Shinnecock Tribe

Variant name:

Sheenecock Indians; Shenecock

Description:

The Shinnecock Tribe is an Algonquian-speaking people descended from the Pequot and Narragansett Nations of southern New England. Their name means “people of the stony shore,” because their ancestral lands were on the southeastern edge of Long Island, south of Great Peconic Bay. They were a sea-faring people noted for their manufacture of beads from the Northern quahog clam and whelk shells called wampum, used by many Indians as currency, in trade, and for recording important events on ceremonial belts. European settlers arrived on eastern Long Island in the mid-17th century, bringing Presbyterianism, buying land, and creating homesteads and villages, which expanded through the 18th century, encroaching on Native lands. Diseases also decimated the Native population. The Shinnecocks and their neighbors to the east, the Montauketts, were targets of Christian missionizing early on, since it was an easy sail from southern Connecticut across the Long Island Sound. When the Society in Scotland for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge sent the Presbyterian missionary Azariah Horton to Long Island in 1741, he found a warm reception and evidence of previous missionizing among the Indians in the eastern half of the Island. Occom arrived a decade later after his education at Wheelock’s school, settling in Montauk and starting a school there, but also visiting and ministering to the nearby Shinnecock Indians in their various villages. Dwindling land and economic resources led many Shinnecock Indians to move to Brothertown on Oneida land in western New York after the Revolutionary War. In 1792, the New York State legislature imposed a system of tribal government that consisted of three elected trustees, whereas traditionally, decisions were made by consensus of all adult male members. Since the mid-19th century, the Shinnecocks have had a reservation of about 800 acres within the town of Southampton, a fraction of their traditional lands. In 2007, the Shinnecock Tribe went back to its traditional governing structure, now including adult women, and installed a Tribal Council. In 2010, they succeeded in a 30-year-long struggle for federal recognition, and now number over 1400 people.

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Sources:

Shinnecock Indian Nation, “History and Culture,” http://www.shinnecocknation.org/history; Fisher, Linford. The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.