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Chief Harry Wallace by the community dock constructed with the help of the participants in the summer youth project.

The Land the Environment
(Brief History Cont.)

The Unkechaug did not practice a migratory lifestyle nor were they regionally displaced or relocated outside Long Island by the arrival of the settlers. The Unkechaug remained in their homeland for practical reasons, access to food, clothing, and shelter, as well as
traditions that tied them to the land and the environment. The homeland allowed the Unkechaug to reinforce their spiritual values, preserve cultural practices, and build an economy. In 1640 the English were dumbfounded by the Unkechaug's agricultural practice they called "Indian bames" in which the Unkechaug would dig deep holes in selected earth sites, put up stores for winter, and cover them with durable mats woven from plants known to grow naturally and locally. The English thought the land would be better used for livestock and pasture. A Dutchman, Issack de Rasiers, observed the indigenous planting system that heaped up molehills sowed with grains, fertilized by fish, and irrigated by redirecting natural waterways and thought the use of the land provided for the native families well beyond their subsistence. European merchants who interacted with the Unkechaug were envious of the natural resources around which the native villages had been built and which provided for the Unkechaug.

Long Island was known as Sewanhacky or "the place of Shells" in the Algonquin language. The Shells found on Long Island were particularly prized in the making of wampum by the Iroquois and other peoples. The Dutch developed a system of monetary exchange through the use of wampum. The Dutch made an economic impact on trading systems in the New World and in Europe by inflating this natural resource while devaluing furs and pelts among Native peoples. The English followed suit andadvanced the technology for wampum production by introducing steel drills into the process. Diseases and economic demands pressured the Unkechaug to give up their stewardship of the land and natural resources by diverting it's use. Radically adapting technology replaced traditional cultural practices. Although the land base of the Poospatuck Reservation today is reduced, the natural resources are still valuable to the Unckechaug in maintaining the legacy of their traditions. The Unkechaug are committed to maintaining the environment and restoring the cultural and scientific legacy for future generations. The Unkechaug want to involve their elders and those with traditional knowledge in mainstream preservation and scientific research efforts. Crop cultivation, waterways protection, and shoreline improvement are high priorities in managing natural resources and restoring our legacy to the land and the environment. We envision a new partnership with our neighbors, such as SUNY and Cornell Cooperative Extension, to bring back the traditional "samp" strain as part of the 18 million ears of corn that are grown annually on Long Island. We are also committed to restoring Poospatuck Bay (Moriches Bay) by extending the level and species of fish and restoring beneficial vegetation. The Unkechaug are committed to improving and expanding the inadequate land base at Poospatuck, serving our tribal members, and restoring the legacy of our land and environment.



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