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Sunrise Warriors to protest state roadblocks at encampment at Sunrise Highway

The electronic billboard on Sunrise Highway in Southampton

The electronic billboard on Sunrise Highway in Southampton erected by the Shinnecock Indian Nation on July 31, 2020. Credit: Randee Daddona

Members of the Shinnecock Nation’s Warriors of the Sunrise will set up a nearly monthlong encampment on Sunrise Highway near the tribe’s monument billboard on Sunrise Highway to protest what members say are obstacles by state government to the tribe’s economic ambitions.

Potentially hundreds of tribal members and their allies are expected to occupy the Sovereignty Camp, located on tribal land in what is known as Canoe Place on the north side of Sunrise Highway around the area of a westbound rest stop. It’s also the spot where the tribe had set the second of two monument billboards seen by drivers to and from the Hamptons at the tribe's West Woods property. The monument has been the subject of ongoing litigation by the state.

"We are sick of New York State standing in the way of our economic development," says the warrior’s call to action notice published Monday. "We need to feed our people!"

Tela Troge, a member of the Shinnecock Nation and of the Warriors of the Sunrise advocacy group, said she expects potentially hundreds of people to occupy the Sovereignty Camp, which will comply with all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for COVID-19 prevention.

In addition to protesting the state’s efforts in court to challenge the tribe's digital billboard, which is "costing us a lot of money in legal fees," Troge said the group is also protesting the state's delayed action in working with the tribe for its medical marijuana facility on tribal land in Southampton and other efforts.

"New York State has blocked every single path for economic opportunity for us systematically for the past 400 years," she said.

Jordan Levine, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said, "We have and will continue to work with the Shinnecock Nation on a host of issues they have raised with the governor’s office."

Federal court rulings and decrees from the federal government threaten the ability of the tribe to hold land in trust, an essential factor in the tribe’s ambition to open a class-3 gaming facility. The nation is working with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which owns the bulk of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino chain, to open a facility in New York.

The Sovereignty Camp will be held from Nov. 1 through Thanksgiving, which Troge said the group considers a "national day of mourning."

The camp, where attendees will sleep in tents and campers, will feature daily activities including teach-ins and virtual events for those who cannot make it. The warriors are asking for donations of products like generators, campers and ATVs to transport senior members to and from their campsites. It’s also taking financial donations at a Warriors of the Sunrise GoFundMe page.

The warriors can be reached at warriorsofthesunrise@gmail.com to answer questions or to take donations.

Bryan Polite, chairman of the council of trustees for the Shinnecock Nation, said while the government is not directly involved in the Warriors of the Sunrise camp, "We fully support all their efforts and back them in this endeavor."

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