Crossing the Sound
The Rise of Atlantic American Communities in Seventeenth-Century Eastern Long Island
Publication Year: 2004
In seventeenth-century North America, communities on eastern Long Island were an integral part of the tumultuous and dynamic New England region and the larger Atlantic American world. They were created and modified by ideas and traditions that were inherent to life in Atlantic America and were not simply imported from Europe or established solely by settlers and imposed on native peoples.
In Crossing the Sound Faren R. Siminoff skillfully weaves new data with sophisticated theoretical analysis to demonstrate that the development of eastern Long Island was based more on complex interactions between settlers and native peoples than on clashes between the two groups. English and Dutch colonists did not merely transport traditional systems of land ownership, political organizations, and control of economic resources to the Northeast. Rather, both settlers and natives underwent a process of negotiation, resulting in a hybrid society that adapted and reworked new and old patterns of life, highlighting the lasting influence of native communities on the emerging American identity.
This compelling case study adds new layers to the history of the Atlantic world: it becomes a story without a dominant voice or community at its core, demonstrating that neither monolithic groups nor static interests prevailed in the region. Crossing the Sound offers a fresh interpretation of colonial relationships tracing social, cultural, and political exchanges between groups.
Published by: NYU Press
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On May 26, 1637, in a short but destructive military engagement, militias made up of English settlers and spearheaded by the fledgling Massachusetts Bay Colony destroyed the Pequot Indians’ stronghold at Mystic and ended the Pequot War. Militia commander Captain John Underhill proclaimed that the powerful Pequots and their lands were “fully subdued and fallen into the...
Part I: Native and Settler: Communities of Interest in Southern New England, 1600–1640
1. The Ninnimissinuok and Their Communities of Interest
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In 1660, a little more than twenty years after the end of the Pequot War, the former commander of Saybrook Fort, Lion Gardiner, published his memoir of that conflict. In it, he strongly criticized the settlers’ and, in particular, the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s pursuit of a policy that had led to the utter destruction of the Pequots solely in the pursuit of self-interest and regional dominance....
2. English and Dutch Communities of Interest
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The seventeenth century was a time of tremendous change not only for the Ninnimissinuok peoples but also for the flood of Europeans who crossed the Atlantic and became part of the rampant mixture of peoples who made up the southern New England landscape. Into this region were drawn ever-increasing numbers of Dutch and English settlers who asserted overlapping claims to...
3. East End Realignment
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By the early summer of 1637, at the end of the Pequot War, untold numbers of Pequots were dead, the survivors scattered and seeking refuge with neighboring native groups to escape capture and sale into slavery, while the surviving leadership attempted to elude the certain death that awaited them if they were captured by English militiamen or their native accomplices. Even as the...
Part II: Engagements for Land and Community: The Struggle Moves to Long Island’s East End
4. English Settlers Cross the Sound
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The English settlements on eastern Long Island were the result of the confluence of interests continually in flux throughout the region. The most common conduit for these interests was land. This was true for all the region’s players. The local English and Dutch colonial entities pursued an agenda that called for them to control as much land as possible in the region on their own terms; the English...
5. Treaties and Deeds: A New Land Tenure System on the East End
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The use of treaties and deeds negotiated between native and settler communities grew steadily during the early decades of the seventeenth century and became almost universally accepted practice shortly after the Pequot War. It was the Dutch who pioneered their routine use in Atlantic America, largely for self-serving reasons than out of respect for their Indian neighbors’ rights. The Dutch...
6. Atlantic American Communities Take Root on the East End
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By 1640, after the Pequot War, Atlantic American communities began to take root on the East End, reshaping the land and all people’s relationship to it. This transformation was as much predicated in the parties’ precontact traditions and heritage as in the new circumstances created by the close and constant proximity of natives and settlers. Groups were forced to search...
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In reexamining the history of southern New England’s peoples and settlements, Crossing the Sound discards the traditional notions of a “New” England, which, like the name it bears, conjures up an image of English communities that were virtual facsimiles of their homeland. Over the past decades, historians of southern New England have added immeasurably to our knowledge of the area, through both local town studies and the tremendous amount of research done...
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About the Author
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Faren R. Siminoff received her Ph.D. in American history from New York University and is Assistant Professor of American History at Nassau Community College. She also holds a law degree from Syracuse University College of Law and has specialized in Native American...
Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2004