Hardy Plumbing
December 14, 2011

Burial Grounds Move Toward Protection

"Show me your cemeteries, and I'll tell you what kind of people you are."

Attorney George Stankevich quoted Thomas Jefferson at last Friday's work session when he, along with representatives from the Shinnecock Indian Nation, met with Southampton Town Board to continue a discussion on protection plans for Native American and colonial graves.

"We're here because bulldozers run through both Native American and colonial graves," Stankevich said. "People are concerned about their lives and projects being disrupted."

Assistant Town Attorney Joseph Burke said the goal of the protection plan is to identify sites where there are human remains and have them listed on a map. The Building Department would then notify landowners to be cautious about the possibility of finding graves and what to do about it.

As of Friday, the status of the map was unknown.

"I recall the map being important to this," said Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, referring to a discussion from last year. "There was a high level of support for this, but without the map there's no reference."

Throne-Holst added that preserving native and colonial graves should be a concern for everyone. According to the supervisor, the map will establish and delineate areas of the town where the graves and remains are.

"Anyone commencing a project will have a reference," she said.

Rebecca Genia, one representative from the Shinnecock, stressed that the "snail's pace is no longer working" in getting the protection plans set in place. Genia reminded the board that several people had to be uprooted and reburied due to burial grounds being destroyed.

"We have a tiny bit of land," Genia said. "There are people living in poverty on Shinnecock, people can't get a mortgage. We're not asking for much. We need to be on a schedule to get this resolved. Developers are raping this land, but we're still here and we still have a history."

The next discussion for new protection plans is scheduled for January of 2012. At that time, officials said the site map will be available.

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