New York State Police are investigating a possible hate crime at the Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum last week, when vandals spray-painted derogatory statements on a fence and broke into a shed.
The graffiti, which officials say contained vulgarities, racial slurs and gang signs, was discovered on the fence at the entrance to the Wikun Village by a museum employee at approximately 8 a.m. on August 14, 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, which occurred on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation.
Mr. Tarrant said it was believed that the vandals broke into a maintenance shed on the property and stole the spray paint from there. “We are a small nonprofit, and we primarily run off 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 that they can be made at the Shinnecock Museum Facebook page, or by calling the museum at 287-4923.
This week, the museum staff painted a mural on the fence depicting 16th-century Shinnecock culture. Mr. Tarrant said his team would use the mural as a “healing method” after the incident.
“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.”