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Underground: Southampton Debates Grave Discovery Law

In the wake of Washington Square Park's latest gravesite discovery, it seems Southampton Town is debating a similar surprise cemetery issue as well. Last week, local officials discussed a new law draft entitled "Native American and Colonial Burial Site Protection" after meeting with members of the Shinnecock tribe a few months ago, according to the Sag Harbor Express. The tribe had expressed concern that 'the desecration of ancestral remains has gone unchecked on private properties' and urged the town to plan for the discovery of a gravesite. (The state has no law on the books addressing this issue either.) Past findings have been less than smooth, notably a 2003 discovery of a mass burial site on Shelter Island, which yielded an 'ineffectual policy' and resulted in more grave desecration.

The law would require property owners to alert authorities if a gravesite was found, and would request that the remains stay out if no agreement was reached between the landowner and a burial site review board. During the debate, fears about the possibility of lawsuits against the town were also raised, as well as the financial impact on the struggling local government should community preservation funds have to be used to purchase land. CPF funds were recently used to buy the former St. James hotel site, where a 1,000 year old skull and a Shinnecock fishing village were found in 2006.
· Town Debates Gravesite Protection and Private Property Rights [SH Express]