In a watershed moment this week, the Southampton Town Board voted unanimously Tuesday in support of the Graves Protection Act and the Shinnecock Hills Building Moratorium.
"The Graves Protection Act establishes protocols if human remains are encountered during construction activities, while the six-month moratorium halts new home construction or excavation within areas that include the Fort Hill and the Sugar Loaf areas of Shinnecock Hills and beyond to Peconic Road without first completing an archaeological review," the town wrote in a press release on Tuesday.
Members of the Shinnecock Nation have long fought to stop building in the Shinnecock Hills area, where their ancestors are believed to be buried. During the moratorium, the town will review current laws and land use tools to better address the problem of unmarked graves and burial sites.
The goal, according to the release from the town, is to adopt "local legislation to ensure that human remains and associated funerary artifacts remain undisturbed to the maximum extent practical, and are treated with the utmost respect consistent with the wishes of lineal descendants and culturally-affiliated groups."
In February, the town purchased 3.3. acres of land near Shinnecock Hills, the center of controversy, where major construction was underway. The Town Board voted in favor of using $2.2 million from the Community Preservation Fund to purchase the land.
"The sanctity of human burial sites must be protected," said Supervisor Schneiderman. "We need to be sure we are not disturbing our cultural heritage and destroying ancestral burial grounds."