Thunder on the Isle of Shells

The Shinnecock Indian Nation hosted their 60th annual Pow Wow this past weekend at the Reservation near Southampton.

The first Shinnecock Pow Wow, a gathering of native peoples was organized by the late Chief Thunder Bird to focus his community on their identity as native people and to let non-natives learn about their native neighbors.

Chief Thunder Bird's daughter Elizabeth (Chee-Chee) Thunder Bird Haile spoke to us Sunday about the Pow Wow. She says Shinnecocks who live outside the Reservation most of the year return to their land for the Pow Wow.

"they want to do their cultural things and they need their spiritual connection - they come to Shinnecock land - to the land of our people"

Among the music groups performing at the event were the Thunder Bird Sisters, grandaughters of Chief Thunder Bird. They are Becky Genia, Tina Tarrant and Rev. Holly Haile Davis.

From "Song of Hope" (*):

"You look like my neighbor, your face says, 'I know you'.

We stand in the struggle to strengthen each other.

If you're seeking justice, I too stand up with you.

You're family to me 'cause you want to be free.

Survival is part of the hand of our elders,

tradition, the gift given to us at birth.

Do not believe that we live without hope

Make your steps worthy and honor this earth.

Hopeless is never the song that we sing.

Defeated is never the message we bring.

Empower the people by standing together.

Hatred and fear will be banished forever.

Lift up the people, together we keep hope alive."

Elizabeth Thunder Bird Haile summed up the Shinnecock view of what she calls modern issues - "all issues of land - land which has never left Shinnecock ownership."

"Other people have come and leased the land from us and they developed it into the township of Southampton but no one ever bought it because it wasn't for sale."

She says the right of New York State or the federal government to tax goods on the reservation is a land issue because "that's who we are - we are the Shinnecocks of the Shinnecock land."

(*) "Song of Hope", copyright 1999. Thunder Bird Sisters, LLC.
Information: Thunder Bird Sisters Records, 40 Montauk Highway, Southampton, NY11968

This report was prepared for WPKN local news heard Monday-Friday at 6:30 pm on
WPKM Montauk at 88.7 and WPKN Bridgeport at 89.5 MHz FM.

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