Southampton Town officials have closed on the purchase of a property in Shinnecock Hills where human remains—believed to be of an ancient Shinnecock Indian Nation leader—were found during construction in August.
Konstantin Beladidze, the owner of the Hawthorne Road property where the remains were found, agreed to sell the property to the town for $450,000, utilizing Community Preservation Fund revenues. The deal closed on January 16.
Now, a joint stewardship committee consisting of three members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation and three town officials is expected to come up with a plan for the management of the property—along with three other parcels that the committee will be charged with overseeing.
Shane Weeks, a Shinnecock tribal member and founding member of the joint-Southampton Town and Shinnecock Stewardship Committee, said this week that the tribe is contributing $50,000 toward the preservation and restoration of the property, which was part of the agreement with the town to purchase the site with CPF money.
The Graves Protection Warriors Society, which Mr. Weeks co-chairs, started a GoFundMe page to raise the $50,000, and the goal was reached with the help of the Peconic Land Trust, the tribe and other donors.
Mr. Weeks said plans for the property will include leveling it, placing boulders around the perimeter to mark it off, and planting grass and other vegetation to help restore it to its natural state. “That way, it can be beautiful and be preserved,” he said.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said a determination for how the site will be managed is still under discussion, but he noted that “the sanctity of the site will be preserved.”
The town held a public hearing on the purchase in October, during which nobody spoke against using CPF money to obtain the land from Mr. Beladidze.
The part of Shinnecock Hills where the remains were found is believed to be ancient Shinnecock Indian burial ground, but “no formal determination was made if there are any additional burials in the area,” said Mr. Schneiderman, adding that a final determination was never made on the remains: “They are assumed to be Shinnecock, and it is assumed to be a burial ground.”
Mr. Schneiderman acknowledged that the area is culturally sensitive, though, and that he and the other Town Board members decided to preserve the property regardless of whether the remains were Shinnecock or not. “If nothing else, it’s for the next person who finds human remains,” he said. “I don’t want them to pretend they didn’t see the remains.”
For tribal members, this is a win for them and their ancestors before them.
“We recognize that the area of Shinnecock Hills is a culturally sensitive area, as has New York State,” Mr. Weeks said. “We are trying to do what we can to preserve it.
“It’s a great thing to have all parties on the same page, and we look forward to working with the Town of Southampton in the future, when preserving culturally sensitive sites,” he added.
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