What Was New Netherland?


Known as wampum or sewant, these shell beads were so highly valued by Indians that they took the place of currency. Rather than silver coins, the Dutch purchased goods and land with these beads or with beaver pelts. To learn more, watch this video of Arthur Kirmss, who makes wampum using 17th century techniques and tools. 

What did they do?

Many of the people who lived in New Netherland were involved in the fur trade with the Indians, particularly the Mohawks. Beaver pelts and other skins were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to make felt hats and fur coats for Europeans. But not all colonists were traders, and many traders did other work. Most were farmers; others were bakers, shipbuilders, millers, shopkeepers, tailors, brewers, butchers, carpenters, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, coopers, and school teachers. But almost everyone traded in furs.

The colonists of New Netherland rarely used coins to buy goods and services. Instead they paid with furs or with shell beads, called wampum or sewant. These beads also served a ceremonial and decorative function among Indians.

About the New Netherland Institute

For over three decades, NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

The New Netherland Research Center

Housed in the New York State Library, the NNRC offers students, educators, scholars and researchers a vast collection of early documents and reference works on America's Dutch era. More


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