Southold Indian Museum to honor Native American culture with weekend celebration

Long Island, also known as Sewanhacky, or, “the place of shells” in the Algonquian language, is home to 10,000 years of Native American artifacts and many are on display in the Southold Indian Museum. 

Next weekend, visitors can view these relics and purchase new Native American pottery, jewelry, toys and books at the museum’s Sewanhacky Tribute Weekend.

The Southold Indian Museum, in conjunction with the Long Island Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association, will hold an event Nov. 10 and 11 from noon to 4 p.m. to honor Native American heritage. The event will be free to the public.

“This will be our very first annual Sewanhacky tribute,” museum secretary Lucinda Hemmick said. “We wanted to invite some of the people from the tribe to come, relax, sell things, sign books, and just be recognized. Then we’d pull that into an appreciation for how long Native Americans have lived here, and their culture.”

The event will include a Revolutionary War reenactment with a musket-firing demonstration, children’s arts and crafts, and items for sale from the local Poospatuck and Shinnecock tribes.

“One of our volunteers at the event is of Mohawk heritage,” she said. “He will educate visitors on what information Native Americans gave to Americans, including fighting tactics and knowing the layout of the land.”

The museum, which is owned and operated by the incorporated Long Island chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association, does archaeological research and focuses on site preservation. Ms. Hemmick, who also teaches science research at Longwood High School, said she became affiliated with the museum as a way to generate more projects for her students to work on.

One of these projects is the Glen Cove recovery of ancient shell middens, or layered shells that offer clues for further archaeological research. These shell middens were excavated by Joel Klein, a registered archaeologist, who currently works at the museum. Mr. Klein has served as the president of the Professional Archaeologists of New York City and as chairman of the Society for American Archaeology’s Committee on Consulting Archaeology.

Ms. Hemmick said the museum has examined these donated artifacts for three years and they are currently on display in the museum.

“We had 400 boxes … that the museum had to screen,” she said. “The museum has been cleaning and examining them closely,” she said.

Lucinda Hemmick and Joel Klein. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

But the Glen Cove recovery project, Ms. Hemmick said, goes far beyond the classroom — it’s intended to encourage site preservation on Long Island.

“The one thing that unites us, the Shinnecock and the Poospatuck that we’ve invited for this weekend, is site preservation,” she said.

Mr. Klein said Long Island has been a center of development since World War II, but the exception was the East End, specifically the North Fork. He said thousands of Native American sites on Long Island have been destroyed by development, but on the North Fork, Native American sites are more common.

“Here on the East End, there’s so much undeveloped land, that remnants of those sites are more prevalent here than they are in many other parts of the island,” Mr. Klein said. “But we still have development threat out here.”

One major goal of the Southold Indian Museum, Mr. Klein said, is to encourage people to contact an official if they believe historic land is being intruded upon.

“Call the museum or the state historic preservation office,” he said. “Very often, it’s possible to go in and redesign a development, or hold things up so archaeologists can go in and do an excavation. It’s not the things, per se, that archaeologists care about — it’s the story that those things tell.”

“It’s completely free, which is a community outreach on our part, we want to get people to come to the museum, we just want to reach out and show people what we’re doing now.”

Visitors can better understand the importance of site preservation, Mr. Klein said, if they visit the museum.

“We want people to know about to know about the museum,” Mr. Klein said. “It’s really an underutilized gem out here on Long Island.”

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