Shane Weeks, born February 16, 1990, is a proud member of the Shinnecock Nation. His upbringing on the Shinnecock Reservation has encouraged him to take on the responsibility of making our world better for future generations. Shane grew up understanding the importance of his culture and his connection to the natural world. His father taught him to hunt and fish at just 7 years old and he carries that tradition on today. Since the age of 1, Shane has continuously represented his culture through traditional dance at his tribe's pow wow and others. He occupies many capacities sitting as a member of several boards and committees. Shane is a founding member of the Southampton Town Arts and Culture Committee, the Watermill Center Community Fellowship, the Slow Food East End Board, the Graves Protection Warrior Society, and several more. He actively hosts presentations, workshops and curates various events. As an artist, culture bearer, and unofficial ambassador, Shane is committed to his effort to bridge the gap between his community and the rest of the world.
Throughout his early childhood, Shane traveled to various pow wows along the east coast with his friends and family setting up a vendors booth to make and sell Native American cuisine. Other then watching traditional and contemporary dances, pow wows are also widely known publicly for Native American hand-made crafts, jewelry and regalia (traditional outfit). For Native Americans, pow wows are about family and traditions. They also offer an opportunity to make a living while enhancing unification, knowledge, and the growth of Native American youth. The word pow wow comes from a word in the Shinnecock dialect, "pau wau" meaning the leader of ceremonies.
When Shane was sixteen years old he started intensely learning the craft, and knowledge of regalia making and carving. At that time he was first shown how to carve, make jewelry, and construct regalia pieces by a man from the Lumbee tribe of North Carolina. His teachings started in the middle of winter with a wood stove under a large tent. He was taught how to carve reign deer antlers, whitetail deer antlers, wood, and wampum; a carving made from clam or quahog shells that are historically tied to Shinnecock. He worked everyday throughout the winter. When spring came, he took his winter's work on the "pow wow trail" and marketed his work.
Over that summer, Shane became co-owner of his own business. He traveled around the tri-state area selling native food, hand-made carvings, and jewelry at numerous pow wows. Being on the "trail" is really like being around family. People come from all over the United States, South America, and Canada to the pow wows. This really encourages networking and sharing. As Shane began to meet more and more people, he started to learn various stories of traditional history and culture. Many of the tribes in the north-eastern part of America have similar histories to that of Shinnecock.
When Shane was nineteen he was invited to travel with a group of people from his tribe, both youth and elders, to Wisconsin. There they attended the Anishinaabe Ojibwe Midewiwin ceremonies. The Ojibwe are Algonquian speaking people just as Shinnecock. The teachings and histories that are taught at the lodge, traditionally through oral communication, inspired Shane and shed light on a much of his Shinnecock people's own history. At ceremonies the group were even told some stories of ancient relations and connections between the Ojibwe and Shinnecock.
Shane still attends these ceremonies and is now an initiate of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge in Wisconsin. Part of those teachings in Anishinaabe culture is to give back to Anishinaabe people. This must be done to ensure the preservation of the youth and the next 7 generations. Since that time Shane has been engaged and hosted many cultural classes, and craft making workshops for Shinnecock children. He has also been actively hosting and assisting with community socials. Those same socials was where Shane started to learn how to drum and sing traditional songs. The socials provide food, offer dance practice, and story telling. They are still held today. Shane continues to travel to different Native American reservations and engages various indigenous groups from around the world. By doing so he hopes to further expand his understanding of indigenous history, culture, and similarities.
When Shane turned twenty he started working at the Wampum Magic factory on the Poospatuck Reservation in Mastic, New York. Wampum Magic is facilitated by the current Sachem, or "Chief" of the Unkechaug Nation. Wampum Magic is the largest wampum manufacturer in the country. Wampum Magic specializes in making wampum beads out of the quahog clam and whelk shells. Carving wampum is a tedious task that takes hours of patience and weeks, even months of altering techniques. Making wampum can also be dangerous if to much dust from carving it is ingested. The Wampum Magic crew produces the only source of whole sale wampum beads. Wampum is in high demand among indigenous communities and has been traded and valued since before contact with early settlers. The quahog clam is only found in our region of the country and is a very rare resource.
Although Shane still continues to work closely with Wampum Magic, when he was twenty-two Shane started working for the Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum. His job was to assist in the construction of the Wikun Living Village, which consisted of constructing traditional houses, reconstructing artifacts for their use in the village. The following year Shane expanded the venture on the pow wow trail. This time he traveled as far south as North Carolina and as far north as Ottawa, Canada. He and those he traveled sold items that they made themselves as well as items other tribal members crafted. Sometimes selling items for members of the tribes he was visiting. Staying true to his culture, he and his peers to look out for each other and help the best that they can. Though Shane has not traveled on the pow wow trail or worked for the Museum the last several years, he is still very passionate about both.
In June 2015, Shane was accepted as a resident of the Watermill Center in Southampton. He was working with three other residents. Tomek Jerzeroski and Karolina Zelinska, film directors from Poland and Adam Lenz, an audio specialist from Michigan. They ultimately presented a multi-media installation generated around the traditional and contemporary history of the Shinnecock Nation. During their one month residency, they interviewed and filmed over forty tribal members who discussed their personal memories of the reservation and traditions. They also attended and filmed public events. The footage they acquired will be archived so future generations will be able to reference Shinnecock history. The project remains the largest archival film documentation of first-hand accounts of Shinnecock people.
In 2016, Shane was asked to assist in another Watermill Center residency with the Colombian contemporary dance choreographer Alvaro Restrepo. The scope of the project was to adapted a ceremonial piece called “Inxile: The Trail of Tears”. Alvaro was asked to create this ceremony in Colombia as a commemoration for the countrie's 200 years of independence from Spain. Instead of a celebration, Alvaro wanted to bring attention to the suffering his people have faced in the since and before that time. The original peice consisted of hundres of participants, including government officials such as the Colombian President, as well as victims of the conflicts in Colombia.
The piece created during the Watermill Center residency also included several members of Shinnecock. The Project was named the piece “Inxile: Voice of the Good Neighbors”. This ceremony focused on the struggles of indigenous people across the Americas. Shane also collaborated with several other Watermill Center residents since 2015.
Building on his background, today Shane has become deeply involved within his community. His goal is to help encourage the preservation of his peoples history.
Shane leading a demonstration with a stomp dance through Main Street in Southampton.
Shane, Gordo, and John at Shinnecock Pow Wow.
Shane with El Colegio Del Cuerpo in Montauk.
Shane with a Coopers Hawk on his way to the animal shelter.
Shane with a Great Blue Heron on his way to the animal shelter.
Shane with a Sea Gull on his way to the animal shelter.
Shane with another Coopers Hawk on his way to the animal shelter.
Shane with Alec Sokolow and Bridget Leroy after a radio interview.
Shane and his fellow panelists after a panel discussion at the Hamptons International Film Festival.
The Watermill Center Summer Residency Program Welcoming Ceremony.
Image: Jeremy Dennis
Denise, Kelly, Aiyana and Shane at the Shinnecock Pow Wow. The word Pow Wow derives from "Pau Wau". A word meaning the leader of ceremonies in the Shinnecock dialect.
Shane giving a presentation at El Colegio Del Cuerpo in Cartagena, Colombia.
Shane using a Korean drum in place of his traditional drum while singing at El Colegio Del Cuerpo in Cartagena, Colombia.
Shane on his canoe in the waters around the Shinnecock Reservation.
Shane holding a quahog clam shell during a lecture series he hosted on wampum at the Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum.
Shane in Cartagena, Colombia after a presentation he gave to the students of El Colegio Del Cuerpo.
Shane and his fellow tribal member in the maiden voyage of a dug out canoe they assisted in creating on Shinnecock.
Shane and El Colegio Del Cuerpo at the Shinnecock Community Center during their presentaion of Inxile: The Voice of the Good Neighbors".
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