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Shinnecock Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Shinnecocks for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to look through our main Shinnecock page for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Shinnecock pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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   Shinnecock Tribe

How do you pronounce "Shinnecock?" What does it mean?
Shinnecock is pronounced "SHIN-nuh-kock." It comes from a Mohegan-Pequot place name, which probably meant "by the level ground."

Were the Shinnecock Indians part of the Mohegan tribe?
Not originally. They spoke the same language and shared similar cultures, but the Shinnecocks, Mohegans, Pequots, Montauks, and other tribes of New England all used to be distinct tribes, each with its own leadership. But after Europeans arrived, many Native American people of the east coast died from disease and warfare. The survivors merged together, and many of their original tribal distinctions were lost. Today, there are people of Shinnecock heritage living among other tribes such as the Montauk, Pequot, and Mohegan tribes-- and vice versa.

Where did the Shinnecock Indians live?
The Shinnecocks are original people of eastern Long Island, in New York state.

How is the Shinnecock Indian nation organized?
Like other Native Americans in the United States, the Shinnecock Indian tribe has its own reservation. Reservations are lands that belong to an Indian tribe and are under their control. The Shinnecock tribe has its own government, laws, police, and other services, just like a small country. But the Shinnecocks are also US citizens and must obey American law. There are around 1000 Shinnecock tribal members today.

What language do the Shinnecocks speak?
Shinnecock Indians all speak English today. In the past, the Pequots, Mohegans, Shinnecocks, Montauks, and other tribes of New England all spoke the Mohegan-Pequot language. This language died out more than 100 years ago, but some young people are working to revive it. You can read a Mohegan-Pequot picture glossary here.

What was Shinnecock culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is a link to a Montauk and Shinnecock website with information about the heritage and traditions of the Montauk people.

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How do Shinnecock Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like early colonial children. But they did have corn husk dolls, ball games, and toys such as kid-size bows and arrows. Shinnecock mothers, like many Native Americans, traditionally carried their babies in cradle boards on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Shinnecock tribe?
Shinnecock men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Shinnecock women were farmers and also did most of the child care and cooking. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine. In the past, Shinnecock chiefs were always men, but today a Shinnecock Indian woman could be chief too.

What were Shinnecock homes like in the past?
The Shinnecocks didn't live in tepees. They lived in small round houses called wigwams. Here are some pictures of Native American wigwams like the ones Shinnecock Indians used. Today, Native Americans only build a wigwam for fun or to connect with their heritage, not for shelter. Most Shinnecocks live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Shinnecock clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Shinnecock women wore knee-length skirts and the men wore loincloths and leggings. Shirts were not necessary in the Shinnecock culture, but Shinnecock people did wear deerskin mantles in cool weather. Shinnecock men and women both wore earrings and moccasins on their feet. Here is a picture of Shinnecock clothing and some photographs and links about Indian dress in general.

The Shinnecocks didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Usually they wore a beaded Indian headband with a feather or two in it. Sometimes a Shinnecock chief wore a headdress of feathers pointing straight up from a headband, like this. Shinnecock men, especially warriors, often wore a Mohawk hairstyle or shaved their heads completely except for a scalplock (one long lock of hair on top of their heads.) Shinnecock women usually had long hair.

Today, some Shinnecock people still have a traditional headband or moccasins, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear feathers in their hair on special occasions like a dance.

What was Shinnecock transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, the Shinnecocks made dugout canoes by hollowing out large trees. They used them for transportation and for ocean fishing trips. Here is a website with pictures of different American Indian boat types. Over land, the Shinnecocks used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) Shinnecock Indians used sleds and snowshoes to help them travel in the winter. (They learned to make those tools from northern neighbors like the Cree Indians.) Today, of course, Shinnecock people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Shinnecock food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Shinnecocks were farmers and fishermen. Shinnecock women harvested corn, squash and beans. Shinnecock men fished in the ocean and sometimes even hunted whales in their dugout canoes. Other Shinnecock foods included clams, rabbit stew, and berries. Here is a website with more information about Indian recipes.

What kinds of weapons did the Shinnecocks use?
Shinnecock hunters and warriors used bows and arrows, spears, and clubs. Fishermen used pronged spears, nets, and bone hooks. Here is a website of pictures and information about ancient Indian weapons.

What are Shinnecock art and crafts like?
The Shinnecock tribe was known for their beadwork and Indian baskets. Like other eastern American Indians, Shinnecocks also crafted wampum out of white and purple shell beads. Wampum beads were traded as a kind of currency, but they were more culturally important as an art material. The designs and pictures on wampum belts often told a story or represented a person's family.

What other Native Americans did the Shinnecock tribe interact with?
The Shinnecocks liked to trade with other Algonquian tribes of southern New England, such as the Lenape, Montauk, and Mohican tribes. Although they were closely related to each other, these tribes were not always friends. Sometimes they fought wars against each other.

What kinds of stories do the Shinnecocks tell?
There are many traditional Shinnecock legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Shinnecock Indian culture. Here's one legend about the Makiaweesug, who were mythical creatures like brownies or fairies. All the Mohegan-Pequot speaking tribes told stories about little people like these..

What about Shinnecock religion?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about New England Algonquian traditions and symbols or this site about Native American spirituality in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
Pow-wow: Stories of the Chippewa and Shinnecock Indians is a great book about Shinnecock powwows. You may also enjoy Makiawisug, which is a retelling of a Mohegan legend about little folk. You can also browse through our recommendations of American Indian books in general.

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2015.

Thanks for your interest in the Shinnecock Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Shinnecocks

Mohegan Tribes
Historical overview of the Shinnecock and other Mohegan-speaking tribes.

Shinnecock Language Resources
Shinnecock Indian language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Shinnecock Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Shinnecock Indians past and present.

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Return to our menu of Indian tribes of North America

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