Picking And Choosing - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1280728

Picking And Choosing

“The town is appalled by what is going on. I mean, we are outraged. They will completely change the character of our community we have fought long to protect,” said Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman (according to CBSNewYork.com).

The character you are holding on to is white supremacy. Who has the “character of our community” benefited for the past several hundred years? Imagine the character of a community that was devastated when European settlers brought disease, violence and alcohol, using this to coerce Shinnecock people into the foreign concept of land ownership.

Since then, predominantly European-descended people have been the ones to change its character by developing, selling and desecrating the land. Indigenous people have always been on the front lines, leading movements to protect natural habitats and resources affecting all of life.

Colonization is a disease of the mind, spirit and heart. This disease is openly pervasive on the East End of Long Island, where affordable housing waiting lists are over 10 years long, and multimillion-dollar mansions go up like clockwork (most of which sit empty about 300 days a year and serve people outside of the “character of our community”).

The Shinnecock Nation has been consistently pushed aside, stolen from and denied for as long as settlers have been here. Shinnecock’s sustainability and sovereignty are vital to the sustainability and integrity of the larger community. (Southampton would be a great place for an Indigenous Land Tax.)

I live on the land where my step-grandfather once farmed potatoes. I don’t know the specific history of the land I live on, a land which is now valued disproportionately high, a fact that complicates my relationship to my home. I am only beginning to scratch the surface in understanding how to ethically engage with these questions, questions I see we are all facing now as a community.

This week, as I drove down the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, I noticed the recent development, “Barn & Vine,” looks near completion. How many trees were cut to clear a new road, to build multimillion dollar-spec houses? How many oversized houses have been approved and built on Dune Road, obstructing the views and aesthetics of Shinnecock people?

These developments are completely changing the “character of our community,” and have been for many years. When will you issue those cease-and-desist letters? Why would you pick and choose to attack a positive and unifying, self-sustaining effort by the Shinnecock Nation to generate income for the well-being of the tribe?

As a local resident grappling with my own responsibility and complicity in a place I call home, as a person who has lived with white privilege, I am appalled and I am outraged.

Ella Engel-SnowSagaponack


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