The Native Inhabitants of Manhattan Part III

The Wappingers, or Wapanachki, whose conflict with Hudson has been thus briefly narrated, were of the sub-tribe or chieftaincy subsequently known as the Reckgawawancs. The point of land from which their attacks were precipitated was on the north shore of the Papirinimen, or Spuyten Duyvel Creek, where their castle or palisaded village, called by them Nipinichan, was located. This castle commanded the approach of their inland territory from the Mahicanituck on the south, while a similarly fortified village at Yonkers, at the mouth of the Neparah, or Sawmill Creek, and known as Nappeckamak, commanded the approach of their inland territory from the Mahicanituck on the south, while a similarly fortified village at Yonkers, at the mouth of the Neparah, or Sawmill Creek, and known as Nappeckamak, commanded the approaches on the north. Their territorial jurisdiction extended on the east to the Broncks and East Rivers, and on the south included Manhattan Island, which, however, was only temporarily occupied during the seasons of planting and fishing, their huts there constituting their summer seaside resorts, and remaining unoccupied during the winter. Their tract on the mainland was called Kekesick —literally " stony country "— and is described as "lying over against the flats of the island of Mauhates." In " Breeden Raedt" their name is given as Reckewackes; in the treaty of peace of 1643, as Reckgawawancs. Tackarew was their sachem in 1639, and was the first one holding that office whose name appears in Dutch records. The most material point in connection with the chieftaincy, however, is the very great certainty that it was the Reckgawawancs who sold Manhattan Island to Director Minuit in 1626, and that they were the " Manhattae or Manatthanes," so called by De Laet in 1633-40.

From the district occupied by the Reckgawawancs the chieftaincies of the Wappingers extended north and east. On the north came in succession the Wickquaesgecks, who were especially conspicuous in the wars with the Dutch; the Sint-Sinks; the Tankitekes, and the Kitchawongs, as far as Anthony's Nose; and on the east the chieftaincies of the Siwanoys, north of whom were the Sequins. The Siwanoys, who are described as " one of the seven tribes of the sea- coast," extended from Hell-gate twenty-four miles east along the Sound to Norwalk, Connecticut, and thirty miles into the interior." In their territory on Pelham Neck two large mounds are pointed out. One of these is the sepulcher of Sachem Wampage, also called Ann-Hoeck, the presumed murderer of Anne Hutchinson, but quite as likely to have taken that alias from some other circumstance. The other is that of Nimham, who became the king of the Wappingers about the year 1730, and who sealed his devotion to the cause of the colonists with his life in battle with Colonel Simcoe's cavalry, near King's Bridge, in August, 1779.

More extended reference may properly be made to the Wickquaesgecks, who have been incidentally spoken of. The district which that chieftaincy occupied is described by De Vries, in 1640, as " a place called Wickquaesgeck and the people as Wickquaesgecks." The place to which he refers was the principal village of the chieftaincy, which then occupied the site of Dobb's Ferry, where, it is said, its outlines are marked by numerous shell-beds. The capital or chief seat of the clan, however, was near Stamford, Connecticut, where its sub-tribal assemblages were held, and where, on the occasion of their gathering, in February, 1643, to celebrate the advent of their new year, which was the most important festival in the aboriginal calendar, they were attacked by Dutch forces under the leadership of Captain John Underhill, and all massacred indiscriminately. Wickers Creek, upon which they were located on the Hudson, was called by them Wysquaqua. Their second village and castle on the Hudson was called Alipconck. Its site is now occupied by the village of Tarrytown. The Dutch forces are said to have burned two of their stockaded villages in 1644, and to have retained the third as a place to which they might retreat. Conquest of the castles destroyed was easily made, the occupants having gone to the new year festival near Stamford, where they were subsequently slaughtered as already noted. The castles which were destroyed are spoken of as having been constructed of " plank five inches thick and nine feet high, and braced around with thick walls full of port-holes," in which " thirty Indians could have stood against two hundred." These castles, however, were not those on the Hudson, but were approached from Greenwich on the Sound, from which it is inferred that they were tribally a chieftaincy of the Siwauoys, who were also known in the eastern part of Westchester County and in southwestern Connecticut as the Tankitekes. Local designations, however, are of little moment. They were especially connected with the early wars with the Dutch, and were members of the tribal family of Wappingers, in confederacy with the Mahicans of the Mahicaui tuck, whose triumphs and whose woes, whose primal vigor and whose decay would fill many chapters of thrilling and romantic interest, and of whom it cannot with truth be said that they left

" No trace To save their own, or serve another race."

" Four distinct languages—namely, Manhattan, Minqua, Savanos, and Wappanoos"—are noted by the Dutch historians as having been spoken by the Indians. With the Manhattan they included, as already stated, the dialect spoken in the neighborhood of Fort Amsterdam, " along the North River, on Long Island, and at the Neversinks." It was, no doubt, this classification by dialect that led the Dutch to the adoption of the generic title of Manhattans as the name of the people among whom they made settlements. The study which a discussion of Indian dialects invites would be by far too extended for this work. Primarily, there were but two Indian languages, the Algonquin and the Iroquois — all others were dialects. The dialect of the Manhattans, as well as that of the tribes classed with them, cannot be described in any other way than as being peculiar to themselves, and even among themselves the greatest diversity existed. "They vary frequently," writes Wassenaer, in 1621, "not over five or six miles; forthwith comes another language; they meet and can hardly understand one another." Illustrative of this diversity, it may be remarked that man, in Long Island, is run; wonnun, in Wappinoo; nemanoo, in Mahican; lemo, in Algonquin. Mother is cwca, in Long Island; okaooh, in Wappinoo; okegan, in Mahican; gahowes, in Algonquin. Stone is sun, in Long Island; Jtussun, in Wappinoo; thaunumpka, in Mahican; akhsin, in Algonquin. Earth is kear/h in Long Island; alike, in Wappinoo; akek, in Mahican ; aki, akhki, in Algonquin. But, aside from this diversity, the fundamental characteristic of the dialects was the universal tendency to express in the same word, not only all that modified or related to the same object or action, but both the action and the object; thus concentrating in a single expression a complex idea, or several ideas among which there was natural connection. '' All other features of the language," remarks Gallatin, " seem to be subordinate to that general principle. The object in view has been attained by various terms of the same tendency and often blended together: a multitude of inflections, so called; a still greater number of compound words, sometimes formed by the coalescence of primitive words not materially altered, more generally by the union of many such words in a remarkably abbreviated form, and numerous particles, either significative, or the original meaning of which has been lost, prefixed, added as terminations, or inserted in the body of the word."

As a rule, Indian geographical terms are of two classes — general or generic, and specific or local. In specific names the combination may be simple, as Coxackie—co, object, and acke, land; in others intricate, as Maghaghkemeck, in which acke, land, is buried in consonants and qualifying terms. The terminal of a word materially aids but does not govern its translation. Uk or unk indicates " place of " in a specific sense, as in Mohunk,— ong, " place of," in a more general sense as in Manacknong, modified in Aquehonga, as illustrated in the name of Staten Island; ik, ick, eck, or uk denotes rocks or stones. Quasuck, applied to a small stream of water, would simply mean " stony brook," while Quaspeck, as applied to a hill, would signify " stony hill," as in the case of Verdrietig Hoeck, or Tedious Point, as the Dutch called the well-known Hudson headland; ack or ackc, land,— ing or ink, something in which numbers are presented, as in Neversink, a " place of birds"; ais, ees, os, aus, denote a single small object or place, as Minnisais, a small island—a number of islands, Minnising or Min- nisink; ish, eesh, oosh, or sh indicates a bad or faulty quality; co is object; at, at or near; pogh is a generic term for pond, swamp, etc., and hence we find it in Eamepogh and Poghkeepke (Poughkeepsie)'; while Apoquague embodies the same roots buried in qualifications that present some simple idea. Wa-wa-na-quas-sick is a somewhat lengthy combination,— wa-ica is plural, or many; na signifies good; quas is stone or stones, and ick, place of stones. It all means a pile of memorial stones thrown together to mark a place or event. Wa-wa- yaun-da,— wa-iva, plural, more than one or we; yaun, home, or by the prefixed plural, homes; da, town or village: complete, "our homes or places of dwelling." These illustrations are sufficient to show that while terms were in the main composed of the simplest descriptive equivalents — a black hill or a red one, a large hill or a small one, a small stream of water or a larger one, or one which was muddy or stony, a field of maize or of leeks, overhanging rocks or dashing waterfalls (patternack) — the Algonquin language was yet capable of poetic combinations which were not only beautiful, but which must ever remain attractive from their peculiarity and their history.

Manhattan Island is without other recorded Indian name than that which was given to it by the Dutch. " It was the D.utch and not the Indians who first called it Manhattan " is the unquestioned testimony of history. The signification of the term, which has been given already, need not be repeated, nor the precise locality to which it was applied again quoted. Rescued and perpetuated, it stands where it does, and there it will stand forever. The Indians never gave a local term to themselves—others did that for them. Several places on the island, however, are marked by Indian names. Kapsee has been given as that of the extreme point of land between the Hudson and East Rivers, and is still known as Copsie Point. It is said to signify " safe place of landing," as it may have been, but ee should have been written ick. The Dutch called it Capsey Hoeck; they erected a " hand," or guide-board, to indicate that all vessels under fifty tons were to anchor between that point and the " hand," or guide-board, which stood opposite the " Stadtherberg," built in 1642. This indicates that the point had the peculiarity which is held to be expressed in the Indian name. Sappokauikan, a point of land on the Hudson below Greenwich Street, has been explained as indicating "the carrying place," the presumption being that the Indians, at that place, carried their canoes over and across the Island to East River to save the trouble of paddling down to Kapsee Point and from thence up the East River. This explanation is, however, too limited. It was from this point that the Indians crossed the river to Hobokan-Hacking, subsequently known as Pavonia,1 now Jersey City, and maintained between the two points a commercial route of which that existing there at the present time is the successor." Lapini- kan, an Indian village or collection of huts which was located here, had no doubt some special connection with the convenience of the Indian travelers. Corlear's Hoeck was called Naig-ia-nac, literally " sand lands."3 It may, however, have been the name of the Indian village which stood there, and was in temporary occupation. It was to this village that a considerable number of Indians retreated from savage foes in February, 1643, and were there massacred by the Dutch. Near Chatham Square was an eminence called Warpoes—wa, singular, oes, small—literally a " small hill." Another hill, at the corner of Charlton and Varick Streets, was called Ishpatinau — literally a "bad hill" or one having some faulty peculiarity, ish being the qualifying term. Ishibic probably correctly described the narrow ridge or ancient cliff north of Beekman Street to which it was applied. Acitoc is given as the name for the height of land in Broadway; Abie, as that of a rock rising up in the Battery, and Penabic, "the comb mountain," as that of Mount Washington. A tract, of meadow land, on the north end of the island near Kingsbridge, was called Muscoota, which is said to signify " grass land," but as the same name is given to Harlem River, other signification is implied, unless, in the latter case, the word should be rendered " the river of the grass lands." A similar dual application of name appears in Papirinimen, which is given as that of a tract of land "on the north end of the island," about One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Street, between the Spuyten Duyvel and the Harlem, and also as that of the Spuyten Duyvel. Shorackappock is said to have described the junction of the Spuyten Duyvel and the Hudson, but the equivalents of the term — sho and acka — indicate that the interpretation should be, as in Shotag (now Schodac) " the fire-place," or place at which the council chamber of the chieftaincy was held — an interpretation which clothes the locality with an interest of more significance than the occurrence there of the attack upon the Half-Moon. The Island was intersected by Indian paths, the principal one of which ran north from the Battery or Kapsee Point to City Hall Park, where it was crossed by one which ran west to the village of Lapinikan, and east to Naig-ia-nac, or Corlear's Hoeck. The name assigned to the village, Lapinikan, may have been that of this crossing path, which was continued from Pavonia south to the Lenapewihitrik, or Delaware River. Many of the ancient roads followed the primary Indian foot-paths.

The aboriginal names of the islands in the harbor have been preserved more or less perfectly. Staten Island is called in the deed to De Vries, in 1636, Monacknong; in the deed to Capellen, in 1655, Ehquaous, and in that to Governor Lovelace, in 1670, Aquehouga- Mauacknong, titles which are presumed to have covered the portions owned by the Raritans and the Hackinsacks respectively. The names in the deeds to De Vries and Capellen, however, are but another orthography of those in the deed to Lovelace. Manacknong, signifying " good land" in a general sense, may be accepted as the aboriginal name. Governor's Island was called by the Dutch Nooten Island, " because excellent nut-trees grew there," and possibly also from Pecanuc, the Algonquin term for nut-trees.Bedloe's Island was called Minnisais, a pure Algonquiu term for " small island." It does not appear to have possessed a qualifying character of any kind. Ellis Island was Kioshk, or Gull Island, and that of Blackwell's was Miuuahon- nouck, a phrase that is not without poetic elements, but has none in this connection, minna being simply " good." In its vicinity is Hell- gate, to which Monatun has been applied—" a word," says an eminent authority, " carrying in its multiplied forms the various meanings of violent, dangerous, etc," in which sense it may be accepted without requiring the authority by which it was conferred. Objection is proper, however, when philological argument is made to extend the term to "the people of the island among whom the Dutch first settled," in which connection it can have no significance whatever. The name of Long Island is sometimes written Sewan-hacky from seivan, its shell money, and acky, laud; but its aboriginal title appears to have been Matouwacky—ma, large, excellent, acktj or acke, land. A vocabulary of the many geographical terms pertaining to the islands, or one embracing those on the west side of the Hudson, would not reveal any striking feature or furnish additional substantial illustration of the peculiarities of the language of the native inhabitants. The few names that have been adopted and woven into the language of their successors appropriately preserve the memory of the Manna-hata.

Website: The History
Article Name: The Native Inhabitants of Manhattan Part III
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Memorial History of the City of New York from its first Settlement to the year 1892 edited by James Grant Wilson; Copyright by the New York History Company; printed at the DeVinne Press. (1892)
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