Shinnecock members and their allies rally at Cooper’s Beach in Southampton...

Shinnecock members and their allies rally at Cooper’s Beach in Southampton on July 9. Credit: John Roca

Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren said Tuesday he brokered a partial solution to allow Shinnecock Indian Nation members access to a popular village beach, but a tribal member advocating for access said it’s too little too late.

Warren in an interview Tuesday said he worked with a local nonprofit entity to pay for 100 passes so Shinnecock tribal members could park at the popular Cooper’s Beach. Members would need to show a tribal ID card at the gate to get one of the free passes.

The one-day passes are for Cooper’s Beach only and would be given to the first tribal members who request them at the gate. If all the passes aren't used, Warren said some would carry over into next year. The nonprofit, he said, wished to remain anonymous.

Some 200 tribal members and their supporters rallied at the beach in July, asking the village to make parking free.

Tela Land-Back Troge, a Shinnecock tribal member and attorney who advocates for tribal land-rights issues, said the offer “falls far short of any kind of solution we were attempting to reach, and it doesn’t get to the heart of the issue of Southampton Village restricting our access.”

She wondered why the passes were limited, suggesting the program was placing “some sort of a racial quota” on the beach.

“It’s really a simple problem,” Troge said. “At the heart of it I think they do not want Shinnecock people at the beach.”

Warren said, "My goal was just to help in any I could to try to make a few people's day better and to try to extend a nice gesture to the people of the Shinnecock Nation." 

Warren said he’d attempted to work with the village board on a resolution that would have provided wider access for the tribe, which considers the beach and surrounding area part of its ancestral lands. But he said he was unsuccessful in part because he was unable to convince town and county lawmakers to provide similar access for tribal members for nearby town and county beaches, including Shinnecock East County Park.

Warren noted “our beaches are public and anyone can use them,” and that the fees apply only to parking, which costs $50 a day or $500 for a seasonal pass. Shinnecock members in the village fire district can get a seasonal parking pass for $250.

Village residents get three free parking passes to use at all village beaches, Warren said. The Shinnecock reservation is not in the village. 

“I’ve worked hard to have meetings” with the tribe, and “I’ve requested these free passes for the Shinnecock members,” Warren said. “I’m still continuing conversations.”

Troge said she’d continue advocating for tribal members’ free parking passes.

“We’ve been at this for years we are not going to give up till we have free access to our ancestral beaches,” she said. “We were hopeful Mayor Warren would fix this. We’ll work with the next mayor until we can find one who can find a just solution.”

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