Living & Eating on Long Island's East End 

         Excursions:  Hakame from the Shinnecock Nation

My name is Monique.
I'm a 2-time Emmy Award winning TV Producer.
Having been in the business for over 15 years I've produced my share of live tv cooking segments, but never had much time to devote to cooking myself.

Last year when I got married, I moved out of New York City to the east end of Long Island, to ...wait for it...The Hamptons.

Now before you roll your eyes, there's more to the Hamptons than mansions and celebrities.

The Hamptons have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, miles of productive farmland, plus a rich clamming history that continues to this day.

When I moved out east and realized I was surrounded, not just by the bounty of the sea, but also local farms and vineyards, I couldn't wait to explore and sample my new environment.

That's what this blog is about.  Cooking, living, exploring and sharing those experiences.

You'll notice that my blog is a little of this and a little of that, kind of like a potluck meal.

Hakame. It means "Greetings" in the native language of the Shinnecock Nation.

Described as Algonquin descendants, the Shinnecock are the original native people who inhabited Long Island. Fishing, hunting, farming and even whaling were part of their culture.  

Originally the Shinnecock men were hunters, while the women were the traditional farmers and gardeners.

After the Europeans arrived in Connecticut and Long Island, many native people were killed either from warfare or disease. Some historians believe after that many of the area tribes became interspersed, including the Shinnecock, Montauk, Pequot and Mohegans. 

I was very lucky to get a preview of the new Shinnecock Nation Wikun Village in Southampton this past Thursday. Wikun is Shinnecock for "Good".

The village is the latest exhibit being added to the current Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum, which opened in 2001.

Being new to the area, I've been curious to see the museum and learn more about the native people.

The Shinnecock Nation is a federally recognized nation, located on the East End of Long Island, adjacent to the Town of Southampton. But federal recognition was only recently achieved in 2010, after what the Shinnecock describe as 32 years of struggle with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

While some businesses sit on the reservation on Montauk Highway (the main thoroughfare), the rest is residential and private. Only Shinnecock and invited guests are allowed to enter the reservation.

The Shinnecock Museum is housed in a large rustic-looking log cabin-like structure. Inside the facility is built out of striking blond wood, in a kind of Western/Adirondack style.

One wing of the museum holds the main exhibit, that showcases the history of the Shinnecock people, displaying everything from hunting gear to pottery to whaling harpoons.

Another wing displays a series of large, colorful murals that depicts their history from pre-historic times to present day. Another wing holds a performing area and gift shop. Downstairs holds the museum's collection of Native American bronze statues.

Most of walls are adorned with old, historic black & white photographs of elder Shinnecocks over the years. I found these photographs fascinating, looking at the striking faces of the native people who had lived in the area before me.

The Wikun village will be a re-created late 17th, early 18th century Shinnecock Woodlands village. It will be the only Native American living culture site on Long Island when it opens officially on May 25th. 

When we arrived for the preview, the rain had unfortunately forced activities indoors. Inside a group of young men performed a traditional "Honor song", then Museum Curator David Martine welcomed us. He was followed by speeches by other museum staff members, as well as some Tribal Elders. Everyone was beaming with joy, you could tell everyone involved was very proud of the project.

From there we exited the museum and walked to the ribbon cutting, where photographs were taken.

The village is a short walk's distance behind the museum, in the woods. There in a two-acre clearing, we were met by young village staffers dressed in traditional Shinnecock clothing, as they tended a fire. 

In the clearing was a neesscuttow weetu (a two-fire longhouse) that rose about 15-20 feet above us, a traditional garden and a hand-hewn wooden canoe.

The Wikun village will be an opportunity for visitors to step back in time to see what life was like in a traditional Shinnecock village 200 years ago. Wikun villagers, while not role-playing, will demonstrate, explain and tell the tale of their people. 

Eventually the village will also include nature walks, children's art programs, dance presentations, as well as guided boat tours during summer months.

Some of the exhibits are still under construction. The longhouse still has some work to go. Planting has just begun in the garden, but should be in full swing for the official opening on May 25th.

Awareness, understanding and appreciation of Shinnecock history and culture is what the mission of the museum is. In a community where different factions haven't always seen eye to eye, I think this addition to the current museum is a step in the right direction.

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