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The Origins of New Netherland. Interpreting Native American Responses to Henry Hudson's Visit*

  • Paul Otto (a1)


When Adriaen van der Donck wrote A Description of the New Netherlands in 1655, he rightly pointed to Henry Hudson's 1609 voyage and discovery as the foundation of Dutch claims to the North American territory. Presumably arguing on the basis of the right of first discovery, he proposed that local Indian lore supported the fact that the Dutch-employed Englishman had been the first to discover and explore the Hudson River. As a settler in New Netherland, Van der Donck had often heard the native inhabitants claim that before Hudson came they had never seen such a thing as a European ship.



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1 der Donck, Van, A Description of New Netherlands, ed. O'Donnell, Thomas F. (Syracuse 1968) 24.

2 Campisi, Jack, ‘The Hudson Valley Indians through Dutch Eyes’ in: Hauptman, Laurence M. and Campisi, Jack eds., Neighbors and Intruders: An Ethnohistorical Exploration of the Indians of Hudson's River, National Museum of Man Mercury Series, Canadian Ethnology Service 39 (Ottawa 1978) 166, 168; Gehring, Charles T. and Starna, William A., ‘Dutch and Indians in die Hudson Valley: The Early Period’, The Hudson Valley Regional Review 9/2 (1993) 78; Starna, , ‘Seventeenth-Century Dutch-Indian Trade: A Perspective from Iroquoia’, De Halve Maen 59/3 (1986) 5.

3 See, for example, Morison, Samuel Eliot, The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages, A.D. 500-1600 (New York 1971); Quinn, David B., North America from Earliest Discovery to First Voyages: The None Voyages to 1612 (New York 1977); Quinn, , Explorers and Colonies: America, 1500-1625 (London 1990).

4 Adriaen van der Donck recorded it first in 1650 and then published it in a different version a few years later. Donck, Van der, ‘The Representation of New Netherland, 1650’ in: Jameson, J. Franklin ed., Narratives ofNew Netherland, 1609–1664 (New York 1909) 293 (hereafter NNN); Donck, Van der, Description, 34 . It was eventually recorded in great detail by the eighteenth-century Moravian missionary Heckewelder, John. ‘Indian Tradition of the First Arrival of the Dutch at Manhattan Island, Now New York’ in: Collections of the New-York Historical Society, 2nd series (New York 1841) I. 6874.

5 The evidence in this article focuses solely upon ethnohistorical evidence – that is evidence relating to and clarified by a study of Native American culture. There is further documentary and cartographical evidence which should be taken into account for a fuller analysis of the early contacts between Europeans and Native Americans in the Hudson River region. For such an analysis, see Otto, Paul, ‘First Contacts’, chapter one in: New Netherland Frontier: Europeans andNativeAmericans along the Lower Hudson River, 1524–1664, dissertation in progress, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

6 Heckewelder wrote on January 26, 1801: ‘As I receive my information from the Indians, in their language and style, I return it the same way.’ He introduced the account by stating that, ‘the following account of die first arrival of Europeans at York Island, is verbatim as it was related to me by aged and respected Delawares, Momeys and Mahicanni, nearly forty years ago’. Heckewelder, , Collections, I, 7071.

7 This and the following quotations come from Heckewelder, , Collections, I, 7174.

8 Kraft, Herbert C., The Lenape: Archaeology, History, and Ethnography, Collections of the New Jersey Historical Society 21 (Newark 1986) 161.

9 Quote from Laet, Johannes De, ‘New World’ in: Jameson, ed., NNN (New York 1909) 57 . See also De Laet, 49–50 and Jonas Michaelius to Adrianus Smoutius, 11 August 1628 in: Jameson, , NNN, 126127.

10 Miller, Christopher C. and Hamell, George R., ‘A New Perspective on Indian-White Contact: Cultural Symbols and Colonial TradeJournal of American History 73/2 (1986) 311328.

11 Giovanni de Verrazzano to Francis I. July 8, 1524 in: Quinn, David B. ed., New American World: A Documentary History of North America to 1612, with the assistance of Quinn, Alison M. and Hillier, Susan, vol. I, Americafrom Concejrt to Discovery; Early Exploration of North America (London 1979) 284.

12 Ibid., 284.

13 Verrazzano, ‘was the first commander to bring back anything resembling a detailed account of the natives of North America’. Hoffman, Bernard G., Cabot to Cartier, Sources for a Historical Ethnography of Northeastern North America, 1497–1550 (Toronto 1962) 112 , quoted in Wroth, Lawrence C., The Voyages of Giovanni da Verrazzano, 1524–1528 (New Haven 1970) 82.

14 Wroth, , Voyages, 80.

15 Verrazzano to Francis I, 8 July 1524 in Quinn, , New American World, I, 281282.

16 Wroth, , Voyages, 82.

17 Verrazzano to Francis I, 8 July 1524 in Quinn, , New American World, I, 283.

18 Wroth, , Voyages, 8284.

19 Verrazzano to Francis I, 8 July 1524 in Quinn, , New American World, I, 283.

21 Ibid., 284. Wroth stated: ‘It has been customary for commentators to accept the explorer's interpretation of the Indian's action as the offer of fire, but to me it seems that the burning stick may well have been a tobacco reed pipe and the action the offer of friendship rather than of fire. This would have been more in accord with Indian practice and ritual of the day and area. We shall never know, but it is pleasant to think that the Indians of Arcadia were offering peace and friendship to their strange visitors.’ Wroth, , Voyages, 83.

22 Wroth, , Voyages, 87.

23 Verrazzano to Francis I, 8 July 1524 in Quinn, , New American World, I, 285286.

24 Wroth, , Voyages, 89.

25 Verrazzano to Francis I, 8 July 1524 in Quinn, , New American World, I, 287.

27 Ibid., 285.

29 Vigneras, L.A., ed., The Journal of Christopher Columbus, trans. Jane, Cecil (New York 1960) 196 , quoted in Axtell, James, ‘Imagining the Other: First Encounters in North America’ in: Beyond 1492: Encounters in Colonial North America (New York 1992) 38.

30 Dunn, Oliver and Kelley, James E. Jr, ed. and trans., The Diario of Christopher Columbus's First Voyage to America, 1492–1493 (Norman 1989) 267 , quoted in Axtell, , ‘Imagining the Other’, 48.

31 Axtell, , ‘Imagining the Other’, 57.

32 Dunn, and Kelley, , Columbus's Diario, 67 , quoted in Axtell, , ‘Imagining the Other’, 58.

33 Although n o documented evidence exists to prove that Europeans had preceded Verraz-zano to the northern New England region, it seems quite probable that due to the heavy marine traffic to the rich fishing areas off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador beginning in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, that sailors and fishermen had begun to make contact with the Indians along the coast of Maine. Moreover, the recorded contact north of New England, in Labrador and Newfoundland, was often violent and injurious to the Indians who lived there, including instances of slave raids. It does not seem at all unlikely that such raids may have also taken place previous to Verrazzano's exploration along the Maine coast. Morison, , Northern Voyages, 210238, 309, 473; Kraft, , Lenape, 195.

34 These were Jehan Alfonse de Saintonge who saw or entered New York Bay in 1541 or 1542 and Jehan Cossin who probably explored the region sometime before 1570. See Stokes, I.N. Phelps, The Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498–1909 (New York 1916) II, 29–30, 3334; also Otto, ‘First Contact’.

35 Hudson and his crew had earlier encountered several Native American tribes earlier on their voyage along the coasts of Nova Scotia, Maine, and Massachusetts. Asher, G.M., Henry Hudson the Navigator. The Original Documents in which his Career is Recorded (London 1860) 59–61, 6465.

36 De Laet, , ‘New World’, NNN, 38 . The record of Hudson's voyage has been preserved in the journal of one of his crewmen, Robert Juet and by the historian, Emanuel van Meteren. Hudson's own log of this journey is lost, although portions of his descriptions of the journey have been preserved by De Laet who had access to Hudson's journal or some other report written by him of his journey to North America.

37 It is not clear where the Half Moon landed and which exact bands of Munsee-speakers the crew met, although these early meetings all took place somewhere in the lower bay, perhaps either on Long Island or near Sandy Hook. See Jameson, , NNN, 1718 and Asher, , Henry Hudson, 7780.

38 Juet, , ‘The Third Voyage of Master Henry Hudson’, NNN, 18; De Laet, , ‘New World’, NNN, 48.

39 Juet, , ‘Third Voyage’, NNN, 18.

40 Salisbury, Neal, Manitou and Providence: Indians, Europeans, and the Making of New England, 1500–1643 (New York 1982) 3536, 44, 53.

41 Juet, , ‘Third Voyage’, NNN, 1819.

42 Juet, ‘Third Voyage’, in Asher, , Henry Hudson, 5961; Salisbury, , Manilou and Providence, 9495.

43 Juet, , ‘Third Voyage’, NNN, 18.

44 Ibid., 19.

45 Ibid., 20–22; De Laet, , ‘New World’, NNN, 4849; Meteren, , ‘On Hudson's Voyage’, NNN, 7.

46 De Laet, , ‘New World’, NNN, 49.

47 Juet, , ‘Third Voyage’, NNN, 21.

48 Ibid., 22; Meteren, , NNN, 78; Lenig, Donald, ‘Of Dutchmen, Beaver Hats and Iroquois’, Researches and Transactions of the New York State Archaeological Association 17/1 (1977) 77; Campisi, , ‘Hudson Valley Indians’, 167168.

49 Campisi, , ‘Hudson Valley Indians’, 166, 168; Gehring, and Starna, , ‘Dutch and Indians in the Hudson Valley’, 78; Starna, , ‘Seventeenth-Century Dutch-Indian Trade’, 5.

50 Brasser, Ted J., ‘The Coastal New York Indians in the Early Contact Period’ in: Neighbors and Intruders 153; Lenig, , ‘Dutchmen’, 73.

51 Juet, , ‘Third Voyage’, NNN, 22.

52 Trade goods began appearing among the Senecas at least by 1560, and by 1575 on Oneida sites, while similar finds have been made among the Mohawk sites for goods dating from 1550. Some findings in Western New York date as far back as 1525. Ceci, Lynn, The Effect of European Contact and Trade on the Settlement Pattern of Indians in coastal New York, 1524–1665 (Ph.D. dissertation. City University of New York 1977) 158, 170–171; Lenig, , ‘Dutchmen’, 73, 75; Baart, Jan, ‘Ho-De-No-Sau-Nee en de Nederlanders: De Wissel-werking tussen de Materiēle Culturen van Autochtonen en Allochtonen in 17e-eeuws Nieuw-Nederland’, Bulletin WVOB84/2 and 3 (1985) 9899; Wray, Charles F., ‘The Volume of Dutch Trade Goods Received by the Seneca Iroquois, 1600–1687 A.D.’, Bulletin KNOB 84/2 and 3 (1985) 103; Hamell, George R., ‘The Iroquois and the World's Rim: Speculaotions on Color, Culture, and Contact’, American Indian Quarterly XVI/4 (1992) 458; Axtell, James, ‘At the Water's Edge: Trading in the Sixteenth Century’, in: After Columbus: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America (New York 1988) 175177; Richter, Daniel K., The Ordeal of the Long House: The Peoples ofthe Iroquois League in the Era ofEuropean Colonization (Chapel Hill 1992) 5354 . While there is strong archeological evidence for such indirect European-Native American trade among the Iroquois, similar evidence has not been found to support extensive pre-Hudson trade, either directly or indirectly, between Europeans and the Lenapes. See Otto, ‘First Contact’.

53 Brasser, , ‘Coastal New York Indians’, 153 . Perhaps they had received word from Indians further downstream that strangers were coming and this added to their mental preparedness.

54 Juet, , ‘Third Voyage’, NNN, 2223.

55 De Laet, , ‘New World’, NNN, 49.

56 Jameson, , NNN, 4, 34; Asher, , Henry Hudson, ccviii–ccx.

57 Laet, De, ‘New World’, NNN, 49.

* Much of the work on this article was done during my 1993–1994 stay in Leiden. Many thanks go to the Netherlands-American Commission for Educational Exchange who funded my stay under the auspices of the Fulbright Program, to Pieter Emmer and Jaap Jacobs for my affiliation with the Institute for the History of European Expansion and their help in getting me settled in Leiden, to Wim Klooster and Victor Enthoven for making a place for me on the program of the Institute's semi-annual studiedag where I presented a portion of this research, and to R. David Edmunds, Bernard Sheehan, and Hans Vogel for reading various versions of this paper and offering helpful suggestions.

The Origins of New Netherland. Interpreting Native American Responses to Henry Hudson's Visit*

  • Paul Otto (a1)


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