Category: Native Americans

Stories of Storm and Sea

Folklorists would make good podcasters. They are used to finding interesting people and getting them to tell good stories. Take Nancy Solomon for example. As the executive director of Long Island Traditions, she has spent years collecting and studying the stories of baymen, offshore fishermen, boat builders and the like. Today we’ll talk to her about a number of those stories revolving around the subject of weather lore.

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The many faces of the Great South Bay from the end of West Ave in West Sayville. Photos courtesy of Chris Kretz.

We discuss how generations of fishermen have scanned the skies and shores for signs of encroaching weather. You’ll hear of hurricanes opening (and closing) inlets along Fire Island, shark sightings, narrow escapes and the lasting impact of Superstorm Sandy.

Built up over years and passed down through generations, the weather lore of Long Island fishermen can tell us much about how things have changed and how to best work with nature.

And thanks to Debra Anwar Riad for adding her voice to our intro!

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A Neighborhood of History

St. David AME Zion Church in Eastville. Photo courtesy of the Eastville Community Historical Society.

St. David AME Zion Church in Eastville. Photo courtesy of the Eastville Community Historical Society.

Eastville endures. Through the rise and fall of the whaling industry, over the long slow death of slavery, past the rising tide of development on the East End of Long Island. From the early 19th-century this small collection of streets and houses east of Sag Harbor, anchored around the St. David AME Zion Church, has retained its character as a place that a vibrant mix of African Americans, Native Americans, and European immigrants called home.

On this episode of the Project, we speak with Dr. Georgette Grier-Key, Executive Director and Curator of the Eastville Community Historical Society. She relates the history of the area, from the early 1830s into the late 20th century when the Society was founded.

Portrait of an Eastville resident. Photo courtesy of the Eastville Community Historical Society.

Portrait of an Eastville resident. Photo courtesy of the Eastville Community Historical Society.

You’ll hear about the prominence of Native Americans and African Americans in the whaling industry as well as the importance of Sag Harbor as the first port of entry in New York. Among the people we discuss are Nathan Cuffee, a Montaukett member of the community who co-wrote the novel Lords of the Soil in 1905, depicting life on the east end of Long Island. Georgette also tells the surprising story of Pyrrhus Concer from nearby Southampton, an African American who, on a whaling voyage in 1845, became one of the first Americans to visit Japan.

We also discuss the challenges of documenting and preserving the histories of marginalized people. How do you prove, for example, that one of the trapdoors in the Church was used to hide escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad? How do you protect an unassuming house that is actually made out of wood from recovered 19th century shipwrecks and may contain generations of important stories?

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Courtesy of the Eastville Historical Society

Sometimes you get lucky and discover a trove of tintype portraits nailed face-down into the floor of a cottage. Sometimes you fail, and structures get razed despite what they might be able to tell us about the past. Sometimes the results are mixed. Pyrrhus Concer’s house was demolished but only after significant parts had been salvaged.

You’ll hear Georgette talk about these cases and related issues along with the importance of understanding and enforcing the codes that should be helping inform decisions around such properties. You’ll also hear about ongoing projects to document African American burial sites throughout Long Island.

And if you enjoy these episodes, make sure to follow this site via email or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. Leave us a comment and let us know what aspects of Long Island history you’d like to hear discussed.

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Behind the Camera with Thom Hoffman

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Shinnecock (2013). Photo courtesy of Thom Hoffman

When something piques Thom Hoffman’s interest, he starts asking questions. Then he tries to work out the answers through film. The result has been an eclectic mix of documentaries (three to date) that share some common traits: his desire to educate and his love of Long Island history.

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Brother, Can You Spare a Dollar? (2012).Photo courtesy of Thom Hoffman

On today’s interview you’ll hear how Thom got his start working with Ray Adell on the “About Long Island” radio series and then expanded into documentaries. His first film featured the story of Brooklyn doo-wop stalwart Lenny Cocco and the Chimes. Next came his comparison of the Great Depression and the Great Recession. His latest, Shinnecock, explores the long history of the Shinnecock Nation in Southampton.

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Still in the Mood for Love (2010). Photo courtesy of Thom Hoffman

We also ask Thom about the challenges of producing and distributing documentaries on Long Island. How do you get them to a wider audience? How do you get the quality of production needed? His answers echo many of the things we’ve heard in our discussions with others involved in documentary filmmaking on Long Island.

On that note, if you’re interested in screening any of his movies or helping find a home for the “About Long Island” archive, you can contact Thom at hof565 [at] optonline.net

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Tales from the Shinnecock

Welcome back to our Native American Heritage Month discussion!

From Whaling and Fishing by Charles Nordhoff, 1895.

From Whaling and Fishing by Charles Nordhoff, 1895.

Today we bring you the rest of our conversation with members of the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center & Museum in Southampton, Long Island. This time out we’ll hear from director and curator David Bunn Martine. David relates how he got interested in Shinnecock history and by telling his family’s story he uncovers much of the scope and sweep of the Native American experience.

Geronimo. Illustrated American, Aug 16, 1890

Geronimo. Illustrated American, Aug 16, 1890

By the end of the episode you’ll hear about Samson Occum, long whaling voyages, the Shinnecock connection to Teddy Roosevelt, Geronimo, the Boarding School Period and more. We also talk about the difference between Plains and Woodlands people and the enduring danger of stereotypes.

Thanks also to Eileen Dugan, Education Coordinator at the Museum, for arranging these interviews.

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A Walk Through Time With the Shinnecock

David Martine, Cholena Smith, Chris Kretz, Connie Currie (l to r)

David Martine, Cholena Smith, Chris Kretz, Connie Currie (l to r)

To honor Native American Heritage month here at the Project, we’ve got two interviews lined up regarding the Shinnecock Nation in Southanmpton. Connie and I sat down with David Bunn Martine (Director and Curator) and Cholena Smith (Education and Program Manager) from the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center & Museum to discuss the history of the tribe and the operations of the Museum. Located at 100 Montauk Highway in Southampton, this is the only Native American-owned and -operated museum on Long Island.

Today in Part 1 you’ll hear about the origins and development of the Museum including their efforts to propagate the Shinnecock language. We also discuss the Shinnecock Powwow, the persistent challenge of stereotypes and, as a bonus, I finally get to use my knowledge of popular 19th-century German fiction writers.

Thanks also to Eileen Dugan, Education Coordinator at the Museum, for arranging these interviews.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in two weeks in which David will tell us more about Shinnecock history and the Native American experience in this country.

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An Island of History Under Our Feet

photo-jul-01-4-36-15-pmDr. Gaynell Stone was instrumental in the creation of Readings in Long Island Archaeology and Ethnohistory, the series of reference books that, starting in the 1970s, pulled together the foundational sources and background information on archaeology in the region.

In the first part of this two-part interview, Dr. Stone walks us through the fascinating history of Long Island archaeology, uncovering along the way: the myth of the 13 Indian tribes, the importance of Thomas Jefferson, the gravestones of Southampton, and much more. Look for part 2 in two weeks when we discuss the Manors of Long Island!

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