Who Is ‘Ma’?

Loretta A. Silva, also known as ‘Princess Silva Arrow’ and ‘Ma’ by her family, was a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation and a resident of the Shinnecock Indian Reservation.

Ma was born in Greenport on September 2, 1919, daughter of Benjamin H. Hunter and Isabel M. Yearwood. She married U.S. Army Captain Peter A. Silva during WWII, who was also Chief of the Hassanamisco Indian Reservation in Massachusetts. Ma is also the grandmother of Shinnecock artist Jeremy Dennis who is leading the restoration of her family home.

It was always important to keep the culture and history of both Shinnecock and Hassanamisco alive from both Ma and Poppy.

Ma was a beautiful intelligent, and classy woman throughout her life. She wanted to live forever, and through all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren she will.

Ma’s priority was her family. She loved, cherished, and cared for all of her children and grandchildren deeply. Ma had a lot of patience and understanding, too. If we felt like things weren’t going our way, I remember her saying, “Don’t worry, your day will come.” Or if we were afraid, she’d always say, “The Lord will provide.” She protected all of us and if anyone did not treat us with respect, she would become like a Mama Bear! She wasn’t afraid to speak up, but never did she use curse words to get her fierce protective instincts known. She was too much of a lady for that. 

She was also a great cook. During Shinnecock Powwow she’d make a huge pot of chili and cornbread to feed our enormous family and visiting relatives and friends throughout the weekend.

Ma was also an avid reader. She’d keep up with local, national, and world news. Sometimes she’d write letters in response to the news. In 1963 she wrote a letter to Mrs. Cary Potter of the Southampton Summer Colony to inquire about a Scholarship to benefit a Shinnecock youth in order to help them attend the newly proposed Southampton College. The oldest of Ma’s sons, Peter Jr., was the first to receive the Potter’s family Mocomanto  Scholarship followed by each sibling. The scholarship still exists today.

Ma passed away after a sudden illness in 1998. It was her dream for her home to one day become a museum.

Pictured from left to right: Chief Silva Arrow, WeeTahMoe (riding Clyde), Running Deer, Little Fox, Flaming Arrow (kneeling), Tayshanay, Michanock, Princess Silva Arrow) holding a powwow in Ma's yard.
L-R: Kelly (sister), Tela & Al (cousins), Loretta Silva (Ma), and me (Jeremy)