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Aug 25, 2016 2:32 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Shinnecock Nation Holds Blessing Ceremony On Rebuilt Bay Shoreline

Members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation and employees of the Cornell Cooperative Extensin of Suffolk plant sea grass on the reservation's shoreline. KELLY ZEGERS
Aug 30, 2016 1:14 PM

Rows and rows of beachgrass line Shinnecock Bay, stretching more than 3,000 feet along the beach, behind and between rocks placed at the water’s edge—all part of a two-year project to restore the shoreline.Now reaching its end, the initiative has restored a long-missed part of the Shinnecock Indian Reservation: a beach that had all but disappeared thanks to erosion, but which has been resurrected by the nourishment effort.

“I think the project has been this new burst of life and brought everybody back down here again,” Shavonne F. Smith, the environmental director of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, said last Thursday, August 25, at the restored beach. It was a sentiment echoed by a number of tribe members before a short shoreline blessing ceremony.

Spartina grass—clusters of which a group of people in green or bright orange shirts were sticking into the sand—is grant money put to work. The beachgrass helps to stabilize the beach, creating a more permanent shoreline.

The Nation, with the help of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, in April 2014 secured a $3.75 million grant administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore the shore and ecological diversity, and to improve tidal flushing at the reservation’s shoreline on the eastern side of the bay.

The grant came from $100 million earmarked to fund 54 projects in states that were affected by Hurricane Sandy.

“The projects are aiming to make communities and people safer during storms and also use nature to improve the ecosystem,” said Lynn Dwyer, assistant director at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “So it’s good for fish, it’s good for wildlife, it’s good for people.”

In December, 30,000 cubic yards of sand were deposited on the beach, which tribe members have been able to enjoy this summer, bringing the community together. “The kids have been loving this,” Ms. Smith said. “They’re down here every day.”

Arthur Williams, 95, said the children are lucky to again have a shoreline that looks the way it did some 40 or 50 years ago. As he spoke just before the blessing ceremony, children ran and splashed at the water’s edge.

“To see the community really come together this summer has been amazing,” said Tribal Trustee Chairman Bryan Polite. “They come out, they camp, they picnic. People come together, they sing songs down here.”

The effort has also brought jobs to the reservation, employing people to work on the shoreline as field technicians and oyster hatchery technicians, and it has educated members about the plant and animal life now returning to the beach.

“The biggest thing for me was coming back and working with all the guys I grew up with,” said Eric Phillips, who was hired as a field manager for the project in November. “It means a lot to us, the beach coming back like this.”

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Hope the shoreline prospers.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on Aug 25, 16 5:54 PM
Its the least that could be done for them after we stole most of the land that belonged to Native Americans.
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Aug 26, 16 1:23 AM
"We" didn't do anything of the sort.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Aug 26, 16 3:56 AM
Please dont start that argument,,,,the beach is going to be a great asset and place of enjoyment.
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Aug 26, 16 11:01 AM
God Bless these good Native American people.
By greeneyedlady (55), East Quogue on Aug 26, 16 12:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
I would imagine that the Blessing Ceremony was beautiful ....something I would have loved to witness. But so glad to see they received the grant money for this!!!
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Aug 26, 16 6:36 PM