Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives on Monday began investigating human remains found in a wooded lot in Southampton Town, a move blasted by the Shinnecock Indian Nation Tribal Council, which is considering filing an injunction to have the area investigated further as an archaeological site.
According to a police report, at approximately 1 p.m. Monday, detectives responded to a report of skeletal remains found on a residential lot, planned for development, on Hawthorne Road in the Shinnecock Hills neighborhood.
“Portions of the remains had been excavated by construction machinery,” a Suffolk County Police spokesperson said Tuesday. “There was no option to preserve the remains, as they had been inadvertently disturbed.”
Lance Gumbs, a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation Council of Trustees, said by phone late Tuesday afternoon they may take legal action to have the site further investigated for other Native American remains or artifacts. He confirmed a flask had been found buried with the skeletal remains on Monday, and said such a flask is consistent with the type of artifact that would have been buried with a deceased member of the Shinnecock tribe at one point in its history.
“We’re saying you’re doing this wrong. You’re not following protocol,” Mr. Gumbs said. “This is right across the street from an historic area in Shinnecock Hills that has been deemed a significant archaeological area.”
A Suffolk County Police spokesperson said an anthropologist with the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner examined the remains and issued a preliminary report saying they are at least 50 years old, and a crime is not suspected in this case.
“There is definitely the possibility, more so than anything else, that it was one of our people,” Mr. Gumbs said. “Until there is further clarification, we will proceed in the same way we would with any other graveside protection we would go after.”