The Shinnecock Monument: Hamptons Outrage Always Fades

Shinnecock billboard/monument
Shinnecock billboard/monument, Photo: Oliver Peterson

The uproar about the 62-foot-tall billboard put up by the Shinnecock Indians on the Sunrise Highway has subsided. Nearby is an ugly communications tower three times as tall. Also nearby is a water tower twice as tall.

It has been my experience that whenever some large or strange project in the Hamptons gets thunk up or begins to be built, people get all outraged about it. You see it mostly when the construction is underway. Construction sites are a mess. When it’s all built and landscaped, though, many may still not like it but they get used to it. And the project blends in.

The Shinnecock Nation may have confused this hubbub with prejudice against them. The action about one is the same as the action about the other. And whether it is prejudice or just a run-of-the-mill disturbing of the neighborhood is hard to tell. But it would be in everybody’s interest to consider it the latter rather than the former until we learn otherwise.

This pattern of opposition against anything unusual coming and then fading I have seen over and over during all the 60 years I’ve been writing this newspaper. It happened with the Rennert Mansion, it happened with the Bridge Golf Club, it happened with the East Hampton Library addition, you name it.

The Shinnecock’s case is based on the fact that they are a distinct nation separate from the United States, have their own laws, say they own the land in question and the Sunrise Highway comes through because they leased part of it as a right of way years ago without any rights beyond the shoulder of the road. Last week, the National Tribal Council weighed in with support of the Shinnecocks, as this case wends its way through the federal court system. Eventually, it seems that’s who will decide what is what here.

Meanwhile, the monument-billboards announce the tribe’s presence as never before. Many people had no idea there was a tribe here since before the settlers came. So it’s good to see much has calmed down and the project is just another bump in the road, although, granted, a big one.

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