The Dutch Among the Natives

American Indian-Dutch Relations, 1609–1664


"The River is a mile broad: there is very high Land on both sides." Robert Juet, reporting from the Halve Maen sailing on the Hudson River, September 14, 1609.

 "The island of the Manhatas extends two leagues in length ... about seven leagues in circumference, full of trees, and in the middle rocky." Letter of Isaack de Rasière, 1628.

 "There it flows between two high rocky banks, and falls from a height equal to that of a church, with such a noise that we can sometimes hear it here with us." Domine Megapolensis describing the falls at Cohoes, 1644.

 "On account of its wholesome climate, therefore, the country has much to commend it." Adriaen van der Donck, 1655.

No one would dispute the fascination the Hudson Valley holds for the untold numbers of people that have contemplated its expanse, sailed its waters, or lived and labored among its forests, meadows, and tributary streams. From its source high in the Adirondack Mountains, south to New York Harbor, the magnificent river that courses through the valley's verdant hills and rocky bluffs had provided sustenance for its Native inhabitants for thousands of years. Marine and freshwater fish and shellfish—sturgeon, striped bass, shad, eel, and oysters—could be found in its waters. Surrounding woods and fields abounded in game while enormous flocks of passenger pigeons seasonally darkened the skies. The Mohawk River, flowing east into the Hudson from the homeland of a different Native people, provided easy access to the interior, soon to become a lucrative pathway for the Dutch-Indian fur trade. The wind "blows in New Netherland from all points of the compass," Adriaen van der Donck observed—the north winds a harbinger of cold weather after which the land comes alive warmed by southerly summer winds. Hot summers and bitter winters were routine, spring a time of changeable and turbulent weather, and fall as "pleasant as could be desired anywhere on earth." It's no wonder the valley so inspired the Hudson River painters of the mid-nineteenth century.

Pap-scan-ee, L.F. Tantillo
(click to enlarge)

An artistic rendering of a Mahican encampment on the east bank of the Hudson River, circa 1600. It is based on archaeological excavations at the Goldkrest site near Papscanee Island, south of Albany. Depicted are two types of dwellings—the domed wigwam or wetu and a pole-framed bark-covered house.

Winter in the Valley of the Mohawk, L.F. Tantillo
(click to enlarge)

A painting of Mohawk men returning home after a successful hunt. Their early seventeenth-century village of several longhouses was near "The Noses," shown in the background, heights of land some thirty miles west of Schenectady.

 
 

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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