The Dutch Among the Natives

American Indian-Dutch Relations, 1609–1664


"In the beginning of this year [1628], war broke out between the Maikans near Fort Orange and the Makuaes, but these beat and captured the Maikans and drove off the remainder who have settled towards the north." Nicolaes van Wassenaer on the Mohawk-Mahican War.

"Concerning the gathering of the savages...It is rumored among them, that they would return in a day or two and go to war with the Morahicanders, but God only knows what will come of it." Letter of Andries Louwrensen on the Esopus War, August 1658.

"Seweckenamo arose and said...that the treaty might be as solid as in a stick, which he took hold of, one end was attached, and firmly united to the other." From the articles of peace made between the Esopus Indians and Dutch authorities, May 15, 1664.

Although there had been the occasional run-in between Native people and Dutch settlers in the years following the arrival of the Halve Maen, nothing that could be considered warfare took place until 1626. That July, Mahican warriors, accompanied by Dutch troops led by Daniel van Crieckenbeeck, the commander at Fort Orange, marched against the Mohawks. A short distance from the fort they were overwhelmed and Van Crieckenbeeck, some of his men, and a number of Mahicans were killed. Dutch authorities quickly stepped in to quell what might have become a more serious problem, one that would end the trade in furs. Warring would continue both within and beyond New Netherland, much of it related to age-old animosities that had existed between Native peoples before the arrival of the Dutch or any other Europeans. By the early 1640s, the Mohawks and other Iroquois were able to purchase guns from the Dutch, which they put to effective use in the "Beaver Wars" incited mostly by efforts to gain access to much needed beaver-hunting territories but also to take captives to replace lost kin. The Iroquois targeted the Hurons along with other Northern Iroquoians in the eastern Great Lakes, destroying villages and taking captives, many of whom were enslaved. In the lower Hudson Valley and southern New England the sale of Indian lands continued, and with it, pressures felt from the further expansion of settlements that, along with belligerent policy moves by the Dutch, provoked a militant Native response. Between periods of uneasy but peaceful coexistence there was Kieft's War (1643–1645) followed by the Peach War and the Esopus Wars of the 1650s and early 1660s in which Munsee communities were involved. And there were clashes between the Mohawks and the Mahicans and Northern Indians of interior New England, which would extend into the seventeenth century well-after the English takeover.

David de Vries on Kieft's War, 1643

"A chief of the savages came to me, and told me that he was very sad. I asked him wherefor. He said that there were many of the Indian youths, who were constantly wishing for a war against us, as one had lost his father, another his mother, a third his uncle, and also their friends, and that the presents or recompense were not worth taking up; and that he would much rather have made presents out of his own purse to quiet them; but he could no longer keep them still, and that I must be careful going along in the woods; that those who knew me would do me no harm, but I might meet Indians who did not know me, who would shoot me."

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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

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