Shinnecock Indian Nation Cultural Center and Museum staff arrived at work Wednesday morning to the disheartening sight of graffiti covering the fence leading to the new Wikun Village living history exhibition.
By the afternoon, staff members and volunteers had a power washer, scrub brushes and primer in hand to remove and conceal the spraypaint before children and other museum guests had to see the obscene and racial graffiti.
Matauqus Tarrant, the museum's assistant curator and site manager, said they now plan to have a mural painted on the fence where the hateful language was sprayed. "We want to bring this full circle," he said.
The perpetrator, or perpetrators, broke into a storage shed and took cans of spray paint to make the graffiti overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, Tarrant said. The entire door is now being replaced.
New York State police investigators were on scene and the act could be looked into as a bias crime.
"The Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum is a place that all people are invited to learn about the Shinnecock people and our culture," the museum said in a statement. "Whether this 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."
Tarrant said that about five years ago there was an incident of graffiti using racial epithets at the tribe's Westwoods property in Hampton Bays. A local teenager was quickly found responsible, and the tribe opted to have him do community service for the museum, Tarrant said, explaining that it was a way to turn a negative into a positive and build better relations between Shinnecock and the surrounding communities.