[Note: This is a single part of what will be, by my classification, about 240 compact tribal histories (contact to 1900). It is limited to the lower 48 states of the U.S. but also includes those First Nations from Canada and Mexico that had important roles (Huron, Micmac, Assiniboine, etc.).
This history's content and style are representative. The normal process at this point is to circulate an almost finished product among a peer group for comment and criticism. At the end of this History you will find links to those Nations referred to in the History of the Metoac.
Using the Internet, this can be more inclusive. Feel free to comment or suggest corrections via e-mail. Working together we can end some of the historical misinformation about Native Americans. You will find the ego at this end to be of standard size. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your comments...Lee Sultzman]
See also The Montauk Tribe is no more...
Long Island, New York east of the Nassau County line.
The population of all of the Metoac tribes in 1600 was probably somewhere around 10,000, but the combined effects of warfare and epidemic during the next 60 years were devastating. By 1659 less than 500 Metoac remained on Long Island. By 1788 their number had fallen to 162, and the 1910 census listed 167 Shinnecock, 29 Montauk, and one Poosepatuck. Currently, there are
two reservations on Long Island: the Shinnecock with nearly 400 residents; and the 200 Unkechaug at the Poospatock Reserve. Besides those on the reservations, there are more than 1,400 Metoac living in the immediate area. Although the State of New York attempted to close the reservations during the 1930s, state recognition of the Shinnecock and Unkechaug dates from the colonial period. However, since they have not signed treaties with the United States, neither tribe is federally recognized.
Spread across an island more than 120 miles in length, the Metoac apparently did not have a collective name for themselves. Jameco has been used upon occasion, as well as Manhattan meaning "island people." Other tribes sometimes referred to them as Sewanakie meaning "salt water people," but in most cases this was an Algonquin name for Europeans, especially the Dutch. The Metoac are frequently called the Montauk, the name of the largest tribe.
Algonquin. The Metoac spoke two dialects reflecting the language relationships between the Algonquin tribes just to the north of them in Connecticut. The Montauk and Shinnecock of eastern Long Island spoke a Y-dialect similar to the Pequot, Mohegan, Niantic, and Narragansett of eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island, while the Metoac in the central and western portion used an R-dialect identical to the Mattabesic in western Connecticut and the Wappinger on the east side of the lower Hudson River.
Canarsee, Corchaug (Cochaug), Manhasset (Manhansick), Manhattan, Massapequa (Marsapequa, Maspeth), Matinecock (Matinecoc), Merrick (Meroke, Merikoke, Meracock), Montauk (Meanticut), Nesaquake (Missaquogue), Patchogue (Onechechaug, Patchoag), Rockaway (Rechaweygh, Rechquaakie), Secatoag (Secatogue), Setauket (Seatalcat), Shinnecock, and Unkechaug (Unchachaug, Unquaches, Unquachog, Unquachock, Unchechauge).
Amagansett, Aquehogue, Ashamomuck, Asharoken, Caumsett, Connetquot (Cannetquot), Cutchogue, Manhasset, Mashomack, Maskahnong, Massapequa, Mastick, Mattituck, Merrick, Mochgonnekonck, Montauk, Moriches, Nesaquake, Nesconset, Nissequogue, Ouheywichkingh, Ouogue, Poosepatuck (Poospatock), Rechquaakie, Rechqunakie, Shagwong, and Syosset. In addition, there were Metoac villages at Cold Spring (Matinecock), Cow Harbor (Matinecock), Fireplace, Flushing (Matinecock), Glen Cove (Matinecock), Hog Island (Manhasset), Huntington (Matinecock), Ram Island (Manhasset), Shelter Island (Manhasset), and Westhampton.
Metoac is a geographic, rather than political, grouping of the tribes of Long Island, and for no other reason than Manhattan was also an island, they will include the tribe of that name. For linguistic reasons, the tribes on Staten Island are considered Unami Delaware. Since all of the Long Island tribes were culturally similar, not only to each other, but to other tribes just to the north on the southern coast of New England, and there is no general consensus on their classification. The Metoac were an agricultural people who supplemented their diet with fishing and hunting. Although they lived in villages, there was regular seasonal movement in a fixed pattern to take advantage of the resources. Villages were generally small and rarely fortified until they were living under constant threat after 1630. Although they sometimes joined in loose confederations, their lack of a strong central authority before contact was a clear indication there was little intertribal conflict. By far, the most distinctive characteristic of the Metoac was their important role in native trade.
It was the Metoac's grave misfortune to occupy the northern shore of Long Island which was the source of the best wampum in the Northeast. Each summer, the Metoac harvested clam shells from the waters of Long Island Sound which, during the winter, were painstakingly fashioned into small beads. Strung together in long strands, they were called "wampompeag" - shortened somewhat by the English colonists into the more familiar form of "wampum" ...the Dutch called it siwan (sewan). The Metoac traded this painstakingly crafted product to other tribes (most notably the Mahican) and prospered as a result. Passed from tribe to tribe, Long Island wampum made its way as far west as the Black Hills of South Dakota. The strings of shell beads were sometimes employed as a rudimentary currency in native trade, but it was also valued for personal decoration. Arranged into belts whose designs could convey ideas, wampum was also employed in native diplomacy to bind important agreements such as war and peace.
It came in two varieties: white and dark (which varied from purple to black). In general, the dark beads had a value roughly twice that of white. The shells from which wampum was made were found on both sides of Long Island Sound, so the Metoac never had a monopoly. Other tribes (Delaware, Mattabesic, Niantic, Pequot, and Narragansett) were also involved in its manufacture, but the wampum created by the Metoac on the northern shore of Long Island was considered the best. After 1600, the European fur trade distorted the original purposes and value of wampum. Strung together and measured in fathoms, it became a medium of exchange in trade between white and native which greatly increased its value. A peaceful people cursed with a valuable resource, the Metoac proved easy prey for more powerful and aggressive tribes.
Before 1600, the Metoac lived in peace and relative isolation on Long Island and prospered from the wampum they manufactured and traded to other tribes. Although they were probably envied by some of their neighbors, there was, as their lack of fortified villages and central authority plainly suggests, no serious threat to their security. Farther down the trade chain, there was trouble. The role of the Mahican Confederacy as middlemen in the Long Island wampum trade was a source of their power over the rival Iroquois and an important reason for the pre-contact hostility between them. For similar reasons, there had also been occasional war between the Susquehannock and Delaware over wampum. but this had always been of relatively low intensity and nothing approaching the level of violence which came later. Dramatic changes began to occur soon after Henry Hudson, looking for the Northwest Passage on behalf of the Dutch East India Company, explored Delaware Bay and the Hudson River in 1609.
Hudson never found this mythical shortcut to China, but he returned to Europe with a cargo of valuable fur. The following year, another Dutch ship arrived on the Hudson to trade with the Mahican. Because they did not have that many beaver, the Dutch ignored the tribes on Long Island and the lower Hudson River and concentrated their initial efforts inland with the Mahican and Mohawk. By 1614 they had established a permanent trading post, Fort Nassau just south of Albany, but three years later abandoned it because of floods and a war between the Mahican and Mohawk. After arranging a truce between the warring parties in 1618, the Dutch rebuilt Fort Nassau on the east side of the Hudson. In a major expansion in 1624, the Dutch West India Company brought thirty Dutch families to New Netherlands to settle in the Mahican homeland. Construction began on a new post, Fort Orange, on the west side of the river at Albany, but almost immediately the fighting resumed between the Mohawk and Mahican.
By 1628 the Iroquois had defeated the Mahican and driven them east of the Hudson. Meanwhile, to the south, the Susquehannock in 1626 had attacked the Delaware villages in the Delaware River Valley to gain better access to the Dutch. By 1638 the Delaware had been conquered and forced to pay tribute to the Susquehannock. In the midst of this, the Dutch had expanded their trade east along the north shore of Long Island Sound to the Pequot, Niantic, and Mattabesic in Connecticut and built a trading post on the Connecticut River near Hartford. Since European currencies were of little value for Native Americans, most of the early trade was barter which had serious limitations. This changed in 1622 after an incident at the Dutch trading post in Connecticut. Determined to dominate the fur trade in the area, the Pequot attacked a group of Mattabesic visiting the post for trade. The Dutch trader reacted by seizing a Pequot sachem as hostage, and to win his release, the Pequot offered him a ransom of wampum.
The trader accepted the gift but killed his prisoner, and the Pequot retaliated by burning down his trading post. However, the fur trade was far too important to both parties to allow little things like a dead sachem and a burned building interfere. Apologies were exchanged and trade resumed, but the incident had made the Dutch aware of the potential of wampum as "money." When they started to accept wampum as payment for their trade goods, its value and purpose changed dramatically. Living in eastern Connecticut, an area not especially blessed with beaver, the Pequot and their Western Niantic allies could make wampum, but not nearly enough to satisfy their appetite for European goods. They did, however, have a very clear idea of how to solve their problem. Jumping in their canoes, the Pequot paddled across the sound to Long Island and, after breaking a few heads and burning a few villages, explained to the Metoac that they now had a new partner in their "wampum business."
So the Metoac became a conquered people subject to the Pequot. In response to the increased demand and value of wampum, the Metoac altered their pattern of seasonal movements and concentrated almost entirely on the gathering and production of the shell beads. However, it is doubtful they received much of a benefit from their greater efforts, since every year canoe-loads of their wampum was sent across the sound as tribute to the Pequot. By 1630 the English colonists in Massachusetts had also started using wampum as currency and were competing with the Dutch in the fur trade. However, English ingenuity soon took things to a new level. Using steel drills, the English began to manufacture their own wampum giving a new meaning to the idea of "making money." This greatly increased the available supply, although Native Americans in the region continued to prefer the original hand-crafted, but more irregular, variety. Wampum became legal tender in New England in 1637.
That same year, the Pequot were almost exterminated during a war with the English colonists in Connecticut. Although the Metoac were subject to, and therefore nominally allies of the Pequot, few provided any assistance to the Pequot during the conflict. After the English destroyed their fort at Mystic, the Pequot abandoned their villages and fled. As the English and their Mohegan and Narragansett allies hunted them down, several groups sought refuge with the Metoac on Long Island. The Metoac, however, were aware of "which way the wind was blowing" and had little love for their former masters. Rather than incur the wrath of the English by helping the Pequot refuges, the Montauk visited Fort Saybrook and placed themselves under English protection. However, the price of peace was to help the English destroy the Pequot. Several Pequot on Long Island were captured and executed by the Metoac and their heads delivered to the English at Fort Saybrook. Under the peace signed at Hartford in 1638, a small group of Pequot who had managed to surrender became subject to the Montauk and were allowed to settle on Long Island, However, to keep them, the Montauk were forced to pay an annual tribute of wampum to the English Governor of New Haven.
In 1640 the first English settlers from New England arrived at Southampton on the east end of Long Island. Because there were so few Dutch colonists at New Netherlands on the west end, a second group of English was permitted to settle near Hempstead on land claimed by the Dutch. The Metoac not only began to lose their lands to Europeans but gained greater exposure to epidemics. Although there had been some trade after 1610, a permanent Dutch presence among the Metoac had not started until 1625 when Pieter Minuit had purchased Manhattan Island from the Manhattan Indians for twenty-five dollars in trade goods. A fort was built at the south end of the island, and a small town (New Amsterdam) created for the farmers brought to supply its garrison. In 1636 the first Dutch settlement on Long Island (Nieuw Amersfoort) began at a place called Flatlands (Flatbush). In time the name would be changed to Breukelen (Brooklyn), but until 1639 there were so few Dutch that the Manhattan had continued to live on the north end of their island. That year the Dutch West India Company decided to surrender its monopoly in the fur trade and permit individual Dutch colonists to join the trade.
With this new incentive, Dutch immigration to New Netherlands increased dramatically, and as their settlement spread across the area and took more land, there was immediate friction with the neighboring tribes. Although they were required by law to purchase lands from the natives, Dutch colonists were prone to cheat and lubricate their agreements with brandy. Another source of trouble was that the Dutch farmers permitted livestock to forage freely in the woods where they often invaded unfenced native corn fields. Many animals disappeared as a result. and Dutch farmers demanded compensation which led to the Pig War (1640). Governor Kieft, sent by the company in 1639 to correct the general moral laxity in the colony, overreacted to the disappearance of some pigs on Staten Island and sent 100 armed men to punish the Raritan (Unami Delaware). The expedition killed several Raritan, including a sachem, and the Raritan retaliated by burning a farm and killing four Dutch workers.
Kieft declared a war of extermination and offered a bounty of ten fathoms of wampum for each Raritan head brought to him at Fort Amsterdam. Most tribes chose not to respond to this offer, but because there had been some earlier hostility before contact, some Metoac "took up the hatchet" against the Raritan and brought Kieft one head, the exact identity of its owner uncertain. Other confrontations followed during 1642: the Whiskey War with the Hackensack in New Jersey; and a near-war to the north with the Wecquaesgeek (Wappinger). Tensions were further aggravated when the Narragansett sachem Miontonimo, in the company of 100 of his warriors from Rhode Island, visited the Metoac villages on Long Island that summer to recruit allies for a war against the Mohegan in Connecticut. Kieft misinterpreted Miontonimo's intention and became convinced a secret uprising was being organized against the Dutch and English.
With the situation deteriorating on the lower Hudson, the Dutch, for obvious reasons, were reluctant to sell guns to the Metoac and other tribes near their settlements. However, this was not the case with the Mahican and Mohawk upstream at Albany. Not only did these two powerful tribes provide them with most of their fur, but they were locked in a bitter struggle along the St. Lawrence River with the French-allied (and armed) Huron, Algonkin, and Montagnais. At first, both the French and Dutch limited the amount of guns and ammunition they would sell, but competition with other Europeans - Swedes on the Delaware River and English from Boston - ended most of these self-imposed restrictions. The final step came in 1640 after English traders along the Connecticut River, to lure the Mohawk away from the Dutch, began to offer to supply them with guns. The Dutch responded by selling the Mohawk and Mahican all the firearms for which they could pay.
Although they instantly became heavily armed, the problem remained for the Mohawk and Mahican as to how they would pay for their new weapons. After years of trade with the Dutch, both had exhausted the beaver in their homelands and needed new hunting territory, but to expand against their northern enemies, they needed even more guns. The fact that the Dutch also accepted wampum in trade provided them with an easy solution, since this could be gotten relatively easily by demanding tribute from the weaker tribes (since the Dutch were refusing to arm the Metoac, Wappinger, and Munsee Delaware) to the south on the lower Hudson. While the Mohawk pressured the Munsee west of the river, the Mahican went after the Wappinger on the east side. During the winter of 1642-43, Mahican warriors came to the Wecquaesgeek (Wappinger) villages demanding tribute, but their extortion met resistance. In the battle which resulted, several Wecquaesgeek were killed and many of their women and children captured. The Wecquaesgeek fled south to what they thought would be the protection of the Dutch settlements on Manhattan.
After a short stay, they moved across the Hudson to the Hackensack and Tappan villages in New Jersey. Unfortunately, Kieft decided this concentration was a prelude to an uprising, and deciding to strike first, he ordered surprise attacks on the Wecquaesgeek villages. In what has been called the Pavonia Massacre, Dutch soldiers massacred 110 Wecquaesgeek and started the Wappinger War (Governor Kieft's War 1643-45). Aided by the Hackensack and Tappan, the other Wappinger retaliated with attacks on the outlying Dutch farms and settlements. The Dutch were quickly driven inside Fort Amsterdam, and Kieft, preparing for a prolonged siege, further inflamed the situation by sending troops to seize corn from the Metoac. Three Canarsee were killed, and the war spread to the Metoac tribes on the western end of Long Island. Twenty tribes ultimately joined the war against the Dutch: Hackensack, Haverstraw, Munsee, Navasink, Raritan, Tappan from New Jersey; Wecquaesgeek, Sintsink, Kitchawank, Nochpeem, Siwanoy, Tankiteke, and Wappinger from east of the Hudson; and Canarsee, Manhattan, Rockaway, Matinecock, Massapequa, Secatoag, and Merrick on Long Island.
Even Kieft must have been amazed at what he had started, but the situation was still salvageable. In the spring of 1643, David De Vries was able to convince 18 Metoac sachems to attend a meeting with Kieft. Still denouncing the Dutch as "corn thieves," the Metoac signed a treaty in April agreeing to a truce and sent envoys to the Hackensack and Tappan urging them to do likewise. However, the Wappinger were still not satisfied and the fighting resumed that fall. Seeking to keep the war from spreading, Kieft travelled to Fort Orange (Albany) and signed a treaty of trade and friendship with the Mohawk and Mahican. Although neither of these tribes intervened on behalf of the Dutch, the mere threat they would was enough to discourage other tribes from entering the war. Kieft then offered 25,000 guilders to the English colonists in Connecticut to help the Dutch put down the revolt. Captain John Underhill organized two companies of 120 volunteers complete with Mohegan scouts and joined the fight early in 1644.
After an unsuccessful expedition against the Raritan on Staten Island, the English and Dutch combined forces in March to lay waste to the Canarsee, Merrick, and Massapequa villages on western Long Island.. Other attacks followed against the Wappinger villages on the north shore of Long Island Sound, and although little remembered today, the Wappinger War was one of the most brutal of the Indian wars. By the time the Wappinger sachems came to make peace at Fort Amsterdam in the spring of the 1645, they and their allies had lost at least 1,600 of their people in the fighting. The Dutch, however, could do nothing at this time because the Metoac, who had suffered the most (more than 1,000 dead), refused to lay down their arms. The Wappinger asked the Mahican to mediate, and perhaps because they were threatened with annihilation, the Metoac finally agreed to peace. A treaty was signed at Fort Orange that August in which the Wappinger and western Metoac became subject to the Mahican with the western Metoac forced to pay an enormous annual tribute of wampum to the Mahican.
Without the loss of one of their own warriors, the agreement effectively put the Mahican (and indirectly the Mohawk since the Mahican were to pay tribute to the Mohawk by the terms of their peace in 1628) in control of the wampum trade on the west end of Long Island. The Metoac had also been decimated in this conflict, but, adding insult to injury, the Mahican did not bother to collect their tribute themselves and used the Wappinger as their "enforcers." Failure to pay brought Wappinger raids on the Metoac villages which the Dutch made no effort to prevent. With both Dutch and English settling on Long Island, it became necessary to reach an agreement on territorial claims. In a treaty signed at Hartford in 1650, the Dutch and English divided the Metoac homeland between themselves. The Dutch retained the west end with the Canarsee, Massapequa, Matinecock, Merrick, Nesaquake, Rockaway, and Secatoag, while the English kept the eastern half with the Corchaug, Manhasset, Montauk, Patchogue, Setauket, Shinnecock, and Unkechaug.
Close cooperation between the Dutch and English ended for the most part with the start of First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-54). Meanwhile, to escape the demands of the Wappinger and Mahican for wampum, the Metoac began abandoning the western end of the island. Some groups left entirely and moved across the Hudson, first to Staten Island and then inland into New Jersey where they were absorbed by the Unami and Munsee Delaware ...most of the Rockaway apparently ending up near the Ramapo Mountains in northeast New Jersey. Others crowding east onto the English section of Long Island, found little relief at that end. In 1653 the Narragansett and Niantic crossed Long Island Sound and conquered the Montauk. With the western Metoac forced to pay tribute to the Mohawk and Mahican, and the Narragansett taking a "cut of the action on the east end, about the only thing the Metoac were getting for their wampum was trouble.
After 1645 Dutch immigration to New Netherlands increased and the population jumped from 2,000 to 10,000 by 1660. Combined with the illegal brandy available at New Amsterdam, it was not a situation conducive to peace. In 1655 a Dutch farmer shot and killed a Wappinger woman he caught stealing a peach from a tree in his garden. When her relatives did not receive satisfaction at Fort Amsterdam, they intercepted a Wappinger war party enroute to attack the Metoac and diverted it to Manhattan to avenge the killing. Suddenly, Dutch settlers found they had 200 angry Wappinger warriors tearing the island apart looking for the culprit. They eventually found and seriously wounded him, but in the meantime they got into a fight with burgher guards (Dutch militia). After deaths to both sides, the warriors retired across the Hudson and, joined by the Hackensack, burned Dutch farms at Pavonia, Hoboken, and Staten Island. The Peach War cost the Dutch 50 lives, and afterwards Governor Peter Stuyvesant was forced to ransom another 50 colonists who had been taken prisoner.
Meanwhile, the Metoac failed to see the humor in the fact that one of the Wappinger war parties being sent against themselves had attacked the Dutch instead. Over the years, they had grown increasingly angry that the Dutch did nothing while the Wappinger attacked them whenever they failed to pay the tribute demanded by the Mahican, and by 1655 they were making plans to kill all of the Dutch on Long Island. They were also threatening to do the same thing to the English on the island if they tried to stop it. Despite this, the English warned Stuyvesant in time to prevent an uprising. After negotiations, a treaty was signed in March, 1656 with the Canarsee, Massapequa, Merrick, Nesaquake, Rockaway, and Secatoag where the Dutch promised improved trade and a fort for protection. This ended the immediate threat, but the unrest continued. During 1658 smallpox swept through the Metoac villages on Long Island killing more than half of the Montauk. The epidemic stripped many of the tribes of their leaders, and in the chaos which followed, warriors raided several Dutch farms.
Governor Stuyvesant was forced to respond with troops at a time when they were desperately needed elsewhere. The First Esopus War (1659-60) erupted upstream with the Munsee in September, but troubles with the Metoac delayed Stuyvesant for three weeks before he was finally able to rush north to help the Dutch settlers in the Esopus Valley. The fighting ended the following year with a treaty in which the Mohawk and Mahican guaranteed the peace. Unfortunately, the Mohawk and Mahican got into a war with each other in 1662, and the Esopus seized the opportunity to renew the war to expel the Dutch from their lands (Second Esopus War, 1663-64). Forty-six Massapequa warriors joined the Dutch offensive and served as scouts against the Esopus. Peace was signed that May, but the Dutch had little time to enjoy it. In September an English fleet captured New Amsterdam and the rest of New Netherlands surrendered within a few days. Except for a brief period when the Dutch recaptured it in 1673, Great Britain retained control, and the Dutch role in the settlement of North America had ended.
Meanwhile, the beaver skin had replaced wampum as the unofficial currency of the fur trade, and by 1661 wampum was no longer legal tender in New England. All of which came too late to help the Metoac. By 1664 most of the tribes on western end of Long Island had abandoned their villages and relocated west of the Hudson. English settlement would soon drive them further west. The remaining Metoac had shifted themselves east and were concentrated near the English settlements at eastern end of the island. By 1666 only 500 Metoac remained on Long Island when they were encouraged to move to two reservations which the English had created for them that year. Their remaining lands continued to pass rapidly into the hands of white colonists, until there were less than 4,000 acres in 1703. Their population also continued to decline, mainly from disease and alcohol abuse, and by 1788 there were only 162 Metoac left on the entire island.
Soon afterward, most of these left to join the Brotherton Indians, a group of Christian converts organized by the Mohegan Samson Occum, who were living with the Oneida in upstate New York. The Brotherton Indians left New York in 1833 and moved to northern Wisconsin where a large number of their descendents still live on the east side of Lake Winnebago. They are not currently federally recognized. A few Metoac chose to remain on their Long Island homeland. Largely Christian and acculturated today, many of the Shinnecock served on whaling ships during the 1800s. Long Island is not what most people would think of as "Indian Country," but it has two reservations: the Shinnecock and Poosepatuck. Both tribes are recognized by the state of New York. The Shinnecock in recent years have attained national recognition by sponsoring a major golf tournament held annually at the Shinnecock Country Club.
First Nations referred to in this Metoac History: