|Table of Contents||Introduction|
In 2000, a protest led by Shinnecock tribal member Rebecca Genia began at Parrish Pond. Despite a peaceful protest, three Shinnecock tribal members were arrested on the first morning of protest, and a fourth was arrested the next day when, once again, protesters gathered at the site. This time, however, the tribe had won an injunction against the subdivision and called in Bob Zellner, co-chair of the Southampton Anti-Bias Task Force, to help mediate the situation. Zellner had barely introduced himself to the supervising officer when he was “knocked to the ground and brutalized” by police. He, too, was arrested.
All four of the Shinnecock protesters and Zellner were either acquitted or had their cases dropped or dismissed.
In 2014, Southampton Town Board agreed to allocate $900,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to preserve the 1.5-acre cultural site. During this year, Shinnecock Tribal Member and cultural activist Elizabeth Haile shared the importance of this site, as it had the perfect combination of a running stream and a particular species of heather grass that was used to polish wampum shells for beads.
Corey Dolgon describes 1 the Parrish Pond protest in The End of The Hamptons;
On a cold Thursday morning in February 2000, state troopers arrested the Shinnecock activist Becky Genia for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Along with a few dozen other tribal members and supporters, Genia was protesting the development of a sixty-two-acre piece of land adjacent to the Shinnecock reservation in Southampton. The developers, Parrish Pond Associates, had hoped to begin work clearing the wooded parcel and building their thirty-eight-lot ‘McMansion’ subdivision. But local Native Americans argued that the land contained a sacred burial ground, and environmental groups claimed that a large residential development would result in hazardous groundwater runoff, eventually contaminating the reservation’s drinking water. Chanting “not one more acre,” demonstrators met bulldozers on Tuckahoe Road, and a standoff ensued.
Genia explained that she and others had made sure they weren’t trespassing and that they planned a “peaceful protest” that included possible civil disobedience. Before any formal activities had begun, state police moved in and, according to witnesses, “severely manhandled” some of the demonstrators. Three Shinnecocks were arrested that morning, and a fourth was arrested the next day when, once again, protesters gathered at the site. This time, however, the tribe had won an injunction against the subdivision and called in Bob Zellner, co-chair of the Southampton Anti-Bias Task Force, to help mediate the situation. Zellner had barely introduced himself to the supervising officer when he was “knocked to the ground and brutalized” by police. He, too, was arrested. 2
Eventually, all four of the Shinnecock protesters and Zellner were either acquitted or had their cases dropped or dismissed. They are all currently suing state police for brutality and false arrest. The Shinnecock did, however, lose their court battle to stop the development, not on the case’s merit but on a technicality stemming from a missed deadline.
Today, Parrish Pond Associates advertise 4,000+-square-foot luxury homes on one-and-one-half-acre lots “in a unique community of meadows, tall pines, and a magnificent pond.” Realtors boast about the subdivision’s location, “[o]nly minutes from some of the most spectacular beaches in all the world, the famous Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, mere footsteps from fashionable shopping and the finest dining experiences imaginable, and completely surrounded by the history, culture, ambiance, and world-renowned style of Southampton.” Starting at about $1 million apiece, the Parrish Pond Estates homes now stand as the most recent symbol of the Shinnecock Nation’s long history of struggling land battles.
The following 27east article from 2014 describes the preservation of Parrish Pond;
The Southampton Town Board agreed this week to purchase a 1.5-acre lot in the Parrish Pond subdivision in Shinnecock Hills, a former wampum-making site cherished by the Shinnecock Indian Nation.
The site had been the focal point of days of protests and an aborted legal challenge by members of the tribe in 2000 over the approval of the 62-acre subdivision surrounding it.
“Years ago, the Iroquois chiefs would come to us to collect a fathom of wampum—that was enough to make a million wampum beads that they used in their wampum belts—because the Shinnecock were the best wampum makers,” tribe member Rebecca Genia said on Tuesday. Tribal elder Elizabeth Thunderbird Haile sat next to her in the hallway of Town Hall following Tuesday’s meeting, holding an earring made from the finely polished clam shells, or quahog, that served as a form of currency among Native American tribes centuries ago.
“Parrish Pond, as they call it, was one of the last two wampum-making sites on Long Island,” Ms. Genia said.
Ms. Haile said that the site had the perfect combination of a running stream and a particular type of heather grass that was used to smooth and polish the shells.
The town, on Tuesday afternoon, agreed to pay $900,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to purchase the 1.5-acre lot, known as lot 24 in the 38-lot Parrish Pond development. Tribe members implored the board to work to preserve a neighboring lot as well, an effort board members said they would pursue, and asked that they be allowed to hold an annual ceremony at the site.
The neighboring lot, number 23, is owned by another resident of the subdivision but has not been scheduled for development. The tribe says it, too, is part of the sacred site of the former wampum factory.
“We can do some homework there and see if the owners of the adjoining parcel are amenable to purchase as well,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst told the tribe members. “We don’t know their intention at this point.”
Ms. Throne-Holst noted that the town would have to look at the legal details of allowing the tribe to hold ceremonies on the property once it is owned by the town, as both the bylaws of the CPF and legal covenants and restrictions in the subdivision approval may pose hurdles. But, she said, the town would also do an investigation of the possibilities and make accommodations for the tribe during the purchase if possible.
After the Parrish Pond subdivision was approved by the Town Planning Board in early 2000, following a three-year review, the tribe sued to try to stop it, but the case was dismissed by a judge on a technicality. When the clearing of the property, which sits just across Montauk Highway opposite the tribe’s 800-acre Shinnecock Neck reservation, was set to begin, dozens of tribe members and supporters protested. Protesters stopped traffic on Montauk Highway, and five, including Ms. Genia, were arrested. Two later had the charges against them dropped, and two others were acquitted more than two years later in a town court of disorderly conduct charges.
One of those arrested, activist Bob Zellner, filed a $60 million lawsuit against New York State Police troopers, after he was injured during the confrontation.
The tribe contends that there were ancient remains of tribe members on the land that were unearthed and removed from the property by workers during the construction of the property.
“We could never prove that there were our ancestors remains on that land … because the people who worked for the developers removed them and talked about it all over Southampton,” Ms. Genia recalled. “We know there were burials there.” 3
- Corey Dolgon, The End of The Hamptons, 2005, pp. 191-193
- New York Times, 25 February 2000; Southampton Independent, 1 March 2000; Southampton Press, 2 March 2000. Bob Zellner and Rebecca Genia, in interviews with the author, used the terms “manhandled” and “brutalized.” While upcoming court cases will determine the legal outcome of these claims, the photographs and videos of the incident seem to support the use of the terms.
- Translation: Tina Tarrant, Shinnecock