Standing six-stories high, the billboards sit on the main highway that all drivers heading to the Hamptons must use. While the signs reportedly show ads for watches and reminders to drive safely, among other things, the Shinnecock tribal seal sits atop the billboards, 60 feet in the air. The message is simple: the Hamptons actually belong to the Shinnecock Indian Nation.
Today was a monumental and historic day for the Shinnecock Nation. After many obstacles, roadblocks, and unrelenting opposition, the Shinnecock Nation Tribal Seal stands 60 feet in the sky towering over our Sovereign and aboriginal territory. Seeing elders in this community cry tears of joy while the seal was put into place was one of the happiest moments of my life. I am so proud of the people of Shinnecock, who answered the call when their Tribe needed them most. The Nation was told no you can’t, and today we shouted back Yes we Can! I would like to thank all the Tribal members who showed support during the last week, without you the project would not be this far. I would like to thank all the present and prior Tribal leaders who worked on the project. They have shown remarkable fortitude and courage. Also, I would like to thank all the local residents who called, messaged, spoke out in support, and defended the Nation against unfair and hypocritical attacks on our character and heritage. Unity is a powerful force and the Shinnecock people are strong , united, and ready to improve the lives of our community members! #shinnecockstrong #southampton #alwaysovereign #shinnecock
A post shared by bryan polite (@gyta242) on May 23, 2019 at 6:33pm PDT
The jurisdiction doesn’t allow billboards, and state officials reportedly pushed back with legal action against the Shinnecocks. The Times reports that a state judge issued a temporary restraining order to halt construction on the two electronic signs. But the tribe, which is native to the land now called Long Island—including the ground on which the billboards sit—is standing its ground.
“We don’t recognize their authority on our sovereign lands,” Bryan Polite, the tribe’s chairperson, told The Times. The tribe expanded on that point in a statement posted to Facebook today (May 28). From that statement:
The state’s lawsuit against Shinnecock officials is a thinly veiled attack on the Shinnecock Nation and our right of self-determination. Throughout our history, our lands and economic future have been taken from us by the state and the surrounding community. Our goal is simply to generate revenue to provide for our people. The state has a long history of bulldozing Indian lands and Indian people to get what it wants. We will fight against the most recent effort to attack our tribal sovereignty.
The Shinnecock Nation sees the start of summer as the perfect time to protest, and the highway as the best venue to get the word out. It also sees the billboards as a way to create much-needed revenue for the tribe.
“We’re taking advantage of the opportunity because of the fact that billboards are not allowed in the Hamptons. On our land, we feel we had a captive audience with the highway traffic,” Lance Gumbs, vice chair for the Shinnecock Indian Nation, told Newsday.
As of now, Newsday reports that the tribe has no plans to remove the billboards.