.Greetings from Shinnecock.
Members of the Shinnecock Nation Youth Council attended the annual United National Indian Tribal Youth Conference from July 11 to 15 in Reno, Nevada. The nation’s largest gathering of Indian youth, UNITY is meant to empower American Indian and Alaskan Native youth with the spiritual, mental, physical and social skills necessary to help build a strong, unified and self-reliant Native America.
Council advisors Paula Collins and Sharon Sylvester chaperoned the group, which included eight members of the youth council—college students Nichole Rosado, Dyáshwa Sylvester, Seneca Bowen, and John Boyd; and four high school students, Cholena Smith, Waapenat-Kumatwaenu “Kumat” Acosta, Yoteh Eleazer and Alton “Ahtuk” Dennis Jr.
Our group was one of 14 of the more than 200 tribal youth councils across Indian Country to receive the “Celebrate Native Health” grant—addressing the issue of childhood obesity—and was one of four chosen to host a breakout presentation on July 14.
Our youth impressed the other participants with a PowerPoint presentation on the progress they’ve made thus far in our community. They told of the socials they host each Wednesday at the community center as a means to introduce healthy foods and also shared news of the new greenhouse garden built last September behind the preservation center, and their plans to fill it in the coming weeks.
Last, they spoke about their current mission, to persuade fitness facilities in our area to adapt its policies and advocacies for low income families.
As heard on WLNG on Sunday, the Stepping Stones Garden Center on Montauk Highway had its official grand opening. Many stopped in and found more than just organic mulch and beautiful flowers for sale. A cart offering fresh local produce now sits next to the entrance with many of its fruits and vegetables organically grown only a few hundred feet away, in owner Sandra Lacy’s backyard.
We tried some delicious free samples of iced tea and Thunder Island Coffee, another amenity sold daily. We ran into Ben Haile, the son of elder Elizabeth “Chee Chee” Haile, who roasts the coffee right here on the Rez.
Thunder Island Coffee, in business for only three years, has already been picked up by all four Wild by Nature markets on Long Island and in Whole Foods Markets in Manhasset and Jericho. Ben hopes his product is picked up by the Whole Foods Markets in Manhattan and eventually goes nationwide.
Along with the coffee, we tried some fresh baked banana and cinnamon breads, which Sandra says will be offered both in loaves and as slices on the weekends.
But our favorite treat had to be the roasted corn. Fresh off the grill, the corn—brought over from the North Fork—was sweet and needed no condiments. Although hesitant about this venture, it is rumored that some skeptics in our community are starting to come around and now see the garden center for what it is: a positive addition to our community, with benefits for us all. We are sure that the youth council appreciates our taking advantage of this new facility; after all, it coincides with their mission of “Celebrating Native Health.”