Vandalism investigated at new Shinnecock museum

Steven Chazis, 24, uses a power washer to

Steven Chazis, 24, uses a power washer to clear messages spray painted on the fence at the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center & Museum in Southampton. (Aug. 14, 2013) Photo Credit: John Roca

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A fence and shed at the Shinnecock National Cultural Center and Museum were vandalized overnight, causing thousands of dollars in damages, a museum official said Wednesday.

State Police said no items were taken.

State Police Investigator Eric Baez said the initial belief Wednesday morning, when museum staff reported the vandalism, was that it could have been a hate crime. But further investigation and discussions with tribal members led police to believe it was not.

"It doesn't appear to be biased-related at this point," said Baez. He said some of graffiti was believed to reference a rapper.

The fence leading to the recently opened Wikun Living History Village was spray-painted with "hateful nonsense," including the "N-word," said Matauqus Tarrant, site manager and assistant curator at the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum, which opened in May. He said there was a busted light and shed door, but nothing appeared to be taken.

"It's hurtful, but it doesn't mean we're going to harp on it," Tarrant said.

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Staff planned to paint over the graffiti Wednesday and were contemplating putting a mural painting on the fence.

Tarrant said the museum, at the edge of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, "is open to the public. It's the face to the community."

He said the graffiti was "hurtful, but that's the nature of . . . [the museum's] vulnerability."


Investigators were still trying to decipher some of the acronyms and references in the vandalism.

Baez said the vandalism happened sometime between 9 p.m. Tuesday night and 8 a.m. Wednesday. Anyone with information is asked to call New York State Police at 631-727-2727.

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