Around the Island

At the Library: Friday Night Dialogues presents ‘Necessary Bridges’

The Shelter Island Health and Wellness Alliance and the Shelter Island Library are excited to present the fourth program in their Necessary Bridges series on Zoom on July 16 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

The Shinnecock Nation was part of Long Island long before the beachfront properties and the golf club that bears its name. The program, titled “We are Still Here,” will be part history lesson, part celebration, and part call-to-action. We are very excited to welcome some young and veteran leaders of the Nation — Chenae Bullock, Denise Silva Dennis and Shane Weeks — to join a panel moderated by Shelter Island’s Aterahme Lawrence.

Chenae Bullock, a member of the Shinnecock Nation, is a descendant of the Montauk Tribe. She is also African-American. While the workplace has become more attuned to people of color, Indigenous people continue to be overlooked. To address this need, Ms. Bullock founded Moskehtu Consulting to assist the government and corporate sectors in understanding cultural competencies related to Indigenous people.

Ms. Bullock’s life work has been to promote sustainability which includes protecting waterways and preserving sacred lands and burial sites. While the Shinnecock Nation understands this need, she’s an advocate for the outside community to understand and respect these values as well.

Denise Silva-Dennis, whose Indigenous name is WeeTahMoe, is a celebrated beadworker, watercolor painter, muralist and drawing artist from the Shinnecock Nation. Her parents were Chief Silva-Arrow, (Peter Silva, Sr.) of the Hassanamisco Nation of Grafton, Mass., and Princess Silva-Arrow, (Loretta Hunter-Silva), of the Shinnecock Nation. Ms. Silva-Dennis’ mother, affectionately known as “Ma,” first taught Denise, at the age of 8, how to design and sew eastern woodland Indigenous beadwork.

At 12, two of her art pieces were selected to tour the country for a Native American children’s art exhibit sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution. In high school, she won the judges’ award from The Parrish Art Museum.

Her beadwork style was handed down to her from elder women of the Shinnecock and Hassanamisco-Nipmuc Nations. The style includes earring sets, beaded medicine fans, walking sticks, and beaded cradleboards. Ms. Silva-Dennis’ necklaces have been shown in local Southampton galleries. She taught both art and special education in Southampton, and after retiring rejoined the workforce and became a Violence Prevention Education Specialist at The Retreat in East Hampton.

Shane Weeks, 31, was raised on the Shinnecock reservation and is currently a member of several tribal boards and committees. As a child on the reservation, he grew up understanding his culture and was taught to hunt and fish at age seven and continues that tradition today. Mr. Weeks grew up learning traditional Indigenous dances at pow wows. At 16 he learned the craft of carving and can carve reindeer antlers, whitetail deer antlers, wood, and wampum.

The Shinnecock people have been carving wampum from clam and quahog shells for hundreds of years. Mr. Weeks regularly shares his knowledge with communities in the region and abroad. He actively sits on several committees and boards, including the Southampton Town Arts and Culture Committee as a founding member, and is also a co-chair of the Shinnecock Graves Protection Warrior Society.

Moderator Aterahme Lawrence is an actress, writer and activist based on the East End. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Fredonia State University. Her studies reflect her many passions on topics such as art and history, social change, global environmental Issues and African-American studies. Among many other accomplishments she has participated in Miss New York USA (third runner-up) and Miss Long Island, 2020. For the past two years she’s been exploring her role as a local activist, speaking at rallies and engaging in meaningful conversations to bring change to her local community.

Attendees should register at least 30 minutes in advance on the library website at shelterislandlibrary.org.

The program is free, but donations to the library are welcome