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Aug 14, 2018 1:36 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: Skeletal Remains Found At Construction Site In Shinnecock Hills

Aug 16, 2018 4:49 PM

UPDATE: THURSDAY, 11:15 a.m.

On Thursday morning, Mike White, who is working with the property owner of 10 Hawthorne Road in Shinnecock Hills where skeletal remains were found on Monday, denied saying that the medical examiner told him that the remains were not of Native American descent.

He claims that the medical examiner told him that the medical examiner’s review of the remains were found to be inconclusive and could have possibly been a white male, or early settler.


The Shinnecock Indian Nation Tribal Council met on Tuesday morning to discuss seeking a federal injunction against the Southampton Town and Suffolk County police departments to keep them from disturbing the site of the discovery of human skeletal remains at a construction site on Hawthorne Road in Shinnecock Hills on Monday.

Later in the week, Shinnecock leaders said the injunction wouldn’t be necessary after property owners agreed to wait for results on testing to determine if the remains were Shinnecock. The council was expected to meet on Wednesday to discuss hiring an archaeologist to examine the site.

According to Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs, police investigators were not following proper state and federal protocols for Native American sensitive sites and repeatedly denied his request to order the private work crew at the site to stop digging.

The remains, found buried on a wooded lot slated for private development at approximately 1 p.m. on Monday, were taken to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office to be studied by an anthropologist, who would determine the estimated age of the bones, according to Detective Sergeant James McGuinness of the Suffolk County Police Department.

On Wednesday, officials said they had determined that the bones were at least 50 years old, but could say little else about the remains.

Det. Sgt. McGuinness said if the remains are found not to be related to a criminal act, they would be returned to the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

When reached on Tuesday, Mr. Gumbs argued that the bones could possibly belong to that of a 17th century Shinnecock Indian tribal leader, noting that they were discovered along with a flask.

However, Michael White, who is partnering with the property owner, said on Wednesday that he had been told by the medical examiner that the remains were not of Native American descent. “Definitely not a Shinnecock ancestor,” he said.

Mr. Gumbs disputed the claim, and said he continued to believe the remains were Shinnecock, noting that the anthropologist’s review was inconclusive in determining ancestral origin.

“For them to just come out and say that it’s not one of our ancestors is basically to cover up their complete failure to observe protocols,” Mr. Gumbs said on Wednesday. “Our leaders were buried with those flasks. It was pretty clear that this wasn’t a crime scene.”

He added that the Southampton Town Board has routinely ignored the Tribal Council’s request to implement stronger laws against excavating sacred sites to protect them.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said on Wednesday that the Town Board recently met with several members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation to discuss setting aside monies in next year’s budget to put regulations in place.

Similar to the Town of East Hampton’s protocol, the Town Planning Board would map out sensitive sites throughout the town and would require, prior to construction, that an archaeological review be completed.

He added that an archaeologist would walk the site to look for clues indicating burial sites, such as stone circles or mounds. “That would be very valuable,” he said.

In the meantime, Mr. White said that construction on the house slated for the lot will remain on hold.

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