I was at the “Protect Burial Grounds” event in unity with the Shinnecock Nation last week [“Protests Continue As Town And Property Owner Discuss Partial Preservation Of Site Identified As A Burial Ground By Shinnecock Nation,” 27east.com, January 14]. It was not a “protest” — it was a “Protect.” It was one of the most moving, powerful, profound and sacred events I have ever been to.
My sign read “Are Cemeteries Next?” I can’t claim credit for this thought. I took it from one of the Letters to the Editor in this publication a week or two back [“End This Process,” Letters, January 9]. It is a poignant question, and I thank the original writer for it.
Can you imagine? Try to imagine. How disgusting do you feel as you even imagine a bulldozer arriving in the cemetery to make way for a house or houses?
This is what the Shinnecock feel, and have felt. Every day. For centuries.
This is trauma.
But it’s about land and nature, too. In a time of global, environmental atrocities and crises, we need leaders who can bring us to an understanding of how to live with nature symbiotically and not destructively. We need people who can show us the way.
Native peoples lived in harmony with nature for tens of thousands of years before they were brutally colonized, their children stolen from them and sent to boarding schools to undo their native culture, where they were beaten if they spoke their own language, and where many, many died unexplained. In fact, the gallows that are today glorified in the Southampton Village restoration, just behind Main Street, once held, and locked in, Shinnecock people who dared speak their own language.
It is a beautiful language. And there are still people alive today who were, as children, sent to boarding schools, and who still cannot speak of their experiences in the “schools” of unlearning, much less speak their ancestral language.
This is trauma.
Imagine this is your grandmother. Your mother’s mother. Imagine that sadness in your house, in your life, in your community.
This is everyday reality for our neighbors and friends in Shinnecock territory.
And yet, the native culture is a sacred culture. It is a culture where land is respected — not bulldozed wantonly — completely disrespectful of all life there, all cultural memory there, and all spirit there. Native culture only uses what it needs. It is a culture of ecosystem, not “ego system.”
I stand in unity with the Shinnecock because I, too, have intense “eco grief.” It is traumatic to see what is happening to the land and all life around me, to suffer the murder of innocents, to suffer the waste, to suffer the trauma … yes, trauma. My body is full of tears.
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One fine body…