New York State Police are investigating a possible hate crime at the Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum, after vandals spray painted derogatory statements on a fence and broke into a shed earlier this week.
The graffiti, which officials say contained vulgarity, racial slurs and gang signs, was first discovered on the fence at the entrance to the Wikun Village by a museum employee at approximately 8 a.m. on Wednesday, according to Matauqus Tarrant, the site manager and assistant curator of the museum. State Police and the State Police Bias Unit are investigating the incident.
Mr. Tarrant said it was believed the vandals broke into a maintenance shed on the property and stole the spray paint used in the incident from there.
“We are a small non-profit and we primarily run off of membership and donations,” Mr. Tarrant said on Thursday morning. “The repairs needed to be done today because we have tours and kids coming in, so it was necessary to finish it to operate normally without understating that it happened.”
According to Mr. Tarrant, the museum staff used a donated power washer to remove the spray paint on Wednesday. He added that the museum is accepting donations to help fund the cleanup, and donations may be made on the Shinnecock Museum Facebook page, or by calling the museum at 287-4923.
On Thursday, the museum staff is expected to paint a mural on the fence depicting 16th century Shinnecock culture. He said his team would use the mural as a “healing method” after the incident. The museum asks anyone who would like to contribute to the painting stop by the Montauk Highway location, or call the museum for more information.
“It is always disheartening when these acts occur,” he said. “The Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum is a place that all people are invited to learn about the Shinnecock people and our culture. Whether it is deemed a hate crime or not, this only reminds us that our mission to promote awareness, understanding and appreciation of Shinnecock history and culture is more important now, than ever.”