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The Memory of All Ancient Customs

Native American Diplomacy in the Colonial Hudson Valley

by Tom Arne Midtrød

Publication Year: 2012

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.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of maps

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xxii

On August 2, 1762, a local official of Dutchess County, New York, recorded the oral testimony of a thirty-six-year-old Hudson Valley Indian named David Ninham. This witness, who was in all likelihood identical to the later sachem (or chief ) Daniel Nimham, described himself as “a River Indian, of the tribe of the Wappingers, ...

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

I have accumulated many academic and personal debts during the years since I first began my research for this book. I owe a particularly large debt of gratitude to the faculty in the Department of History at Northern Illinois University. My advisor, Professor Aaron Fogleman, provided me with years of personal and scholarly advice. ...


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pp. xxv-xxviii


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pp. xxix-xxxii

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Introduction: Politics and Society

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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. ...

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1. Ties That Bound

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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. ...

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2. Patterns of Diplomacy

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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, ...

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3. Struggling with the Dutch

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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. ...

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4. Living with the English

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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. ...

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5. Friends and Enemies

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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.” ...

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6. In the Shadow of the Longhouse

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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. ...

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7. Change and Continuity

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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, ...

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8. War and Disunity

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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. ...

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9. Disaster and Dispersal

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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,” ...

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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. ...


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pp. 217-268


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pp. 269-288


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pp. 289-298

E-ISBN-13: 9780801464126
E-ISBN-10: 0801464129
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801449376
Print-ISBN-10: 0801449375

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 797828465
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Memory of All Ancient Customs

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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Hudson River Valley (N.Y. and N.J.) -- Politics and government -- 17th century.
  • Indians of North America -- Hudson River Valley (N.Y. and N.J.) -- Politics and government -- 18th century.
  • Indians of North America -- Hudson River Valley (N.Y. and N.J.) -- Government relations.
  • Indians of North America -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
  • Hudson River Valley (N.Y. and N.J.) -- Ethnic relations.
  • New York (State) -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
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