Indigenous Landscapes Throughout Long Island
2016 – Present
On This Site is an art-based researched project by Shinnecock Nation tribe member and artist Jeremy Dennis.
Dennis’ goal is to preserve and create awareness of sacred, culturally significant, and historical Native American landscapes on Long Island, New York. Through curiosity about his own origin and ancestral history, Dennis gathers and combines archaeological, anthropological, historical, and oral stories to answer essential cultural defining questions: Where did my ancestors live? Why did they choose these places? What happened to them over time? Do these places still exist? To seek the answers to his questions, Dennis researches, visits, and photographs each site; documenting the change in each landscape and highlighting the everlasting connection between place and memory. As a revelation, these sites remain but were made invisible.
Visible on the web and in a self-published book, On This Site creates a new opportunity for self and communal reflection upon our assumptions and stereotypes regarding indigenous and colonial shared history on Long Island. Sharing this research will begin the process of communal awareness and cultural enlightenment; which leads to cultural critique, historical inquiry, and ¬educational development.
Photography as an entry point to history invites curiosity. Both indigenous and non-indigenous viewers will likely be unfamiliar with both the landscapes and histories associated with each site. From an indigenous standpoint, there is a need and importance behind this project; a desire for cultural acknowledgment and understanding regarding indigenous presence. If nothing else, the project reinforces the idea that Native people existed throughout Long Island for more than ten thousand years, we are still present here today, and will continue to be here.
Tribe Communities Today
Out of the thirteen original tribes on Long Island that occupied distinct territories, only two nations now hold reservation land; the Unkechaug and the Shinnecock. According to the 2010 census, 22% of Native Americans live on reservation land nationwide. On Long Island, a similar percentage exists; as tribe members live and work locally and around the world. Besides Unkechaug and Shinnecock, descendants of other tribe groups also live in scattered communities throughout Long Island. For example, in Little Neck, there is a community of Matinecock; throughout Long Island are Montaukett descendants; and in the Setauket area, there is a community of Setalcott tribal descendants. Descendants of these tribal groups on Long Island maintain a link to the past through family lineage and the practice of their traditional culture with unique social gatherings and historical preservation.
In addition to sharing place-based indigenous culture and history, the protection of the sites in this project are an important priority from a spiritual, environmental, and archaeological perspective. Once a site is destroyed, it is lost forever. This project shares the unfortunate desecrations of Sugar Loaf Hill, Wegwagonock, and others. These sites are within and near the affluent estates of “The Hamptons,” and are often overlooked for their historical and cultural significance. Although Long Island’s archaeological sites are unlike those depicted in popular culture, they maintain the same reverence and academic value. Being conscious of these issues, revealing their specific location only puts them at risk. Using photography, their histories can be shared and visualized without putting them in danger.
The ambitious goal of this project is to document and represent every significant indigenous site on Long Island for their physical and memorial preservation. It must be expressed and recognized that this project does not include every cultural site on Long Island; The images chosen for this project mostly represent those that have been researched and photographed, largely on the Eastern End of Long Island in Suffolk County. Future updates of this project will aspire to include sites in Nassau County. For updates, corrections, and new photographs, please view the project website, which features an interactive map of the site locations at www.jeremynative.com/onthissite/