Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi, firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 27 March 2014 10:33
Oyster Bay author Denice Evans-Sheppard spoke at the Inter-tribal Showcase at Suffolk Community College in Riverhead on March 11. The Long Island Inter-Tribal Exhibit and Display presentation was hosted in the Montaukett Building at the college. The walls of the exhibit area showcased animal skins, Native American Regalia, a lacrosse stick, and display cases featuring hand made Native American jewelry.
They invited Evans-Sheppard to make a DVD presentation about her book on the Carl family of Oyster Bay, The Constant Struggle Within. The college provided a two-hour discussion that included representatives of the Montaukett, Shinnecock, Unkechaug, Taino and Ojibwe Tribes.
Ganoo (an Ojibwe) and Gordell Wright (who lives on the Shinnecock Reservation) began the program by playing the grandfather drum, known as “The Drum,” and spoke the indigenous dialect of the Tainos, recently revived and now being taught to adults and children. Evans-Sheppard explained that all the languages spoken by the various Long Island Native American tribes are different dialects but are all similar enough for them to communicate.
Evans-Sheppard explained that Thomas Jefferson visited Long Island and while he was here he made notes on the different Native American languages. Unfortunately his stagecoach was hijacked with all the information in it. Amazingly his correspondence was discovered at Dartmouth College. “It is a bizarre story,” said Evans-Sheppard. “It is now enabling the tribes to engage each other and help them to connect.”
Evans-Sheppard traces her lineage to the Montauket tribe. Her great-grandmother Imogene Jackson’s Native-American family moved to Wantagh and started a community there with other Native Americans and African Americans on a 30-acre parcel called The Brush. Imogene’s father came from out east and migrated west to Wantagh.
They are buried in the Harold Avenue cemetery that has recently been named a landmark site with the help of Evans-Sheppard.
Her family helped build the Saint Matthias Church on Jerusalem and Oakville Avenues in Wantagh in 1845. It has had an ongoing congregation for 169 years. “We are trying to landmark that as well,” she said.
The church owned two cemeteries on the 30 acres of land. The acreage was purchased in 1808 by Jeffrey and Kate Jackson, her grandparents several times removed.
Evans-Sheppard said, “They were living on the site when the missionaries came to town. Thomas Jackson, a Quaker abolitionist moved into the area. He was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Because people of color were not allowed to own property, he had to buy my people in order for us to buy the property back from him. We all had to take his name to get the property back. The purchase wasn’t effective until several years later, in 1921, when they were allowed to have the deed.
“They were master-masons and built the community and bartered between each other for food and services without leaving their property,” she explained.
Members of the Montaukets traveled to Cold Spring Harbor and to Oyster Bay where David Carll bought property, now called Carl Hill, using money he received from the Town of Oyster Bay for enlisting to fight in the Civil War.
Also speaking at the program was Dr. John Strong, anthropologist and retired Professor of LIU South Hampton Campus who discussed the Indigenous life on Long Island and provided a slide presentation, on pre/post Columbus.
Evans-Sheppard’s photos will be on display at the Suffolk Community College until mid-March. The documentation and photos will travel to Suffolk Community College in Brentwood in April.
Denice’s family and Rev. Kenneth Nelson, past pastor of the AME Zion Church of Oyster Bay attended the event. He is also a Chief/Trustee of the Montaukett Tribe of Long Island.