hamptons local events, express news group

Story - News

Jun 20, 2012 10:46 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Baymen Say Shinnecocks Have Shot At Them Over Clamming In Waters Off Reservation

Jun 20, 2012 11:16 AM

Two baymen told the Southampton Town Trustees this week that a man recently rowed out from the Shinnecock Indian Reservation to where one of them was digging for clams and threatened to shoot him.

The report came as no surprise to members of the Trustees, some of whom are commercial fishermen who said that they had actually been shot at by people on the reservation on numerous occasions over the years when in waters that 
some tribe members mistakenly believe to be under their control.

“It used to be a regular occurrence,” Trustee Ed Warner Jr. said. “I used to almost joke about it—I’d come home to my wife and say, ‘I got shot at again today.’”

Baymen John Raynor and Ken Mades said that the most recent incident did not involve an actual shot being fired. Rather, a man in a canoe rowed out from the reservation to where Mr. Raynor was digging clams, in town waters, and told him that if he didn’t leave and stop harvesting shellfish from near the reservation, he was going to be shot.

“They said, ‘We’ll just shoot your boat first,’” said Mr. Mades, an elder statesmen of the generally reserved baymen community, helping to relate Mr. Raynor’s tale. “There’s going to be a violent act toward somebody before the summer’s out unless someone gets together with somebody to diffuse this. I’m sure most people on the reservation don’t like this sort of thing.”

Tribal Trustee Chairman Randy King issued a statement about the allegations on Wednesday in response to a request for comment. “The Nation has not heard about this from the Town Trustees,” he said in an email sent by Tribal Communications Director Beverly Jensen. “The Shinnecock people value our natural resources, as we have for thousands of years, and appreciate when respect is shown by others.”

The Trustees recommended that Mr. Raynor file a complaint with the New York State Police, the only local law enforcement agency with authority on the sovereign tribal reservation.

Although the reservation is a sovereignty, it does not include any underwater lands, the Trustees said, and any bay bottoms near it are town waters and open to the harvesting of shellfish by any town resident. Trustee Eric Shultz noted that the tribe has been using 
town bay bottoms to grow oysters along the reservation’s western shoreline for several years without a permit from 
the Trustees, which is technically illegal, though the 
Trustees have never taken issue with it.

Trustee Fred Havemeyer said that he thinks the Trustees should contact the Shinnecock Tribal Trustees to address 
the situation directly themselves. “Maybe some people don’t understand the situation,” he said. “The last thing I want to see is two groups facing off over clams or oysters, or whatever it is.”

Mr. Mades said the baymen working the area are on the hunt for the abundant hard clams found in the sand bottoms that surrounded the Shinnecock Neck peninsula on which the 800-acre reservation sits. He said he’s experienced the threats and gunfire 
himself in the past and heard stories from other baymen who have as well. He said the 
State Police have been notified before, but that as far as he knows no arrests were ever made.

“A few years ago, [another bayman] was in Heady Creek, and there was a guy down there who was throwing rocks the size of baseballs—he said if he had gotten hit in the head, it would 
have killed [him],” he recalled. “It’s happened to me many times. I won’t work over there anymore—I’m too old to get shot.”

You've read 1 of 7 free articles this month.

Already a subscriber? Sign in