by Stephen J. Kotzon
Shane Weeks, 32, a member of the Shinnecock Nation who has dedicated himself to preserving the culture of his people, celebrates the publication of “Good Neighbours: A Shinnecock History from a Shinnecock Perspective”.
He said he hopes the book will serve as a guide for people who wish to learn more about the indigenous people of Southampton from their point of view, as opposed to the opinion of the white settlers who colonized the tribe, as they l have done for native tribes across the country.
“I’ve been working on the book since 2017,” Weeks said this week. “What prompted me to write it was the fact that almost all the resources I encountered in my research on the history of our tribe were always told in the third person. It was very rare that I found something that was written by our people from our own point of view.
The book, available as an e-book or softcover, is part memoir, part culture guide and part history, with Weeks describing his own experiences and touching on various aspects of the tribe’s history in an informal and accessible way. .
Weeks describes how his father taught him to hunt and fish, and how he started his own food-selling business as a teenager and traveled to Northeast powwows to learn about the Native American culture. Along the way, he learned the tribe’s language, its ceremonial dances and songs, and how to make its own regalia. He also learned a few other skills, like how to use saplings to build a wigwam or a tree trunk to build a canoe.
A major theme of “Good Neighbors” is that while the Shinnecocks themselves tried to be good neighbors, the settlers, who began settling in the area in the 1640s, did not always return the the same.
Weeks reminds readers that his ancestors were prevented from speaking their language and practicing their culture and religion from the 1600s until the mid-20th century.
“We had to be good neighbours, so that our way of life didn’t continue to be destroyed,” he said. “If we tried to defend our rights, our people would be treated horribly. This has been constant for a few hundred years.
Weeks believes that because the tribesmen were not allowed to speak their language or practice their customs, their culture slowly began to die out, to be replaced by a European view of history that downplayed the role of tribe and misrepresented it as a dying culture.
Fortunately, Weeks said, there have always been devotees who have kept the tribe’s culture alive in the face of this oppression. “There were alumni all around Shinnecock who had little bits of it,” he said. “Everyone had a little piece of the puzzle.”
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Moratorium on Shinnecock Construction and Passage of Graves Protection Act | Southampton, NY Crest