Manhattan is famously unlivable in the summer, and the wealthy have used the Hamptons as their personal playground and easy summertime escape for generations. This cozy town had about 60 000 year-round residents, from diverse social and economic backgrounds. Many live below the poverty line, trying to eke out existence in a place that has skyrocketing cost of living. Their modest population quadruples in the summer months, making it very difficult to serve all people equally.
To the ultra-wealthy, the 1% of the 1%, the Hamptons is a rustic vacation spot offering rural charm and first-class amenities. The Shinnecock Indian Nation has been continually marginalized on their own ancestral land as newcomers change the landscape to suit their own needs, with an emphasis on opulence, consumption, and greed. Not much thought let alone respect is given to the Shinnecock land, its resources used up and artifacts neglected.
White people have edged Native peoples out of their land all over the world. Many years ago, local government “compromised” by leasing the Shinnecock 3000 acres of their own land to them for a contract period of 1000 years. In flagrant opposition to their own proposal, they then stole them back to build a commuter railroad between Manhattan and Montauk, the Shinnecock helpless to fight against the move since, as non-citizens, they weren’t even allowed to sue. That land now holds multi-million dollar homes and several world-renowned golf courses built on sacred burial ground, “borrowing” the Shinnecock name, and using a stereotypical “chief” as a logo.
Meanwhile, the regular citizens of the Hamptons can no longer afford to stay in their houses with monstrous property taxes. The working class who serve as care-takers for the massive estates and the service industry who wait on the ultra wealthy tourists commute in from increasing distances, priced out of living anywhere near where they work.
The Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is about to host of the U.S. Open and members of the Shinnecock Nation stage regular protests, hoping to bring their struggle to national attention. Filmmaker Treva Wurmfeld is in the thick of it, where profit and protest clash, values collide, and ugly inequality is exposed.
This and other terrific titles are available to stream through the Planet In Focus, an international environmental film festival.