Shinnecock and Activists Respond to Racist Attack

Last week a site office trailer on Shinnecock Indian Nation land at Hampton Bays was damaged and covered by racist graffitti. The trailer is on the site of the proposed Shinnecock gaming casino at West Woods just west of the canal.

The graffitti included depiction of a lynching, the terms 'KKK", "coon" and the mis-spelled 'niger'.

New York State Police arrested a 16 year old boy who was charged with second-degree criminal mischief and second-degree aggravated harassment as a hate crime. Both charges carry maximum penalties of several years.

On Tuesday the Southampton Town Anti-Bias Task Force called for local political and community leaders to strongly condemn acts of this type.

At a rally Tuesday evening held at the West Woods site tribal members and others spoke about the incident as part of a pattern of intimidation following a federal court judgement which recognized the Shinnecock Indian Nation as a tribe.

The court judgement is the first step in allowing the Shinnecock Nation to build a gaming casino at the site.

The judgement was followed by a statement from Senator Schumer criticizing the court. Other local elected officials re-affirmed their opposition to the Shinnecock Nation's plans for economic development.

Several speakers at the rally questioned whether one individual could have carried out the damage and defacement to the trailer. Some referred to the influence of local elected officials on the atmosphere which may have prompted the incident.

Several members of the tribe spoke about the hurt they felt on seeing the racial epithets.

Reverend Holly Haile Davis, of Shinnecock said

"...anyone who is surprised by this has not been paying attention. This is what it is like to be a Shinnecock Indian, to be called these names every day of your life."

Addressing absent elected officials including Senators Clinton and Schumer, Congressman Tim Bishop, State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Southampton town supervisor Heaney she said

"this is the same reactionary anger and ignorance that prompted you and your statements in the past and has promted this ugly, ignorant crime."

"The answer to this is not to arrest 1 or 2 or 50 people. The answer to this is to address racism effectively and address poverty effectively"

Alabama-born Anti-Bias Task Force member Bob Zellner spoke about the similarity of the incident to acts of the Klan. He said it was the responsibility of the the white community to fight racism.

Zellner called on the elected leaders to come out strongly against what has happened as they had come out "immmediately, strongly and fiercly" in opposition to Shinnecock plans for a casino.

Speaking about his background and relatives who were Klan members, Zellner said
"I know about the KuKluxKlan, about organized hate groups. They are cowards, wear masks and act under the cover of night. They come out whenever any people win a victory and you have just won a great victory here. Getting people ... to recognize ...that you are a Native American sovereign nation. ... thats what they respond with."

"After the March on Washington in 1963 the Klan bombed a church in Birmingham and four little girls were killed in their Sunday School. That was the way they responded.

"They look for permission from their leaders, to people who are leaders in the community."

"A 16yr old does not have this idea on his own. A 16 year old is joined by many men and women who are united in hate - organizing hate - and they have to be stopped."

"Those leaders and each of us have to say 'this does not happen in this community'.