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              Chapter 2  Before the Mayflower


About eighty Lenape-Algonquin (language) settlements were located near streams inNew Jersey and Manhattan. There were no palisades, trenches or stockades built around Indian settlements in these pre-contact villages since diplomacy was paramount to the survival of the Lenape. Many native villages were built on hills for strategic advantage and better drainage. Villages shared tools, home industries, gardening and fields for the prosperity of the entire community. 


Sailing for the Dutch in 1609, English explorer Henry Hudson traversed the coast of New Jersey aboard the Half Moon. Anchoring in Sandy Hook Bay Englishman Robert Juett provided one of the first written descriptions of the land called Navesink and the healthy Lenape people living there. The Dutch West Indian Company was founded in 1621 to explore alternative trade routes to the Indies and produce wealth by trading goods and products. Since European ships fished the North Atlantic Ocean, Indian groups had become accustomed to trading items in exchange for fresh food and water. Ships were not uncommon in 1600s.


Many of the early settlers were not Dutch, but French-speaking Walloons from Belgium. The Dutch West India Company transported indentured servants who would settle, clear and farm the land for seven years and eventually be granted one hundred acres. Thirty families sailed from Amsterdam under Cornelious May and settled on what is called today, Governor’s Island, New York


In 1626 Peter Minuit wanted to lease land from the natives and build houses along the shore of Manhattan . The natives thought this was a temporary arrangement since they understood sharing the land, not selling the earth. That same year eleven Africans were brought to the new colony of New Amsterdam . A triangle trade developed as the Dutch provided dry goods, glass beads and metal products to the natives in exchange for wampum (money) and furs, beaver pelts and deerskin. Pelts were sold in Holland to make felt hats. By 1630 the Dutch were shipping ten thousand furs a year to the Netherlands to repay the Dutch West Indian Company for their investment in the new colony. From the very beginning, Manhattan ’s history was based on the business of making money.


The Dutch practice of clear-cutting forests for firewood and forts eliminated the woodland environment for deer and small game the Lenape needed for survival. Dutch cows demolished Lenape cornfields ruining winter food supplies. By 1640 the additional demand for taxes in the form of wampum and furs resulted in war, which lasted for five years.


The next governor of New Amsterdam , Peter Stuyvesant, arrived in 1647 to settle disputes. He established a police force of nine men, imposed fines for driving wagons too fast on Breedewegh (Broadway) and saw the colony grow to fifteen hundred inhabitants and three hundred and forty houses. Broadway was once the Mohican Trail. Dutch records mention hundreds of sea-going forty foot canoes capable of holding ten or more people. Canarsie Island was the native main port in what is now Brooklyn . The main Canarsie Trail became Flatbush Avenue . A major Lenape transportation hub is now the Long Island Railroad Terminal. A map shows native cornfields and orchards in Canarsie stretching for several miles in each direction. The Dutch bought the Lenape breadbasket for one gun, one blanket and one kettle.


The Dutch laid out farms in Bruckelen (Brooklyn) and bought fifteen thousand acres in Queens and the Bronx. In 1654 they bought Coney Island from the natives. The old Rockaway Trail, an important Algonquin route, began at Fulton Street , changes to Jamaica Avenue in Queens, and continues as the Jericho Turnpike across Long Island. Other trails became Grand Central Parkway , the Hempstead Turnpike and the Van Wyck Expressway.


By 1664 forty percent of the population of the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam consisted of indentured servants and enslaved Africans. Dutch records list a few slaves who owned land and businesses and attended church services in the Dutch Reformed Church. Dutch settlers and Manhattan Indians became trading partners and allies who built a wall across the northern end of New Amsterdam to protect themselves from attack by the English, who claimed all the land between Jamestown and Massachusetts Bay Colony


In 1665 heavily armored British warships arrived in Manhattan harbor forcing ninety-three settlers to sign a petition to surrender the colony of New Amsterdam. They had not come to the New World to fight. The name New Amsterdam was changed to New York after the brother of King Charles II, the Duke of York and Albany. The Great seal of New York is the Dutch coat of arms, a windmill kef of rum, beavers, eagles and laurel circle. In 1699 the British removed the wall on Wall Street, but the name continues as one of the most well-known financial capitals of the world. Nearby Fifth Avenue was a trail straightened out by the British. Broadway was widened for wagons as it followed an Indian trail across Manhattan.

Sand Hill Indian History * PO Box 444 * Lincroft * NJ * 07738 * 732-747-5709