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Post-contact – Present 1614 AD and Beyond

Introduction

The post-contact period, also known as the present Historic Period, begins on Long Island generally in 1640. This period is characterized by political intrigues, land deed negotiations (including theft), transitions from ancient lifestyle, use of metal, textiles, firearms, livestock, indebtedness, and indentured servitude.

History

1542

The Contact Period began with the European explorers who bumped into the eastern end of Long Island as it juts into the Atlantic. The first we know of is Verrazano in 1542, who coasted by but apparently did not land; he did leave us with a detailed description of the life and dress of the Natives of nearby Newport harbor which may be applicable to the Montaukett. Apparently their clothing was exquisitely embroidered “like damask” with colored porcupine quills.

1614

The next was Adrian Block in 1614, who may have landed (although there is no record of it), who named Block Island after himself, and created the first map of the Island, labeling the eastern Natives “Nahicans,” a name not seen again in succeeding records. The subsequent Bleau and Visscher maps of 1635 and 1662 note them as “Matouwacks.”

Other early 1600s contacts were the Dutch trader Pieter Barentsen as well as the English Captain Southack, who wrote on his early 1700s map of the two forks “I commanded ye first ship that ever was at this place” on the Peconic estuary portion. He also located “Indian Town” on the Napeague portion of the map. This was the first of a number of early maps which located Indian Town or Indian Plantation on the Montauk peninsula — an important visual adjunct to the written record. The site appeared further east with each deed extracted from the Montaukett by the settlers taking another portion of their land. The Montaukett later complained in petitions to the New York State Assembly that they were told they were signing one agreement only to find later they were lied to, that they were plied with liquor before signing deeds (Town records reveal payment for the rum, confirming that), that the settlers killed their dogs and cut so much of their firewood that every winter elderly women froze to death.

Besides being documents recording the loss of Montaukett land, this series of 16 deeds, 1648 to 1794, is a visual record revealing the ‘marks,’ or signatures, which indicate the pictorial literacy of the Montaukett, relative to the literacy of the settlers, many of whom signed with an X. The sachem Wyandanch’s mark (a figure drawing) on a deed authenticated it; those deeds without it could be doubtful — and there were many in the colonists’ lust to ‘buy’ Native land with gifts. It was easier to pay Wyandanch than the many heads of bands living across the land. John Strong covers the loss of Montaukett lands extensively in the Montauk volume.1

1640

Shortly before 1640, investors from Lynn, Massachusetts, purchase a patent from James Farrett, land agent for the Earl of Stirling, who on behalf of the King of England, – from their point of view – “owned the land”. The investors pay for eight square miles of land which was at “Old Town” Southampton. Houses expand eastward beyond the boundaries of the first settlement without permission or, at first, awareness of the Shinnecock, that their rights to usage of their own land was being curtailed. (Native understanding of land was that they were caretakers of it for the Creator (with acknowledged borders for hunting etc.), and not to be used as a commodity that could be bought and sold or used exclusively by certain people.

Conscience Point is the approximate landing place of the first English colonists who arrived here in June of 1640.

The Contact Period (1614 to the present), also known as the Historic Period,  is characterized by political intrigues, land deed negotiations (theft etc.) and transition from the ancient indigenous lifestyles towards the usage of trade goods, metal, textiles, fire arms, livestock (pigs, cattle, oxen, sheep) indebtedness, and indentured servitude. 2

Indian Economics

As the Contact period became the historic or colonial era, the Long Island Indians were drawn into the transplanted European economic sphere in order to buy the new ‘necessities,’ such as gunpowder, flour, sugar, clothing, Dominy furniture, etc.

The colonial economy has an insatiable need for labor for whaling, farming, herding, dairying, cheese and butter production, textile production, and craftware; hence servants and slaves. Of ninety Suffolk County wills probated from 1670 to 1688, 24 listed English, Negro, and Indian servants and slaves. Their value was second only to cattle owned. Of this 24, 2 or 8% were listed as “Indian captive servant” or “Indian slave girl.” Philip Rabito-Wyppensenwah points out that many of the enslaved Natives here were from the Carolinas and the Caribbean.

Another form of labor for the Natives was being forced to produce huge quantities of wampum (shell beads) to pay fines levied upon them for infractions of local laws (which they often did not understand). The wampum was then used by European traders to purchase furs from the northern territories. Since the largest amount of whelk shell for making wampum is found on eastern Long Island beaches, the area became the “mint” of New Netherland.

Further participation by the Natives in the new economy was service as militiamen in all the provincial campaigns before the French and Indian Wars and in the American revolution. They served out of proportion to their numbers in the population and left many Native settlements with a large number of widows; this led to intermarriage with Anglos, African-Americans, and other groups.3

Americas Contact-Period – 1492

The Post-Contact period, or post-colonization period, is the start of the European Colonization of the Americas is typically dated to 1492, although there was at least one earlier colonization effort. The first known Europeans to reach the Americas are believed to have been the Vikings (“Norse”) during the eleventh century, who established several colonies in Greenland and one short-lived settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows in the area the Norse called Vinland, present day Newfoundland. Settlements in Greenland survived for several centuries, during which time the Greenland Norse and the Inuit people experienced mostly hostile contact. By the end of the fifteenth century, the Norse Greenland settlements had collapsed. In 1492, a Spanish expedition headed by Christopher Columbus reached the Americas, after which European exploration and colonization rapidly expanded, first through much of the Caribbean region (including the islands of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and Cuba) and, early in the sixteenth century, parts of the mainlands of North and South America.4

Archaeological Disruptions

In 1914 a large cemetery was found on the top of Pantigo Hill in Amagansett. Frank Nelson, an Amagansett farmer, was digging a foundation for his chicken coop when he discovered three human burials. Several projectile points and some shell beads accompanied the burials. The discovery did not deter Nelson from continuing his work on the coop. Nelson expanded his chicken house to a length of 130 feet, cutting a path 16 feet wide through the center of a cemetery. By the winter of 1916, he had uncovered 17 more burials.

Harry O’Brien, a Brooklyn doctor, learned of Nelson’s discoveries and came out to investigate. O’Brien, an avid amateur archaeologist, excavated two more burials before he reported the news to Foster Saville, a professional archaeologist at the Museum of the American Indian in New York. Saville worked on the site until November 1917, excavating a total of 58 burials.

Contemporary Sites

Shinnecock-Hills-Golf-Club5I5A9939-300x200 Post-contact - Present 1614 AD and Beyond Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club

In 1891, one hundred and fifty Shinnecock tribal members assisted Willie Dunn, Scottish professional, lay out the first 12 holes of what was to become the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.Willie Dunn said at that time,

The place was dotted with Indian burial mounds and we left some of these intact as bunkers in front of the greens. We scraped out some of the mounds and made sand traps.
Material from the Sebonac and Woodland period villages were found in the area; including pottery and human remains that were sent to the American Museum of Natural History and Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation – now NMAI.

5I5A9689-300x178 Post-contact - Present 1614 AD and Beyond Jeremy Dennis On This Site

St. Matthew Chapel

Known as the last building with direct connection to Freetown, a small village inhabited by freed African slaves and Montaukett Indians, St Matthew's Chapel,was attended by African, Indian, and whites local residents on Three Mile Harbor Road.In 1976, the building was purchased by Richard C. Sage and moved to the Maidstone Marina boatyard to be used as a chapel for mariners. The building remains today; however, the interior has been changed into a fitness center to accommodate guests.

5I5A9534-300x200 Post-contact - Present 1614 AD and Beyond Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Elliot A Brook's Carvings

A confused appreciation - In 1933, artist Elliott Brooks carved several relief sculptures, two in memory of the Montaukett and Poquatuck people of Long Islands east end. Later he describes desecrating a prehistoric burial,

".. while I dig around for Indian relics, it proved to be a ceremonial burial mound, and I like to imagine that the Indian spirits led me to the cache in appreciation of my carving the memorial."

5I5A9121-Edit-300x201 Post-contact - Present 1614 AD and Beyond Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Shinnecock Presbyterian Church

The Shinnecock Presbyterian church on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation has been described as “the oldest, ongoing Native American church in America.”A regular schedule of tribal gatherings occur here, including the annual June Meeting, Indian Thanksgiving dinner and harvest celebrations. For many years, tribal meetings and Tribal Council elections were held in the Parish Hall before taking place in the Tribal Community Center.The Shinnecock Powwow was first organized by the Presbyterian church congregation as a cultural celebration and fund raising event.

5I5A9155-Edit-300x131 Post-contact - Present 1614 AD and Beyond Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Cove Realty Site

In 1952, The Great Cove Real Estate Company attempted to build houses on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation just south of Montauk Highway in an attempt to steal Shinnecock Land.The final court decision in 1961 resulted in success for the Shinnecock Tribe, preserving the land as part of the reservation. The foundations for the houses can still be seen today.

5I5A7948-300x200 Post-contact - Present 1614 AD and Beyond Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Eastville

Eastville in Sag Harbor is a contemporary community, formed largely the descendants of Freed Native and black slaves, black and Native whalers, and European settlers. The neighborhood was first established in the early twentieth century by free people of color, who then increased in size as whites.Eastville, being located at a major whaling port, was the destination for many Montauketts seeking economic opportunities during the nineteenth century. Later in the twentieth century, community members worked in the local industrialized factories.[1. Allison Manfra McGovern, Termination and Survivance Among the Montauketts, pp. 226]The heart of Eastville - the St. David A.M.E. Zion Church (seen in first photo), was built in 1840.

5I5A8505-300x200 Post-contact - Present 1614 AD and Beyond Jeremy Dennis On This Site

West Woods Sweat Lodge

The West Woods sweat lodge is a contemporary ceremonial site for the Shinnecock Tribe.Located in West Woods, a private and shared area among the Shinnecock people, the sweat lodge is used for initiation ceremony for young adults transitioning to adulthood.

5I5A8512-Edit-300x155 Post-contact - Present 1614 AD and Beyond Jeremy Dennis On This Site

West Woods

West Woods is a four hundred acre beach and woodland area owned by the Shinnecock Tribe. The woodland and beach area is used for contemporary social gatherings, weddings, celebrations, camping, and sweat lodge ceremonies.In recent times, West Woods has been encroached upon with it's blurred boundaries.

5I5A9118-300x143 Post-contact - Present 1614 AD and Beyond Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Shinnecock Indian Reservation

Shinnecock-Seal-and-Flag Post-contact - Present 1614 AD and Beyond Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Great Seal of The Shinnecock Nation

The Shinnecock Indian Reservation is a self-governing reservation. The reservation has a museum, shellfish hatchery, education center, cultural and community center, playground, and Presbyterian church. In 1972, the Shinnecock Native American Cultural Coalition (SNACC) was formed to establish a Native American arts and crafts program. Traditional dancing, beadwork, Native American crafts, and music are studied. The Cultural Enrichment Program is a sharing and learning process that the community has engaged in to ensure that the ideals and traditions of their ancestors are passed down through the generations. It involves sharing knowledge of food, clothing, arts, crafts, dance, ceremonies, and language.Every Labor Day Weekend since 1946, the reservation hosts a powwow, based on ceremonies beginning in 1912. The Shinnecock Powwow is ranked by USA Today as one of the ten great powwows held in the United States. In 2008, the powwow attracted 50,000 visitors.

5I5A7499-300x200 Post-contact - Present 1614 AD and Beyond Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Rev. Paul Cuffee Gravesite

A single fenced grave marks the burial location of Reverend Paul Cuffee. This site was chosen for his burial as it was once the meeting place for the old Indian church location. It also exists within "Good Ground," the old name of Hampton Bays.Cuffee, a Shinnecock Indian, was a celebrated minister, like his grandfather Peter John, who preached to Indians of Long Island. Cuffee, during his youth, was an indentured servant to a Wading River farmer who then became an enthusiastic convert in his early 20s. Cuffee preached among Indian communities, including the Poospatuck Reservation (present day Mastic Beach); Canoe Place in Hampton Bays, and in the end, Montauk. These vigorous preacher's services were attended by large crowds.His broken grave marker reads: In testifying the Gospel of the Grace of God He finished his course with Joy on 7th of March 1812 Aged 55 years and Three Days.

5I5A6123-Pano-300x128 Post-contact - Present 1614 AD and Beyond Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Springy Banks Pow Wow Grounds

The Springy Banks site has been described as a favorite summer camping grounds of the Montauk.It receives its name from numerous delicious flowing springs of water that flow from the base of the cliffs here. Many an East Hampton and Three Mile Harbor residents speak with nostalgia of the sweet draughts of water that they enjoyed from Springy Banks when it was Town Property.

5I5A9116-300x178 Post-contact - Present 1614 AD and Beyond Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Unkechaug Indian Reservation

The Unkechaug Nation maintains a sovereign relationship with the State of New York, other Indian Nations in the United States and Canada and other foreign powers. The Unkechaug Nation is located on the Poospatuck (“where the waters meet”) Reservation in Long Island, NY.Under the provisions of colonial laws and later under the New York State Constitution (Article 12) the State of New York formally recognized the Unkechaug Nation of Indians in the 18th century. 1500 acres of land that had been long held by the Unkechaug and that continued from an original land agreement entered into with the King of England and the Unkechaug in the 17th century was set aside for the exclusive use of the Unkechaug. Today, that allotment has been stripped down to 55 acres; nevertheless, the affinity of the people to the land is as strong as in the past, if not even stronger today. The total population of tribal members, families, and extended relations is 450 of which approximately 250 reside on the Poospatuck Reservation. Housing density, and occupancy levels are unacceptable when measured against the rate of population growth and available land as well as the number of tribal members who want to return to their traditional homeland. The Unkechaug are faced with a rate of population growth greater than the national average and an increased demand for tribal services. Housing is an important priority but efforts to expand housing for tribal members are blocked by a lack of land. The Unkechaug are committed to increasing the land base in order to meet the needs of their members. [1. https://unkechaug.wordpress.com/about/]

 

  1. Gaynell Stone, Transcript of Lecture on The Material History of the Montaukett, 1998, pp. 4
  2. Oral histories from David Martine, Shinnecock History Timeline
  3.  Gaynell Stone, Transcript of Lecture on The Material History of the Montaukett, 1998, pp. 5
  4.  http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/European_Colonization_of_the_Americas

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