Photo of the Week


“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck


Native American History Month 


Princess Nowedonah (1904-1975), also known as Lois M. Hunter, of the Shinnecock Indian Nation. This photograph from the 1955 Shinnecock Pow-Wow program shows Nowedonah with an unidentified girl. (Image copyright © Lois M. Hunter. Reproduced courtesy of the guest author.)


By Lisa Bowen (Shinnecock), MS, MLS
Guest Contributor

Princess Nowedonah of the Shinnecock Indian Nation accomplished a great deal in her lifetime. She was an author, speaker, teacher, activist, and tribal historian. Born Lois Marie Hunter in 1904, she was a direct descendant of Chief Nowedonah, who met the English settlers at Conscience Point in 1640. 

She attended the Reservation’s one-room school and then graduated from Cheney State Teachers College in Pennsylvania. She returned to the Reservation and taught for more than 15 years.  She was also an elder and Sunday School teacher at the Shinnecock Presbyterian Church. She welcomed visitors to the first Shinnecock Pow-Wow and participated in tribal events and celebrations. She wrote historical pageants and held educational and cultural programs at her home.

She proudly wore a traditional deerskin regalia to church, to numerous speaking engagements, and to her job as a case worker at the Office of Economic Opportunity in Riverhead. Her column “The Today’s American Indian” ran in the Riverhead News-Review for six years in the 1960s, and she documented tribal history in her book The Shinnecock Indians, published in 1950. In 1996, Folkways Records released The Enchanted Spring: An American Indian Legend, an album of lyrical tales narrated by Nowedonah.

Princess Nowedonah was an outspoken advocate for the rights of tribal women and a defender of tribal lands. At the time, women could not vote in tribal elections but would gain the right to vote in 1994. She was a prominent voice when the Great Cove Realty encroached on tribal lands in 1952. The Courts ruled in favor of the Tribe in 1961 but not before the developer had built one home and several foundations along Montauk Highway. 

When Nowedonah died on April 18, 1975, more than 500 people attended her funeral. She was buried at the Shinnecock Cemetery overlooking Shinnecock Bay.  Fondly remembered as “Cousin Lois” by tribal members, her work and her commitment to the Shinnecock people are her legacies.


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