Later this month the Shinnecocks will canoe to unite with their sister tribes in Connecticut. The purpose is to form an inter-tribal Mishoon Society with their ancestral neighbors.
The Shinnecocks will set out in canoes from their homeland in Southampton on Friday, June 22 and paddle toward Orient Point. They will set out from there on Saturday morning, June 23, toward Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan territories in Connecticut.
The tribe is looking for nonnative volunteers to help in their endeavor from Orient Point to Connecticut to help with the landing, putting out food, and just encouraging them.
“My trip members and I are trying to put together a ground crew—a caravan—where they help put us out in Orient and meet us where we land in Connecticut,” explains Chenae Bullock of the Shinnecock tribe in an interview. “We encourage anyone who wants to help to do so and participate with us.
Chenae Bullock, whose name means, “dancing butterfly” in Shinnecock, is organizing the symbolic event. Bullock, is only 24 and labels herself as an idealist when it comes to her tribe and her heritage, but her ambition is inspiring to anyone, as she desires to restart a Mishoon Society between the Northeast Indian tribes.
“I want to start something here annually on the East Coast,” said Bullock. “The Northwest tribes in Washington State, California, Vancouver Island, and Alaska do it every year for the entire month of July.”
“This is the first canoe journey in this area for a long time,” adds Bullock. “The last time was when our ancestors did it.”
Mishoon, which means “canoe” in Shinnecock, is more than just a word in their language, but a way of life. The tribe’s relationship with the land and the sea is both observatorable and cathartic. Paddling from the shores of their land to their sister tribes connects them with their ancestors in a spiritual way.
“It’s a way of bringing back our past, our ancestral ways. We’re not just people of the land, but people of the water, too” informs Bullock. “Our ancestors paddled across the Peconic Bay and the Sound to meet their neighboring tribes in New England.”
The Shinnecock people along with other tribes on the East Coast have an ancient and sacred history of canoeing and life on the water.
“The water humbles you,” Bullock told me. “It’s a struggle, a test from the creator that tests your character.”
The tribe is having a closed prayerful ceremony on their reservation before sailing out from Cuffee’s Beach with elder kin members who cannot make the journey across.
From Orient the tribe will canoe to the Stoddard Bill State Park in Connecticut for the final landing where members of our sister tribe, the Mashantucket Pequot, along with other tribes in the New England such as the Nauset tribe (from Cape Cod) and the Mashee Wampanoag tribe.
Once there the tribes will feast and have a traditional fire at a Pequot Longhouse, where they will share teachings of their ancestors, songs, dances, old stories from elders, and gifts into the starry night. On Sunday morning the tribes will set out with their sister tribes to Mohegan.
“We all live together, eat together, laugh together, talk together—we are a community,” says Bullock referring to the whole East End community. “We’d love for anyone’s support or donation.”
Last year, the Shinnecocks participated in the Annual Tribal Canoe Journey that has been taking place for over 24 years. The tribal members joined in, paddling from Seattle to the Swinomish people in Washington State near Olympia. The Shinnecocks were the only Northeastern tribe to participate and they plan to do so again this year—but this time with their sister tribes.