The Dutch Among the Natives

American Indian-Dutch Relations, 1609–1664


"And many brought us Bevers skinnes, and Otters skinnes, which wee bought for Beades, Knives, and Hatchets." Robert Juet on the Hudson River near Albany, September 18, 1609.

"On this river there is a great traffick in the skinis of beavers, otters, foxes, bears, minks, wild cats, and the like." Johannes de Laet, 1625.

"Why should we go hunting: Half the time you have no cloth." Mohawk fur traders complaining to the Dutch about the lack of trade goods, 1628. Documents Relating to New Netherland, 1624-1626, 231.

"If this trade should be free to all without restriction, the fur-bearing animals would be too much hunted and the furs would be sold here below their value." Kiliaen van Rensselaer, November 25, 1633.


The St. Pieter, sailing out of Amsterdam in 1611, was the first ship whose mission was to engage in the fur trade, engendered by the fashion in Europe to wear hats made of felted beaver fur. It was followed by other vessels whose cargoes of trade goods would forever change Indian lives and foster, to one degree or another, often fitfully, a mutual dependency. The furs Natives trapped and then packed overland to Fort Orange were exchanged for iron axes, knives, copper and brass kettles, scissors, pins, awls, and glass beads. These and other goods were then substituted by the Indians for what they had long manufactured for themselves, such as clay cooking pots, basketry, and stone, bone, and wood tools. In pursuit of their own economic interests, the Dutch viewed the Native people of the region differently: those in the Hudson Valley, given their proximity to the Dutch and their settlements, were seen as more a potential threat rather than valuable consumers, while the Mohawks held the key to the interior and its wealth of furs.

With the rapid depletion of beaver in the valley below Fort Orange, Indians there took to selling off their lands for needed trade goods. From places to the west, through Mohawk country, the flow of furs to Fort Orange remained fairly constant—thousands of pelts were shipped downriver to New Amsterdam and from there to the United Provinces. Wampum or sewant, produced by Indians in southern New England and Long Island, soon became the medium of exchange for this trade.

Isaack de Rasiere, letter to the Amsterdam Chamber of the West India Company, September 23, 1626

"...the Minquaes (Susquehannock Indians) have been here from the south, some thirty or forty strong, and have sought our friendship. In return I showed them as much friendship as I could, so that they begged me that when the season approached I would send them....a small ship, [which they could use to store their furs], which I promised to do. Thereupon they presented me with ten beavers (beaver skins) and I gave them in return a [six-foot long piece ]  of duffel-cloth and a small quantity of beads, two hatchets, and a few other things, so that they got fully the value back, and this was done [together] in token of sworn friendship."

 
 
 

About the New Netherland Institute

For a quarter century 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. Directed by Dr. Charles Gehring. More

 

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