Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island is joining with the Shinnecock Tribal Nation Graves Protection Warrior Society, Honor Our Indigenous Ancestors Inc., the Unkechaug Nation, and descendants of other tribal people of Long Island to form the Afro-Indigenous Burial Ground Partnership at Sylvester Manor.
The partnership's inaugural project, an archaeological study of the manor's Afro-Indigenous Burial Ground, began this week, and to celebrate that, an opening ceremony and blessing will be held at Sylvester Manor at 4 p.m. Friday. The survey work will continue the first weekend of October. The public is invited to visit Sylvester Manor through Sunday to watch the work in progress and to attend the ceremony on Friday.
The three-year study, under the direction of Stephen Mrozowski of the University of Massachusetts at Boston, will begin with a survey of an area of the burial ground at Sylvester Manor that has been identified as having been for Indigenous people and enslaved and free people of color who worked there centuries ago. The survey "will determine if the burial site is larger than currently described, map the area," the manor said, and use ground-penetrating radar to see how many graves there are.
"The cemetery is considered to be an ancestral burial ground of the Manhansett people who made Shelter Island their home for millennia," according to a release from Sylvester Manor. "It was also used as the burial site for enslaved African people brought to work at the provisioning plantation on Shelter Island established by Nathaniel Sylvester and his partners in 1651."