Conserving Sacred Land | The Summit of Sugar Loaf Hill

Photo Credit: Jeremy Dennis

December 20, 2021
Conservation News

As you walk along the shores, hike the woodlands, kayak the bays and ponds, and swim in the ocean, take in the unique beauty of Paumanake (Long Island) – remember that this place IS HOME to many communities of Indigenous people for over 10,000 years. As we conserve Long Island, let us reflect on their history and story, which continues to this day.

In August we shared the news that Sugar Loaf Hill Summit had been conserved – sacred land of the Shinnecock people. The land, despite protests back in the 1980s, was developed as a residential site in 1990. The Summit had previously been disturbed in the 1930s and 1950s when it was excavated during archaeological studies. It was then documented as a site where ceremonial burials occurred over 3000 years ago. 

“Sugar Loaf Hill has been one of our most sacred sites as Shinnecock people for millennia,” said Shane Weeks, co-Chair of the Shinnecock Graves Protection Warrior Society (Society). “Our people have always known that our ancestors are buried there. Despite the desecration that has occurred, its importance and original purpose maintains.”

When the Summit was on the market recently, the Society and the Peconic Land Trust decided to work together with the Town of Southampton to acquire and protect the property from any future development. To this end, the Trust purchased the property with private support from Roger Waters. In a simultaneous transaction, the Town purchased a conservation easement from the Trust precluding any future development of the property for commercial or residential purposes. Currently, the Trust and the Society are working together on the restoration of the land, including the removal of the residential building.

Once the restoration of the land is complete, the Trust will petition the Town to approve the transfer of the Summit to the Shinnecock people, hopefully before the end of 2022. If successful, this will be the first time that land within Shinnecock Hills will be returned to and repatriated by the Shinnecock people. The Trust is honored to work in partnership with the Shinnecock people.

Our work with the Society continues, with the hope of announcing future conservation in the coming months and years based on the model of the Summit. To support future acquisitions and restorations, the Trust has established the Shinnecock Land Acquisition and Stewardship Fund (Fund). Capital raised through this Fund will support efforts to acquire, restore and steward more sacred Shinnecock land in conjunction with the Society.


Photo Credit: Jeremy Dennis

In order to succeed in this role, the Trust is serving as a bridge between the Shinnecock people, the Town, and private landowners. This bridge starts with communication that will hopefully be the basis of a growing trust between all of the parties. In the meantime, the Society is in the process of incorporating its own Indigenous-led 501(c)(3) land trust. Founded by members of the Society, the new land trust, the Niamuck Land Foundation (Foundation), will acquire, restore, and manage burial grounds and other sites sacred to the Shinnecock people and their neighboring Indigenous communities. The Trust will work collaboratively with the Society and the Foundation on future conservation opportunities.

“The Indigenous-led Niamuck Land Foundation is necessary to facilitate land acquisitions, raise funds, steward lands and hold properties that are sacred to the Indigenous communities on Long Island,” said Weeks.

In addition to working with the Society and the Foundation, the Trust will support Indigenous rights and protection of land and water through the lens of the Indigenous people to the greatest extent possible. We want to understand their stories and lessons about the places we have, and are, conserving.

For more information, or to make a donation in support of the Shinnecock Land Acquisition and Stewardship Fund, visit or contact John v.H. Halsey at or Amanda Abraham at


Photo Credit: Jeremy Dennis

In the Southampton Town Code, amended in 1990, two areas important to the Shinnecock people are designated critical environmental areas: the Sugar Loaf Hill Shinnecock Indian Burial Grounds and Archaeological Resource Area and the Shinnecock Indian Contact Period Village Fort. These designations place additional restrictions on land to protect cultural, historic, archaeological or educationally important resources and restrict clearing, regrading, filling, excavating and building until an archaeologic examination of the site has been conducted and submitted to the Planning Board for review.


To start your journey to learn more about Indigenous communities here on Long Island and across the world, visit:

  • On This Site, curated by Jeremy Dennis, for information on Indigenous communities on Long Island:
  • Native Land, a mobile app and online resource about Indigenous communities across the globe: or download from the app store on your mobile device.
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