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Manitou Hill

Hill of the Great Spirit

Table of Contents
Introduction
History
Land Loss
Legends and Lore

Introduction

Manitou Hill is a sacred hill located on what is now known as Manetto Hill in Plainview, New York. An oral story, recorded by historian Gabriel Furman in 1874, describes a legend during a great drought. The Manitou instructs a sachem through a dream to stand at the top of Manetto Hill and fire an arrow into the air, and on the spot where the arrow lands, people should dig until they find water.

The water spring that was found, called Mascopas, is now beneath a local high school athletic field.

Manitou is known in traditional systems as the powerful and unseen power throughout the universe, being present during moments of the miraculous and mysterious.

History

1874

A reference to Manitou Hill and Long Island folklore comes from historian Gabriel Furman, who recounted a legend associated with what later was called Manetto Hill in Plainview, Long Island.1

1941

The December 1941 Long Island Forum2 publishes an article by Josiah Beman who describes the location and story of Mannatto hill;

Mannatto Hill lies in the center of Long Island in the township of Oyster Bay.

The Indians gave it it’s name. They said it was where the Great Spirit of the Algonquins lived.

This spirit could do strange and wonderful things.

Once, they said there was a great drought. The Indians were dying for lack of water. In their distress, they prayed to the great Spirit Sachem on Mannatto Hill and he told them to shoot an arrow into the air and where the arrow fell to dig.

This they did and where the arrow fell they found a spring of sweet water.

1997

John Strong later mentions Manitou Hill in his book The Algonquian Peoples of Long ISland from Earliest Times to 1700 on page 111, describing the ‘hill’ as actually being a ridge, running from Manetto Hill Road along Washington Boulevard, rising to a height of about 240 feet.

He writes,

Although we cannot be certain, it seems likely that the high ridge was a sacred place, so named because the Indians living in the area believed that the Manitou spirit force was present there.3

  1. Gabriel Furman, Antiquities of Long Island, Reprint, Port Washington, NY 1874 pp. 62-63: I. J. Friedman, 1978
  2. Josiah Beman, More Indian Legends, December 1941 Long Island Forum, pp. 283
  3. John Strong, The Algonquian Peoples of Long Island from Earliest Times to 1700, 1997, pp. 111

Disruption and Vandalism

There was a sacred fresh water pond at the foot of the hill is called “Mascopas,” according to local historians Iris and Alonzo Gibbs, is now under the local athletic field of John F. Kennedy High School1

  1. Gibbs, Iris and Alonzo Gibbs, Mannetto: Diety or Hill?, Long Island Forum 44, 1981: pp. 10-11

Legends and Lore

In 1874, a reference to Manitou Hill and Long Island folklore comes from historian Gabriel Furman, who recounted a legend associated with what later was called Manetto Hill in Plainview, Long Island;1

During a great drought, Manitou instructed a sachem, perhaps in a dream or through an intermediary, to stand on Manetto Hill and fire an arrow into the air. On the spot where the arrow landed, said the spirit message, the people should dig until they found water. The sachem did as he was told, and the arrow landed at the foot of the hill in a hollow.

There was a pond at the foot of the hill called “Mascopas,” according to local historians Iris and Alonzo Gibbs, which is under the athletic field of John F. Kennedy High School2.

  1. Gabriel Furman, Antiquities of Long Island, Reprint, Port Washington, NY 1874 pp. 62-63: I. J. Friedman, 1978
  2. Gibbs, Mannetto: Diety or Hill? 1981: pp. 10-11