Shinnecock Nation v. The Mighty Hamptons

“For the legion of rich and famous in New York, the unofficial start of summer means migrating east by luxury vehicle to the Hamptons… But this Memorial Day weekend they were greeted with a jarring new sight, two six-story illuminated billboards being hastily constructed by a local Native American tribe just in time for the high season.”C. Kilgannon, The New York Times

From left, Margo ThunderBird, Rebecca Hill-Genia and Lynda Hunter, members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

Excerpt: a Hamptons Highway Is a Battleground Over Native American Rights – Cory Kilgannon, NYT

“Tall enough to rise above much of the tree line of this state roadway, the twin billboards — with bright electronic display panels operating around the clock — are about as far from the standards of the Hamptons as could be imagined. The billboards are being put up by the Shinnecock Indian Nation, a tribe that for many centuries before this area was settled by Europeans in the 1600s occupied wide expanses of what is now some of the priciest real estate in the world and a summertime playground for the 1 percent.

The tribe is defying local and state orders to stop the construction, arguing that it is building on sovereign tribal land. CreditHeather Walsh for The New York Times

Besides the 1,550-member tribe’s modest reservation nearby, the small parcel spanning the highway at the billboards’ site is nearly the only land the Shinnecock still retain. The tribe is partnering with an outdoor advertising company to run local ads on the billboards, as well as national campaigns for high-end brands like Rolex, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Its members are determined to use the revenue as an economic engine to revitalize the tribe.

Town officials say the signs are an eyesore and are more suited to Times Square. CreditHeather Walsh for The New York Times

But the billboards have infuriated much of the Hamptons, where such signs violate government regulations. Stop-work orders have been issued by state and town officials who call them eyesores and distractions to drivers…The signs are “clearly out of character” with the town’s low-rise, low-key style, said Jay Schneiderman, Southampton’s town supervisor. But the Shinnecock insist that their sovereign status exempts them from any government rules.

The tribe had defied a cease-and-desist order from the state Department of Transportation, as well as a stop-work order from the agency delivered by state troopers to the work site, said Bryan Polite, the tribe’s chairman.

Bryan Polite, the tribe’s chairman said the signs are about providing resources to the nation. H. Walsh, NYT

A message on the signs welcomes drivers not to the Hamptons, but rather to the Shinnecock Nation, whose base is a 980-acre reservation nearby, just outside Southampton, a chic village filled with luxury boutiques and upscale dining spots…Lance Gumbs, the tribe’s vice chairman, pointed toward a nearby cellphone tower as an example of the town permitting other tall structures. And new condos were allowed at a location near the Shinnecock Canal, which the tribe had long considered a sacred place because it was a site where their forebears landed tribal canoes.

‘They routinely desecrate our sacred land,’ he said, ‘and they’re complaining about a sign on a highway?’

Regarding the signs’ appropriateness, tribal members pointed out that the town’s zoning has failed to stop plenty of outsize mansions.”


Category: Culture