|Table of Contents||Introduction|
The Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum is the first and only Native American owned and operated museum on Long Island dedicated to honoring the ancestral and living history as Algonquin descendants.
The museum serves nearly ten thousand visitors annually, as an educational and cultural entity for collecting, preserving and interpreting artifacts, documents, and other material related to Shinnecock and Eastern Woodland history and culture.
Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum building opens.
The building was inspired by the Oneida Nation Museum and constructed by the Beaver Creek Log Homes of Oneida, NY. Owned by Jules Obomsawin.1
10,000 Years On Long Island – By Ariella Budick, Newsday 2005
Though Much Shinnecock history is unknown, a tribal museum fills in the blanks in vivid color
Most drivers chugging along Montauk Highway between Westhampton and East Hampton don’t think much about the fact that they are in Indian country. But this strip of clam shacks, gas stations and pleasure boat marines was once a frigid forest where the Shinnecock hunted caribou and giant beaver. To keep alive the memory of the original Hamptonites is the mission of the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum, housed in a commodious cabin built out of whole white pine logs, a quarter-mile east of Southampton College.
Showcasing Shinnecock culture is not an easy task. The tribe, whose drive for federal recognition gained momentum with a recent court decision, left few archaeological clues to its earliest history. Many more recent artifacts have wound up in other institutions, such as the Smithsonian Museums. And by the end of World War II, the tribe’s population averaged 160, making collective memory and lore a precious commodity. (Today, about 500 members of the tribe reside on the reservation, according to the U.S. Census, and another 900 live elsewhere.)
So David Bunn Martine, the museum’s director, has supplemented hard information with plenty of education and imagination. The centerpiece of the permanent collection is “A Walk With the People,” a series of murals he painted depicting his tribe’s epic, beginning with the Paleolithic era and reaching well into the 20th century.
In the first panel, eh shows Shinnecocks in Eskimo-style animal skins huddled against Shelter Rock around 7000 BC. A medicine man in a ceremonial mask says a prayer over a beaver carcass. Hunters lurk with antlers strapped to their heads as to lure a herd of caribou into an ambush. The scene is speculative but vivid, which is the point.
“Archaeologists won’t believe anything existed unless it’s been pulled out of the ground,” Martine says. “Museums therefore depicted Indians in an unattractive way. I’ve seen ugly exhibits where people are like cave men, with no crafts and no skills. I’ve tried to show them in a more elaborate, more inclusive way.”
Martine’s panels are arranged into brightly hued vignettes that juxtapose drama and routine. They trace the evolution of a hunter-gatherer society into an agricultural one and chronicle its contact with Europeans.
“I interpret each period according to research, as well as trying to refute stereotypes that people get from museums, television, and pop culture – images of half naked people running through the forest and living in tee-pees.”3