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TRUTH COMMISSION REPORTS 

LAND BACK AND THE THIRD RECONSTRUCTION:
A TRUTH COMMISSION WITH THE SHINNECOCK NATION
LAND BACK AND THE 3RD RECONSTRUCTION
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"At these events we lift up the “plight, fight and insight” of the poor and dispossessed." 

- Rev. West McNeill, from Labor Religion Coalition and The New York State Poor People's Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival

On October 11, 2021 - Indigenous People’s Day - more than 350 people gathered virtually to hear testimony from Shinnecock leaders on the impact of the intersecting evils of poverty, systemic racism, environmental devastation, militarism/colonialism, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism, as well as how the community is organizing in response.

 

“Land Back And The Third Reconstruction” was the first in a series of Truth Commission events that the Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS is holding across the state over the coming year, in collaboration with the Poor People’s Campaign and other partners.

 

Truth Commissions - and similar events where directly impacted people speak for ourselves about our conditions and our demands - have been an important tool that has been used for decades by the network of organizations now taking up the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. 

 

At these events we lift up the “plight, fight and insight” of the poor and dispossessed - in other words, not only highlighting the pain and injustice we experience, but also the ways that people on the front lines of poverty, racism, militarism and ecological devastation are resisting, organizing, and coming up with solutions to our problems. In this report we highlight some of the key themes that emerged related to the “plight, fight and insight” of the Shinnecock..

PLIGHT

"We have yet to hear and walk through truth together."

- Rev. Holly Haile Thompson, from the Shinnecock Nation and The New York State Poor People's Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival

“We have yet to hear and walk through truth together,” Rev. Holly Haile Thompson of the Shinnecock Nation declared during the Land Back and Third Reconstruction event held by the Labor and Religion Coalition, Padoquohan Medicine Lodge; Kairos Center for Rights, Religions and Social Justice; and the New York State Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival on Indigenous People’s Day, 2021. Shinnecock Nation ancestral land in the Hamptons is some of the most expensive real estate in the United States. However, to the Shinnecock it is impossible to put a monetary value on this sacred coastal region that supported and sustained them for thousands of years. 

 

The disparities between the rich and poor where Shinnecock territory is located on Long Island  are staggering. The median household yearly income of Southampton is over $99K, while the average income on the reservation in 2020 prior to Covid-19 was under $24K, and the median yearly income in households headed by women on the reservation in 2019 was estimated at $13K. When using the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), 66% of the Shinnecock people live below the poverty line. Yet the FPL is an inadequate and outdated measurement of poverty in the United States, as groups like the Poor People’s Campaign have shown.

This means that the number of Shinnecock people unable to meet their basic needs is much higher. Tela Troge, a Shinnecock tribal member who also serves as their legal counsel, described horrible living conditions that the Shinnecock face from living on swamp land. Black mold grows in homes on the reservation and people have died in the winter due to the cold, while just miles away people live in abundant wealth on what was once Shinnecock land.