On Indigenous People’s Day, Shinnecock members call out centuries of U.S. policy that kept them poor

Indigenous People’s Day celebrations at Randall
Indigenous People’s Day celebrations at Randall

Indigenous People’s Day celebrations at Randall’s Island in New York City.

President Joe Biden is the first U.S. president to recognize Indigenous People’s Day. But the celebration is bittersweet for Indigenous communities that are impacted by centuries of American policy and broken promises, according to members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

While a festive group commemorated the day in New York City, Shinnecock citizens also reflected on recent challenges to their sovereignty and land rights. They said the state of New York and the federal government have threatened economic development on their territory in eastern Long Island, and years of pressure have kept them poor in one of the most expensive regions in the country — the Hamptons.

“We are under constant attack from the state of New York,” said Tela Troge, a Shinnecock member and tribal sovereignty lawyer.

Tela was among the tribal citizens Monday who joined the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, an advocacy group that explores how the government deals with issues of race and poverty, in order to identify injustices against Indigenous communities. The campaign’s national co-chairs, Reverends Dr. William J. Barber II and Liz Theoharis, said Shinnecock testimony exposes racist systems that perpetuate poverty. Their virtual hearings, alongside the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, have gained thousands of followers during the pandemic, especially after the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“The theft of Indigenous land, the attacks on Indigenous culture and language and the physical and spiritual violence visited upon […]

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