Navigation Menu

Whale’s Fin

Table of Contents
Introduction
Oral History
Translation

Introduction

Whale’s fin is a sacred site for the Shinnecock, located two and a half miles south west from the current reservation and two miles south east from Canoe Place. Here, the whales were known to beach, potentially as an offering for sustenance to the Shinnecock in the area.

Oral History

Shinnecock Tribal member David Bunn Martine describes Whale’s Fin;

A place on Dune road, on the east side of Shinnecock Inlet, was locally known to us as whale’s fin because that was supposedly one of the last places that they hunted the whales from or whales beached themselves at.

img_58be1f37e69d3 Whale's Fin Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Shinnecock Inlet post 1938 storm.

This is, of course, before the inlet formed after the hurricane of ’38. It’s currently part of the Suffolk County Park, the eastern side. If you look diagonally northeast, you’ll see the reservation shoreline. It’s the only undeveloped shoreline on Shinnecock Bay. Every other shoreline the houses are right up to the bay. Our shoreline here is still relatively undeveloped, which is nice. But if you go on the western side of the Inlet, you can get right down to it.

5I5A6215-Pano Whale's Fin Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Trailer area at Suffolk County Park

Because it is a park, you might need a permit, but you can see the gates, and there’ll be trailers sitting around there.

All that area was a barrier beach, and they used to launch their whale canoes from there. It has always interested me how they physically could handle whale hunting in these little canoes, through the surf. It’s a very difficult thing to do. They’d have to be very, very tough and adventurous to do it, not only do it in the pre-contact period, but also going around the world in two-three years on a ship.1

  1. Nancy Shoemaker, Living With Whales, 2014 pp. 188

Translation

The word1 for whale in the local Algonquian dialect is pótab (variations pottab, pottap).

The fin of a fish is2 wapwékan.

  1. James Hammond, Natick Dictionary, 1903, pp. 132
  2. James Hammond, Natick Dictionary, 1903, pp. 182

Related Content