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Most Shinnecock Indians Weathered Hurricane Irene from their Long Island Homes

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Security personnel counted only four or five families who evacuated the Shinnecock Indian Reservation in Southampton, Long Island for Hurricane Irene, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The threat of “tremendous flooding problems" didn't deter them, said Beverly Jensen, a Shinnecock spokeswoman and reservation resident who remained on the island through the hurricane.

At least 500 of the 600-member tribe rode out the storm from inside their homes, despite living on the reservation's peninsula that juts out into Shinnecock Bay, "some of which is below sea level," the Wall Street Journal said. Others took refuge at the Red Cross shelter set up at the nearby Hampton Bays High School.

One unidentified security officer told the newspaper: “They figure, we made it through 1938,” when a Category 3 hurricane battered Long Island, “we’ll make it through this one. My grandfather’s 90, and he’s not going anywhere."

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While the tribal council urged residents to evacuate, most stayed put, said Randy King, a Shinnecock Trustee. “The people here have a strong affinity for the land. We live by that,” he told the Journal. “They’ve lived here for thousands of years and they don’t want to go anywhere. We’re certainly not the only community where people want to stay in their homes.”

On Saturday morning, firefighters and tribal officials canvassed the reservation advising residents of the mandatory evacuation. They requested that residents who elected to stay sign a tribal document, explained Jensen. “Every step of our lives has been dangerous,” she told the Journal. “We’re thinking: it’s a storm, and we prefer to go through it in our homes.”