories to answer essential, culturally-defining questions.
“This project is inclusive for many audiences, as it creates a dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people on Long Island, and legitimizes the Long Island Indigenous population beyond their borders on reservations,” he told us in his original Dreamstarter application.
“By presenting the archeological research in the format of photography, it presents to the public a new understanding of communal awareness and cultural enlightenment, which leads to cultural critique, historical inquiry and educational development.”
Today, with his Dreamstarter GOLD grant, Jeremy is continuing his 2016 project through “On This Site — Indigenous Long Island” to preserve sacred and historical cultural landscapes surrounding his ancestral tribal territory using both photography and storytelling allowing the public to engage in Indigenous history using maps, an interactive website, books, and traveling exhibitions.
“I’ve always wondered how the Shinnecock people and reservation were able to remain on Long Island, so close to one of the major arrival areas of colonization, and why we are where we’re located now,” Jeremy told us.
The five goals of his Dreamstarter GOLD project are: to create a weekly photography workshop on the Shinnecock Reservation that allows youth to learn the art and techniques of digital photography with mixed-in elements of the On This Site Project (local history); host an annual exhibition and other events throughout the year; travel westward from the Shinnecock Reservation to pursue more distant sites to have a more full representation of Indigenous Long Island; form a non-profit for “On This Site: Indigenous Long Island” to allow the project to be truly self-sufficient; and design and self-publish a second edition of his One This Site book with a new larger format.
Jeremy says that there is a clear need to build bridges on the Eastern End of Long Island, commenting, “We are infamous for our segregation among class, financial and ethnic lines.
“One thing that transcends these borders is the appreciation for art. By utilizing my passion and ability as a visual artist and photographer, I plan to change the way our neighbors view the Shinnecock Indian Nation by deepening the knowledge that is available to the public over the three-year grant period.”
He also noted that his original Dreamstarter project was designed and motivated by other contemporary art projects that “use landscape photography and site-specific history to bring forward the relevance of our shared experience and past to the present.
“So often are Indigenous people seen as a vanished race or a people lost in the past, but we can be seen everywhere simply by looking at our ancestral territory.
“I hope that On This Site can be a life-long project thanks to Running Strong for American Indian Youth®.”