The Memory of All Ancient Customs

The Memory of All Ancient Customs: Native American Diplomacy in the Colonial Hudson Valley

Tom Arne Midtrød
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 328
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Memory of All Ancient Customs
    Book Description:

    In The Memory of All Ancient Customs, Tom Arne Midtrød examines the complex patterns of diplomatic, political, and social communication among the American Indian peoples of the Hudson Valley-including the Mahicans, Wappingers, and Esopus Indians-from the early seventeenth century through the American Revolutionary era. By focusing on how members of different Native groups interacted with one another, this book places Indians rather than Europeans on center stage.

    Midtrød uncovers a vast and multifaceted Native American world that was largely hidden from the eyes of the Dutch and English colonists who gradually displaced the indigenous peoples of the Hudson Valley. In The Memory of All Ancient Customs he establishes the surprising extent to which numerically small and militarily weak Indian groups continued to understand the world around them in their own terms, and as often engaged- sometimes violently, sometimes cooperatively-with neighboring peoples to the east (New England Indians) and west (the Iroquois ) as with the Dutch and English colonizers. Even as they fell more and more under the domination of powerful outsiders-Iroquois as well as Dutch and English-the Hudson Valley Indians were resilient, maintaining or adapting features of their traditional diplomatic ties until the moment of their final dispossession during the American Revolutionary War.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6412-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xxii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
  7. Chronology
    (pp. xxix-xxxiv)
  8. Introduction: Politics and Society
    (pp. 1-20)

    Their original homes lay far to the east, and by the early nineteenth century their memories of ancestral political divisions were growing dim. In the early 1820s, Unami-speaking Delaware informants told U.S. government investigators nothing of the Assupinks and Siconeses or other groups in the Delaware Valley who were the direct ancestors of their people. Perhaps they remembered but did not care to share, but other informants did stress the importance of older Native groups. Captain Chipps, a Canadian Munsee interviewed at Detroit in 1824, highlighted eight tribes; among these were both the Delawares and the Munsees, peoples that had...

  9. Chapter 1 Ties That Bound
    (pp. 21-40)

    Striking under cover of darkness, the attackers took the Indians by surprise. On the night between February 25 and 26, 1643, West India Company soldiers and New Netherland citizen volunteers massacred 120 Wiechquaesgeck and Tappan men, women, and children camping at Pavonia in present-day New Jersey and near New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island. The Natives were refugees seeking shelter from enemy war parties, and WIC director Willem Kieft now felt he had a chance to avenge recent killings of Dutch colonists by individual Native men. Dutchmen David de Vries and Cornelis Melyn recoiled at the scenes of terror that followed,...

  10. Chapter 2 Patterns of Diplomacy
    (pp. 41-60)

    Rumors traveled freely among the Indian peoples in the colonial Hudson Valley. In February 1700, the Highland Indians—probably the Wappingers—heard reports of “troublesome times” brewing in New England to their east. Such stories of impending unrest might have been no more than yet another idle tale, but the Wappingers felt they could not risk ignoring these reports, and therefore resolved to investigate the matter. Three messengers consequently went out to gather more reliable intelligence. These men brought belts of wampum both to the Catskills and to a colonial official at Albany, but could learn nothing of this matter...

  11. Chapter 3 Struggling with the Dutch
    (pp. 61-79)

    The sachems of nine Hudson Valley peoples had gathered to meet with New Netherland authorities in Fort Amsterdam. The treaty concluded on May 15, 1664, brought a formal end to the second war between the Dutch and the Esopus Indians, and the agreement imposed harsh terms on the Esopus people. But while some scholars have described the end of this conflict as the final act of Native accommodation to European rule in the Hudson Valley, the treaty itself fell short of Native submission to the Dutch. Although the Dutch sought to penalize the Esopus Indians, they did not compel them...

  12. Chapter 4 Living with the English
    (pp. 80-98)

    New York Council president Peter Schuyler and his colleagues were worried when they met with a group of Schaghticokes at Schenectady on July 6, 1703. At Schaghticoke, these Indians had served as a useful buffer against French and Indian incursions from Canada, but now they were determined to leave their settlement and resettle in the country of the Mohawks. Their departure would expose outlying farms in Albany County to the enemy, and Schuyler urged the Indians to turn aside from their purpose, invoking the name of their father the governor. But while the Schaghticokes acknowledged themselves to be the children...

  13. Chapter 5 Friends and Enemies
    (pp. 99-121)

    It was a day of celebration. Under the auspices of the magistrates of Albany—who expended £300 in gifts to the Indian delegates on this momentous occasion—Mahican and Mohawk envoys concluded a treaty on November 8, 1671, that brought an end to the seven-year war between the Iroquois and “the Mehecanders and all their associates.” Also attending were a number of Pocumtucks or other Indians from the Connecticut Valley, old friends of the Mahicans and other Hudson Valley Indians and their allies in the recent war. These Indians had chanced to be hunting in the neighborhood of Albany. When...

  14. Chapter 6 In the Shadow of the Longhouse
    (pp. 122-142)

    The speaker of the Esopus delegation was perhaps both embarrassed and relieved. At a meeting with the sachems of the lower Mohawk castle on May 28, 1756, the Esopus Indians described themselves as a poor people distressed by the ongoing war between Indians and English to their west and appealed to their Mohawk uncles for protection. The Mohawks had invited these nephews to seek shelter in their country about a month before, and it must have been a relief to the Esopus Indians that they were still welcome. Embarrassment came from their inexperience with the Iroquois. Somewhat uncomfortable with speaking...

  15. Chapter 7 Change and Continuity
    (pp. 143-166)

    Rumors had once again caused unrest, and the provincial authorities sought to stamp them out. On April 17,1700, sachems from Massapequa, Rockaway, and Westchester County met with English officials in New York City. Alarming reports had spread among their people, and these sachems were accompanied by chiefs from Unquachog and Southold on eastern Long Island, who had also heard these reports. The sachems wanted assurances of the king’s continuing protection, but they professed not to believe in tales of an English plot against them. After assuring the chiefs that the stories were false, Lieutenant Governor John Nanfan ordered refreshments for...

  16. Chapter 8 War and Disunity
    (pp. 167-190)

    The English settlements at Hoosick had gone up in flames. Abenaki raiders from the missions of St. Francis and Becancourt had struck on August 28, 1754, but the Abenakis were old allies of the French, and the most notable aspect of this attack was that the nearby Schaghticokes returned with the attackers to Canada, defecting from their alliance with New York. Canada had long been a destination for Schaghticoke migrants, but now the remainder of this community departed en masse, in the main ending their history as a Hudson Valley people.¹

    The defection of the Schaghticoke to the French was...

  17. Chapter 9 Disaster and Dispersal
    (pp. 191-209)

    The Revolutionary War was over, but residual violence lingered. In September 1784, the British commander at Fort Niagara investigated the unprovoked killing of three citizens of the newly minted state of New York near Lake Erie. The attackers were a group of Indians identified as “Mohiccons or Delawares,” and many Mahicans and other Hudson Valley Indians had fought in the Revolution as members of the British-Indian alliance. According to a report by a U.S. officer published in August 1783, 250 Mahicans were among those who had fought with the British and “stained their tomahawks with the blood of Americans.” But...

  18. Conclusion
    (pp. 210-216)

    The demise of a visible Native political life in the Hudson Valley by the early 1780s should not obscure the fact that the Indian societies in this area had been remarkably tenacious. The Hudson Valley Indians, like other eastern peoples, had stood in the direct path of European expansion since the early seventeenth century. Given the odds stacked against them, it is remarkable that such groups as the Wappingers, the Esopus Indians, and the Mahicans managed to maintain a strong presence in their homeland for as long as they did. By the 1650s Adriaen van der Donck had been ready...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 217-268)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-288)
  21. Index
    (pp. 289-298)