‘Even though native people are just 2 percent of the population, and on Long Island, it’s even lower … I just think it’s so awesome that we’re this small community and we have connections to everyone.’
“I always think about my experience growing up being Shinnecock and how important storytelling is and knowing the truth of what happened here. Long Island history as it relates to Native American people, like Shinnecock people, I think that’s the starting point. A lot of my work is trying to fill in the gaps.
“I try to acknowledge those that came before me, use their research and present it in ways that people can enjoy it through art. I started my current photography portfolio in 2013.
“My project ‘On This Site’ looks at interesting histories that people usually haven’t heard about and tries to present them in site-specific ways through landscape photography.
For many years, we had been petitioning the federal government to acknowledge us for our continued existence.
“In early 2020, the house I grew up in was ready to collapse on itself from water damage, and animals were taking over. We ended up deciding as a family to try to restore the space maybe as an art space or studio. It is now Ma’s House, a communal art space for BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] artists, located on the Shinnecock Nation Reservation.
“Even though native people are just 2 percent of the population, and on Long Island, it’s even lower … I just think it’s so awesome that we’re this small community and we have connections to everyone through this early history and the start of the nation.
“Two places on Long Island that I feel connected to are Napeague State Park and Walking Dunes — Walking Dunes just because it’s so different from everything. I think because it’s so hilly and marshy at the same time, it still maintains that pre-17th century feel.
“Even here on the Shinnecock Nation Reservation, this was all fields. You could see from the ocean all the way to Montauk Highway. I think that Napeague still has that feeling. I think about how Long Island used to look, and where are those sites that you can still appreciate it?
“One of our proudest moments that we have is from 2010. That’s when the Shinnecock Nation received federal recognition. For many years, we had been petitioning the federal government to acknowledge us for our continued existence. Now we’re a part of 570 other federally recognized tribes. This ruling made it so that we had a place on the map.”
Interviewed by Maggie Melito