There was a bit of gentle chiding but a whole lot of humility in the room when Southold and Southampton towns gathered together in Southampton’s First Presbyterian Church Saturday afternoon to pay homage to both towns’ 375th anniversaries.
Perhaps the most poignant moment of the afternoon was the reminder Shinnecock Nation elder Elizabeth Haile gave the crowd assembled for the towns’ joint convocation to honor the anniversary.
“Welcome,” Ms. Haile told the crowd of descendents of settlers, historic-minded citizens and government officials. “We still welcome you.”
Ms. Haile, who also took a trip to Greenport in January for Southold’s 375th Anniversary kick-off, said her role in the festivities is one of “somber watchfulness,” as her grandson showed a two-row wampum belt off to the crowd.
“This is a symbol of non-violent coexistence,” she said. “It depicts two vessels in one river. These lines do not cross, but they run side-by-side.”
She said those lines mirror the paths taken by both the Shinnecock Nation and the settlers since Southampton’s founding in 1640.
South Fork County Legislator Jay Schneiderman thanked the Shinnecock Nation for giving the early settlers in Southampton the tools they needed to survive their early, cold winters in Southampton.
He pointed out that the South Fork had done a great job of preserving land, but had more work to do preserving the ability for working people to live here.
“Prior to zoning, communities developed more naturally,” he said. “Young people are looking to live in walkable communities. I’m confident that we, as a community, will work together to solve this problem.”
North Fork County Legislator Al Krupski said he believes the natural environment of the East End was a big draw for the early settlers.
“After all the good farmland was settled in Southold, they had to travel to Southampton to settle,” he joked of the early settlers.
Pastor Frank White of Kings Chapel Church of God in Christ in Southampton gave Southampton and Southold First Presbyterian Church ministers Richard Boyer and Peter Kelley a joint proclamation celebrating both churches’ 375th anniversaries, which are also being celebrated this year.
Rev. Boyer said he’d be happy to keep the proclamation in Southampton for safekeeping, after which which the Kings Chapel choir, “Showers of Blessing,” brought down the house with their rendition of “Oh Lord We Give You Praise,” which echoed off the walls of the church for quite some time after they finished singing.
John v.H. Halsey of the Peconic Land Trust also paid tribute to the Shinnecock Nation.
“The native people stewarded this land. We owe them a tremendous debt,” he said.
Mr. Halsey urged the crowd to imagine how they’d like to see their towns at their 500th anniversaries, even though no one in the room would live to see that day.
Rev. Michael Smith of the Shinnecock Presbyterian Church, in his benediction, said members of the Shinnnecock Nation fed, clothed and gave the early settlers shelter as part of their duty to their fellow brothers and sisters on earth.
“That’s our calling, as brothers and sisters,” he said. “This service now ends and our service begins.”