UPDATE: It looks like the letter we received was sent to the Town Board on behalf of the Montaukett Indian Nation, not from them.
Montauk resident Lawrence Cooke has been raising money for a 1,500 sq. ft. hands-on Montauk Indian museum for a quite a few months now. According to the local press, Mr. Cooke has been on a "one man mission" to "educate and enlighten the public regarding the long prehistory of the Montauk area." While you would think that a museum celebrating the "original locals" would be an easy sell, the project has to face an unlikely opponent: The Montaukett Tribe itself.
In a letter (warning, PDF) sent to various members of the Town Board, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Mr. Cooke himself, the law office retained by
the tribe a man claiming to represent the tribe, Ciarelli & Dempsey, explained the group's opposition to the museum:
"First, the Museum is proposed to be located on what is historically the Tribal lands of the Montauketts. No museum on such lands should be concieved without the direct and substantial involvement of the Montauketts. "Second...the tribe is concerned that a generic "Native American" museum will dilute its cultural history and the understanding of its customs.
"Third, the cultural relationship between Montaukett artifacts and Montaukett burial traditions causes great concern among Tribe members that Montaukett burials will be disrespected, if not desecrated, to support the Museum."
The biggest takeaway from the letter is that the tribe feels?understandably?slighted that they haven't been included in the creation of a museum meant to highlight their role in the history of the area. Because of this they feel it should not proceed without their "endorsement and integral involvement." Hopefully, they'll be able to figure out a way to work together. There seems to be a little of that going around in Montauk these days. Leighton Delgado, the Tribal Consultant for the Montaukett Indian Nation, writes in to clear the air and issue a stern warning. Here's the unedited Email:
I hope that this email gets to you somehow. This article regarding supposed Montaukett opposition to Lawrence Cooke's museum efforts grossly misrepresents the position of the OFFICIAL MONTAUKETT INDIAN NATION, and furthermore, we deplore your use of our Official Seal which is copyrighted and trademarked. If you read this bogus "warning letter" VERY CAREFULLY, you might notice that this supposed chief named Robert Cooper, claims to be Chief of the MONTAUK TRIBE OF LONG ISLAND. The official tribal name of the Montaukett people is the MONTAUKETT INDIAN NATION, as reflected on our seal. To use our seal in this manner is a gross insult, and we will be addressing this legally in the immediate future. The Montauk Tribe of Long Island Cooper claims to be the chief of is actually a miniscule and illicit splinter group of about 15 people with no official standing whatsoever. The Montauk Indian Nation, with our 1000-strong tribal roll, is the ONLY true representation of the Montaukett People. If you go to our website, which you obviously did to copy our seal, you should have found that the name of the Chief of the Montaukett, is Robert Wyandance Pharaoh, descendant of Stephen "Talkhouse" Pharaoh (who you may have heard of), descendant of King Wyandank Pharaoh, King David Pharaoh, and so on. Nowhere on our website will you find the name Robert Cooper, because he has never held any position in the Montaukett Indian Nation and was also removed of any official position with the "real" NJ-based Montauk Tribe of Long Island back in 2004. Robert Cooper has been banished forever from the Montaukett Indian Nation. We have indisputable proof of everything stated in the email which we will distribute after a consultation with our Lawyers. This email is putting you on notice that we will not be tolerating this abuse of the good name and honor of the Montaukett any further. The REAL Chief of the Montaukett, Robert P. Pharaoh, who happens to be a fellow fireman and close friend of Lawrence Cooke, fully endorses Lawrence's important project and will be doing so in writing presently. The truth is Chief Pharaoh has been working closely with Lawrence all along, but Lawrence did not feel it necessary to share that information with a "phony" Montaukett blabbermouth who wouldn't dare to claim to be a Montaukett chief anywhere 10 miles west of Easthampton. We hope that you consider publishing a recantation of this poor reporting, because you will be hearing from our legal team.
Montaukett Indian Nation
· RE: Proposed "Native American Museum In Montauk" [Warning, PDF]