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xi This is a story, one of the many that has been or could be told about the Mahicans, an Indian people who lived along the tidal waters they called Muhheakunnuk, today’s Hudson River. It spans the years between 1600 and 1830, beginning just before the accepted first contact with European interlopers and ending with the removal of these Natives from New York State, their numbers having been augmented by Indians of Munsee and later other Delaware heritage. No thought was given to writing a definitive history of the Mahicans, an impossible task no matter the intention. As Francis Jennings has put it, the goal for historians should be to open the field rather than attempt to close it.1 The focus here is instead on the related themes of space—in the now common idiom , cultural landscapes—and movements through time, both of which are firmly rooted in historical context. Thus, the first objective is to situate the Mahicans in their homeland when it is most reasonably and securely possible, from about the middle decades of the seventeenth century into the eighteenth. The second is to trace the activities of Mahican communities as they sought to address their own needs and interests—economic, political, and otherwise; engage with Native friends and foes; and equally important, deal with the ever-encroaching and soon dominant European presence. Arguably the most disruptive, tangled, yet transformative period of Mahican history took place in the years between 1630 and 1730. Then, two decades before the violence and disruptions introduction xii Introduction of the mid-eighteenth-century French and Indian War, came a general coalescence of the Mahicans at Stockbridge, Massachusetts , and at the end of the American Revolution, a move to New Stockbridge, in the heart of Oneida country. Denied any possibility of returning to their homeland, the final destination of these Natives, reached by about 1830, was Wisconsin. It is no surprise that most of what is known of the Mahicans is derived from the records of colonizers. Absent any other mention , the first to approach their country was Henry Hudson and his crew aboard the Halve Maen in early fall 1609. Within a few short years the Dutch colony of New Netherland took shape, its farmsteads and homes centered chiefly around Manhattan in the south and the upper reaches of the Hudson River in the north. Fort Orange, at present-day Albany, was built in 1624, several years after Fort Nassau, a fur trading post on the river, had fallen into disrepair, the result of spring floods. Six years later the patroonship of Rennselaerswijck was created, the vast holdings of which would eventually encompass much of the heart of Mahican territory. In 1652 the growing settlement around Fort Orange became the Dutch village of Beverwijck. Until the English takeover in 1664, it is primarily Dutch administrative records, a handful of historical accounts, and the sundry correspondence and reports of the colony’s citizens that provide glimpses of Mahican culture. These materials are only somewhat supplemented by scattered English and French sources. The rest, at least on the basis of what appears in some of the histories written over the past century or so, is mostly guesswork. The takeover in 1664 extended England’s claims of territorial and governmental jurisdiction from western New England to beyond Albany, placing its mostly Dutch settlers under the Crown’s authority. It also signaled an escalation of the economic and political competition between England and New France and its Indian allies. Along with most other Indians in the region, the Mahicans were drawn into the struggle—maintaining or shifting their loyalties to the Europeans as they saw fit—which Introduction xiii was played out alongside age-old, and then newly engendered, Native conflicts that were invariably tied to their involvement in the fur trade. The documentary record over this period of time also grew, reflecting the actions of an imperialistic power having superceded the Dutch, who, unlike the English, showed little inclination to enlarge their colony of New Netherland or to command the Native people with whom they interacted. Nonetheless , while these materials allow for a moderately thorough tracking of Mahicans in their entanglements, near and far, with the Natives and Europeans who surrounded them, they offer little in the way of ethnological insight into their communities. The multiple effects of land loss, wars, disease, and the inexorable intrusion of Europeans took their toll on the Mahicans. In the third decade of the eighteenth century they...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780803245792
Related ISBN
9780803244955
MARC Record
OCLC
839693153
Pages
336
Launched on MUSE
2013-08-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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