The Southampton Town Board voted Tuesday evening to buy 3.3 acres of land in the Sugar Loaf area of Shinnecock Hills, an area believed to be ancient Shinnecock Indian burial grounds that has been the site of recent demonstrations by the Shinnecock Indian Nation and their supporters.
Members of the town board also announced they are considering a Graves Protection Act to “establish protocols if human remains are encountered during construction activities,” according to the town. New York State is one of only four states that lack a law protecting Native American burial sites.
The $2.2 million purchase, through the Community Preservation Fund, preserves three building lots around a house under construction on Montauk Highway and Ridge Road, which sparked the controversy.
A public hearing on the Graves Protection Act will be held on March 24 at 6 p.m. at Southampton Town Hall, along with another proposed local law that will consider imposing a six month moratorium on new home construction, unless an archeological review is completed, within the Fort Hill and the Sugar Loaf areas of Shinnecock Hills.
The moratorium would also affect other large scale excavation projects in the Sugarloaf area such as accessory structures and swimming pools, and is designed to give the town time to enact safeguards to prevent the inadvertent desecration of graves and archeological resources.
“The graves protection legislation and the Sugar Loaf and Fort Hill moratorium are important steps in preserving our cultural heritage and the sanctity of Shinnecock ancestral burials,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.
“The Town Attorney approached the owner of the surrounding property and we were able to reach an agreement to acquire those three lots and preserve this culturally sensitive land,” said Southampton Town Supervisor. Mr. Schneiderman also recognized the Shinnecocks’ desire to preserve more properties in this area where it is believed many of their ancestors are buried.
The Sugar Loaf Hill Shinnecock Indian Burial Ground region includes parcels bounded on the north by Montauk Highway, on the east by Southway Drive, on the south by Shinnecock Bay East and on the west by South Beach Road.
The Fort Hill region encompasses parcels bounded on the north by the Long Island Rail Road, on the east by Ridge Road, on the south by Montauk Highway and on the west by Peconic Road.