Shinneckock Indian Nation seeks halt to construction on sacred ground

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The Shinnecock Indian Nation is trying to stop the construction of two homes on Montauk Highway in Southampton, saying the property is considered sacred.

The Shinnecocks say the privately owned two-acre site is where they believe some of their ancestors are buried. They say they had an agreement with the town of Southampton that if development was slated for the site they would be notified so they could monitor construction in case any remains were found.

"This particular site is one of those that was identified a number of years ago as a sensitive site," says Lance Gumbs, Shinnecock Tribal co-chairman. "But again no notification has been forthcoming to the tribe."

Shane Weeks, of the Graves Protection Society, says since he was a little kid he was taught that the location was part of ancient burial grounds. Weeks says there are no laws in place that penalize private landowners for digging up remains.

Town officials say they're now trying to negotiate with the developer to buy the property and keep it preserved.

The builder, however, says there is already a buyer for the houses he plans to build on the property.

The Shinnecocks say not far from the site, excavation work done on another property led to the discovery of human remains. Work on that property was stopped and the town ended up buying the land.

Tribal chairman Bryan Polite says the Shinnecocks want a new law that would protect culturally sensitive land.

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