Flying the Flag of Our Independent Spirit

Art by John Alexander

Independent Spirit. 

Two words that resided in the DNA of both Dan’s Papers and The Independent from their respective inceptions—one powerful concept that only expanded when the two merged as Dan’s Independent Media this June. The flag that was created for The Independent years ago by artist John Alexander still flies proudly in our new corporate logo, a symbol of the spirit that we see all around us on the East End.

To that end, Dan’s Independent Media reached out to various leaders across the East End—from arts organizations to the Shinnecock Nation and various nonprofit groups—to learn what “independent spirit” means to them. 

From a historic context, the Shinnecock Nation embodies the whole of the Independent Spirit of the East End, prior to 1641. I can’t really consider this question unless I acknowledge who came before and how these lands were acquired. Now, as a person who calls this place home, I remind myself that I am part of a continuum—the recent arrivals and all the folks who have made this oasis their home know that the East End is something special. We work hard because it’s worth it. There is a connection to the land and the water that demands respect. Where I am seeing true independent spirit is within the hearts and minds of the youth of our nation and our globe. These times demand vigilance and fortitude. While no one asked for these times, I see our youth collectively rising to the occasion. Minerva Perez, executive director of OLA of Eastern Long Island 

It is clearly a spirit that is in constant celebration and awe of nature and the bounty she provides to those out East. The spirit comes from the connectedness those out East have with nature. This connectedness provides meaning and an unselfish self-fulfillment which is purely independent of all else. —Erik Warner, owner of the Sound View Greenport

I’m not sure there is one. The East End is certainly a different place, there’s no question about that, but it also depends which side of the East End you’re talking about, the south side or the north side. I don’t think it’s an independent spirit, I just think it’s a spirit of community—the way everybody knows everybody out here, mostly—but I don’t think it’s an independent spirit where we’re different, or anything like that. I see it in our farm stands, specialty shops, wineries, breweries and things like that that are out here. —Anthony Caggiano, co-owner of Jamesport Farm Brewery

I see it soaring above the Long Island Sound. —Bonnie Grice, WLNG DJ

I believe that the Shinnecock Nation’s resolve is the strongest display of Independent Spirit on the East End of Long Island. Emboldened in the Shinnecock Nation’s Official Seal is the battle cry “Always Sovereign,” a testament to the Shinnecock Nation’s perpetual Independence. In fact, Shinnecock Nation celebrated this battle cry last Fourth of July when the Shinnecock Warriors of the Sunrise hosted a (New York State opposed) full day Independence Day Prayer Ceremony celebrating the 61-foot-tall Monuments constructed on Sunrise topped with that Tribal Seal, in a Sunrise-to-Sunset event lead by Margo Thunderbird. A few months before last Independence Day, on Memorial Day, the Shinnecock Nation constructed the monuments to its continued Sovereignty over its ancestral Indigenous territory located at Niamuck, later known as Canoe Place, and now also known as West Woods. Historically, and continued to the present day, this truly Independent Spirit is something that the Town of Southampton and the State of New York have repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to quash. Today, the I see the youth of the Shinnecock Nation fully embodied by this Independent Spirit, even as children completely unafraid to challenge the celebration of Christopher Columbus in the Town of Southampton, unaccepting of police brutality and racial injustice, and ready to lead the fight towards a decolonized, just and equitable society where the environment, humans and animals are restored to a higher regard than the exploitative capitalist economy. I am lucky to witness this Independent Spirit in action each and every day as the Shinnecock people continue to resist the unfair parameters of social inequality that have been imposed on us by colonization that began 380 years ago with the settlement of “the first English colony in the State of New York,” an  assertion proudly claimed by the Town of Southampton’s Official Seal, but a historical inaccuracy which should be removed this year since Southold Town is actually “the first English colony in the State of New York. —Tela Troge, Attorney and member of the Shinnecock Nation

Independent Spirit means following your convictions, making your voice heard, and being true to your heart, truly allowing for independence. —Anne Chaisson, Executive Director, HamptonsFilm

I see the independent spirit in our children—in their willingness to help others, desire to learn and create solutions for a better community and world. —Kori Peters, President, The Clamshell Foundation

When I think “independent” and “spirit” I think of freedom of expression, and an unswerving passion—in art, music, politics, how we honor our environment, and each other. The East End is rich with examples—from the artists who came out here decades ago for “the light” (and now those who are conducting “drive-by art” exhibitions during the pandemic), to the local efforts to preserve the incredible landscape we are privileged to inhabit, from initiatives to cleaning up our beaches, to preserving open land, to protecting our fisheries and water supplies, to the food pantry initiatives across the Hamptons inspired and accelerated during COVID-19 (AFTEE’s “Feed the Need,” Springs Pantry, etc).

I think the greatest asset a community can be blessed with is a combination of natural beauty, and dedicated, free-spirited people. Look at how our community has responded to challenges —a fire in Sag Harbor destroys the cinema, and is restored because of committed artists and community members who cared. A global pandemic inspires locals on the East End to make their own masks—they didn’t wait for handouts. They wanted to protect their communities and help each other, such as the Montauk Mask Makers, who literally took matters into their own hands by sewing and distributing thousands of masks, or by those who made masks on 3D printers, such as LTV’s own Jason Nower. 

In terms of “freedom of expression” and “independent spirit,” it’s not biased to say how impressed I am that the East End has a public access television station—LTV in Wainscott—where the local community is free to express themselves by producing their own television shows at a ridiculously small cost—from politics, to cooking, to environmental issues, to music, talk, art, writing, local businesses and more. This independent spirit to share ideas, inform, entertain, and to mark and preserve history, is to me, the lifeblood of a community. We have much to celebrate, always. —Angela LaGreca, Creative Director, LTV, Local Television Inc, East Hampton

The idea of independent spirit to me means the larger, truly equal vision of justice, domestic tranquility and freedom of speech wished for by our founding fathers.

I see it every day in the organized peaceful protests on Main Street, in the food pantries that serve the community and the general coming together here and around the world brought about by this extraordinary time. Jean Shafiroff, philanthropist

Because breast cancer doesn’t take a break during a pandemic, neither will we at The Ellen Hermanson Foundation. COVID-19 has presented us with a challenge this summer as we celebrate our 25th year—a momentous milestone. Like the early settlers who came to the East End before us in 1640 and used their ingenuity to survive and thrive in a new environment, we are adapting to our new environment by creating fun, exciting, meaningful and accessible virtual events so we can continue to meet the needs of breast cancer patients and survivors in our community. And all of you who are reading this are invited to join us July 25 at our virtual summer gala and from August 16–August 31 at our virtual 25th Annual Ellen’s Run. Visit us at for all the details. —Julie Ratner, President, Ellen Hermanson Foundation

The Center has served working families, primarily of color, for more than 65 years. The East End community has made me proud the past few months. The outpouring of support has been wonderful. The combination of the pandemic and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matters movement seems to be uniting our community in new ways. Opening hearts and minds to what really matters most- providing vital human services, food security and loving thy neighbors.

At least 10 years ago, we started a series of talks in the living room of our Admin Building at The Center.  It was a safe place where we ALL could come together and speak openly about being Black in America. During these talks, deep and open conversations took place around racism, stereotypes, and inequalities. We soon outgrew the living room and today it is known as the THINKING FORWARD LECTURE SERIES: “Equality Matters in the Hamptons.”

With all the hatred, racism, brutality, inequities, and atrocities that Black People experience daily, my vision of the “Independent Spirit” is that these hard, and difficult conversations must continue, and I believe they will. Change is coming. —Bonnie Michelle Cannon, Executive Director Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center

As the Sheriff of Suffolk County, I am the county’s highest ranking Law Enforcement Officer. I am elected by, and take an oath to serve and protect, the people of Suffolk County. 

Historically, the office of the Sheriff was not always an elected office. The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office was established in 1683, making it the oldest Law Enforcement Agency in Suffolk County. At that time, the Sheriff was appointed by the governor. At the Constitutional Convention in 1821, the office of Sheriff became an elected office and has been so ever since.

As an elected official, I take part in campaigns and elections. However, when I make decisions and act as the Sheriff, it is always as a Law Enforcement Officer first. I have 30 years of Law Enforcement experience which inform my decisions on a daily basis. For me, outside influences take a back seat to safety.

We are living in a politically charged world. Many people are calling to “defund the police” and disband law enforcement across the country. I believe this is the wrong approach. In order to provide safe, fair and consistent policing of our communities, I believe that we must increase training of first-line officers and deputies as well as supervisors. Accountability is key, and high-quality training of all staff should be continuous throughout the year. When actions are taken that are not in line with departmental standards, retraining and additional supervision must be put in place. The Sheriff’s Office and local police departments are here to serve and protect, and must continue to be able to work hard to maintain law and order.

To me, maintaining this “Independent Spirit” associated with my position is very important. I utilize my professional and academic experience to guide my decision making when it comes to the safety and well-being of my deputies, correction officers, and civilian staff, as well as county residents. I do what I believe is right for the people of Suffolk County. I choose to keep this “Independent Spirit” in Law Enforcement to maintain law and order and ensure the safety of all Suffolk County residents. —Dr. Errol D. Toulon, Jr.
, Suffolk County Sheriff

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