Three years ago Starlight Tyler started her own business, making homemade organic and gluten-free sauces to sell at local farmers markets.
The Hampton Bays resident began by peddling her product at the Westhampton Beach Farmers Market before branching out and also selling it at the Southampton Farmers Market. Today, her Fabio’s sauces are also featured at the Sant Ambroeus restaurant on Main Street in Southampton Village.
In the fall Ms. Tyler decided to both expand her business and better herself by going back to college to earn a second degree. And she’s been able to do that thanks to a new resource that is available to Native Americans in Hampton Bays.
At the recommendation of her mail carrier, Ms. Tyler, a member of the Muscogee or Creek Nation, sought assistance from the Long Island Indian Council in September.
“With the high cost of tuition, I simply couldn’t do it alone,” said Ms. Tyler, who received help from the council in securing financial aid to continue her education. “So I was able to come here to explore more options and to further develop my career. I found opportunity here.”
The Long Island Indian Council is a branch of the Rhode Island Indian Council, a Providence-based nonprofit originally founded in 1975 to help protect the social, economic and cultural well-being of Native American tribes in Rhode Island. The group’s mission has since been expanded to include those Native Americans living in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware. The network is funded through a U.S. Department of Labor.
With help from the Long Island Indian Council, Ms. Tyler is now pursuing a degree in communications from Long Island University, which she expects to complete in three semesters.
The Long Island office opened in the Hampton Atrium Office Complex, located off Montauk Highway, in August, at around the time of the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s annual powwow, according to Darlene Troge, a job developer with the council.
Ms. Troge said her goal is to identify skills and interests for individuals in need of work while also working with employers to identify available positions and in-demand skills. The council can pay for training that employers might not otherwise be able to afford for new hires, and can even cover the first six to eight weeks of pay for employees hired through the council.
“It’s so exciting and it’s really great to work with the people that I’m working with,” said Ms. Troge, a member of the Shinnecock Nation. “We focus on what they’re passionate about, what they love to do, and we develop individual employment plans for each individual person.”
The council picked Hampton Bays because of its proximity to the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton, which houses a population of about 400 people above the age of 16, with an overall unemployment rate of 23.9 percent, according to a report put out this year by the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Unemployment among individuals between the ages of 20 and 24 on the reservation is a staggering 42.9 percent, according to the same study. The national unemployment rate is about 7.3 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Long Island Indian Council also services the Unkechaug Indian Nation in Mastic, as well as all other people with Native American ancestry on Long Island.
Although it has been open for a little more than three months, and relied mostly on word-of-mouth recommendations, the Hampton Bays office has started engaging in more outreach programs, including holding a meeting this past Wednesday with Shinnecock tribal leaders, according to Ms. Troge. The Long Island Indian Council also hosted an open house at its office on the same day.
Ms. Tyler’s sister, Venus Brightstar, came up from Tennessee to discuss her business venture with Ms. Troge on Tuesday. Ms. Brightstar’s business, Brightstar Economic Development, aims to establish greenhouses on tribal lands to grow fruits and vegetables that can be sold at farmers markets, or used to sustain the communities they’re grown in.
“We’re still doing things the way we were taught to do by our ancestors,” said Ms. Brightstar, who visited with Ms. Troge to discuss her business vision.