Unkechaug and Shinnecock Language Revival Project

Chief Harry Wallace of the Unkechaug Nation, left, and Howard Treadwell, a researcher and tribal member, at the Unkechaug reservation in Mastic, N.Y. Photo: Doug Kuntz for The New York Times

For nearly 200 years very few people, if any, have listened to or spoken the tongues native to the Unkechaug and Shinnecock Long Island Indian Nations.  Now the two Indian nations and Stony Brook University have initiated a joint project to revive these forgotten tongues.

Chief Harry Wallace of the Unkechaug Nation emphasizes the integral importance of tribal members understanding their culture, past and present, “When our children study their own language and culture, they perform better academically.  They have a core foundation to rely on.”

By providing tribal records, religious documents, deeds and legal transactions, as well as tapes of tribal members speaking in the 1940’s, Chief Wallace hopes to piece together these lost tongues.  Chief Wallace is not alone in his efforts and has attracted the younger Unkechaug generation to the project.  Unkechaug member Howard Treadwell, 24, will participate in the Long Island effort while doing graduate work at the University of Arizona.  Treadwell has a degree in linguistics from Stony Brook University.

For the full New York Times article please click here.


31st American Indian Workshop will feature Unkechaug Sovereign Immunity case

From March 25-28th the American Centre in Prague will host the 31st American Indian Workshop: “Transformation, Translation, Transgression: Native American Culture in Contact and Context.”  Professor Emeritus of History John Strong of Southampton will present at a session titled: Eastern Indian Voices: Culture and Identity and speak on “Meeting Montoya: How the Unkechaug Nation Asserted Sovereign Immunity in Federal Court (2009).” The AIW is considered the most important international conference on American Indian and Inuit Studies in the world. Professor Strong’s presentation will be presented simultaneously at Columbia University in New York during the March conference.  The full presentation as well as the screening information will be made available here as soon as it becomes available.

The event program can be found here.

Howard Treadwell

Visiting Poospatuck and working with the Unkechaug Nation has been very educational in learning the history of the tribe but also in meeting the individuals that comprise it.  Without the individual voice, the whole is not complete, and vice-versa.  I had the good chance of meeting Howard Treadwell, a slam poet whose raw style captures emotions and ears from deep down, at the Unkechaug grounds.  Listen to his poem about his grandfather here, and come back for future posts from this talented artist.

Unkechaug U.S. Census 2010, 8nkowa!

I recently visited the Poospatuck Reservation on Long Island and met with tribal council member Mary Treadwell.  After a nice lunch, Ms. Treadwell showed me around the Poospatuck Reservation and briefed me on history and development of the Unkechaug Nation.

Mary’s commitment to the Nation’s development was obvious in the projects she described to me were in the works.  After showing me the new Unkechaug office we went through some boxes in which there were shirts, sweaters, hats, pens all marked and ready for the Census 2010.

The Census 2010 is a big project because it not only employs members but it is also a larger part of making the voices of Native American’s heard and counted.  She presented me with these gifts which I accept gratefully.  Thank you Mary!

We also spoke in length about the Unkechaug Language revitalization project (the red shirt).  Keeping and developing the Unkechaug language is also a big project because language defines culture.  She in partnership with local writers and colleges have begun this project in hopes of linking the history of the tribe with the present members.  8nkowa!

Shinnecock Museum Basketball Fundraiser

Mark your calendars and buy your tickets!

“Hoops for History” Benefit for the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum

Celebrating our 10th Anniversary this year!

7 PM


141 Narrow Lane, Southampton, NY 11968

In advance – $8 children, students & seniors and $10 adults
At door – $10 children, students & seniors and $12 adults
Free for children under 5

For tickets and information contact (631) 287-4923

New Unkechaug Community Center at the Poospatuck Indian reservation!

An article published at Newsday regarding the construction of the new Unkechaug Community Center can be found in full herewww.allbusiness.com.  Photos of the construction center will be available at http://www.unkechaugnation.org as soon as they come in!

Around the net

As I was looking around for information regarding the Unkechaug Tribe I came across this insightful comment at New York Magazine.  Read the full article and commentary here :

When are the politicians going to wake up and realize that this is a “problem” they created with excessive, confiscatory taxes? There’s an excellent paper by the Cato Institute on what happened in the 1960’s. In the wake of the Surgeon General’s report, both NYS and NYC tried to use the health hazards of smoking as an excuse to levy absurd taxes, when a much larger percentage of the population still smoked. What they got was a black market run by the mob, and a horrifying level of violence. They had to back down and reduce taxes. So if they now succeed in closing down the Native American smoke shops, they’re going to get much worse – truly bad black market characters. Bloomberg needs to WAKE UP and LOWER or ELIMINATE the separate NYC tax because if nothing else, NYC has to be equal to the rest of NYS. Otherwise, people can just go over the border to Westchester or LI or NJ and buy their smokes for much less. How could any pol not realize that people will buy their smokes anywhere and everywhere, but not at NYC bodegas and newsstands at $10 a pack? And yet, he just keeps pursuing the same self-defeating policies that drive sales away from our local vendors! How much taxpayer money is being wasted pursuing these lawsuits against the Native Americans? How much, in terms of trying to catch and bust the buttleggers who are bringing big tractor trailers of cigarettes up from the tobacco states? The tabloids were writing about drug dealers switching to bootleg cigs for greater profits back in ’02 and ’03! This has been going on for YEARS, and for every one they catch, how many get through? How many counterfeit cartons are coming in through the ports? Picking on a small Native American tribe is not the solution. The solution is to lower taxes to a more reasonable level so people can once again afford to buy their smokes at their local newsstands and bodegas!



Judge Matsumoto: Unkechaug meets tribal sovereignty, immunity criteria

The following article was posted to the Indian Country Today website.  It details the Unkechaug tribe’s continuing struggle to maintain its sovereignty against the state and the City of New York.  The article is in reference to United States District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto’s conclusion on October 8, 2009 in GRISTEDE’S FOODS vs. UNKECHAUGE NATION:


Based on the foregoing, the defendants’ motion to
dismiss is granted in part and denied in part as follows: 1) the
Unkechauge Nation’s and, as sued in his official tribal
capacity, Chief Harry Wallace’s motion to dismiss pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is
granted. 2) As sued in his individual capacity and in his
capacity as owner of the Poospatuck Smoke Shop, Chief Wallace’s
and the Poospatuck Smoke Shop’s motion to dismiss pursuant to
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) is denied.

An article discussing the decision can be found here: http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/archive/65786187.html

Associate Professor of Law, Matthew L.M. Fletcher on the Unkechaug ruling


Matthew Fletcher

Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University Matthew L.M. Fletcher, recently had this to say about U.S. District Court Judge Kiyo Matsumoto’s ruling in favor of the Unkechaug Indian tribe in a long running lawsuit filed by tycoon John A. Catsimatidis, owner of over 50 Gristedes.

“There is a smattering of cases like this. The court held that a federally recognized tribe is immune from suit. The court also said non-recognized tribes can be held immune by a court if it meets a common law test named after a 1901 Supreme Court case called Montoya v. United States. This common law test, used during a period before Interior began to keep track of all the tribes, was used by courts in the 1970s to determine whether an Indian tribe could bring land claims. Unkechaug met the Montoya test, and according to the district court, it is immune from suit.” (Read the entire article here)


New York’s Tobacco Tax Wars


(Photo: Martha Camarillo)

A recent article at the Business Insider covers several of the issues that are making headlines in regards to Mayor Bloomberg’s push to raise cigarette taxes to the highest in the nation and the lawsuit filed against the small Unkechaug Indian tribe smoke shops by the City of New York.


A recent article at the Business Insider covers several of the issues that are making headlines in regards to Mayor Bloomberg’s push to raise cigarette taxes to the highest in the nation and the law suit filed against the small Unkechaug Indian tribe smoke shops by the City of New York.