THE RIVER INDIANS
MOHICANS MAKING HISTORY

by Shirley W. Dunn


From the Prologue:

An unfortunate coming together of early factors, such as a rapid Mohican population decline resulting from the Mohawk war and from disease soon after the Dutch arrived, and early Mohican concessions to the Mohawks, led keepers of Indian records to unduly emphasize the Iroquois in the colonial period. The peaceful coexistence of the Mohicans with the European newcomers, despite enormous provocation, also has led historians to undervalue their presence.

Biased recording led to the perception the River Indians were gone. It was not true. Through the eighteenth and into the nineteenth centuries, units of Mohican population remained in the Hudson Valley, as some did not move to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, when the mission was formed. A steady interchange continued between pockets of Mohican population until the mid-1800s. Some Mohicans continued their lives on farms and along secluded streams in Massachusetts after Stockbridge was abandoned. Others who had remained in their traditional Hudson Valley village locations lived near Pine Plains and on the site of Nassau Village. In the eighteenth century, some remained on the Schodack and Albany area islands. In the late 1740s a group of Mohicans moved from the Hudson River west into Albany County. Their location was at Indian Fields, now under the Alcove Reservoir, and along the Onesquethaw Creek. Their baskets still survive. Other Mohicans stayed on in Greene County locations.

The idea the Indians were gone or would soon be extinct persisted despite the Indian title to Hudson Valley territories. It is true their population was reduced, as the Mohicans often lamented at Indian conferences. Yet, within their territory, settlement by Europeans was affected for more than one hundred fifty years, beginning in 1630, by the need for deeds from these Indian owners. Under both the Dutch and English administrations, before patents for of land could be given, legal deeds from the native owners were needed by Dutch or English officials. Proof that the native owners had then or in the past been contacted and been paid for the land was required to be presented with a petition for a grant. That some transactions were fraudulent, while others were not, is part of this history. What can be more important than the gradual exchange of land from one population to another?


"Dunn emphasizes the importance of the Mohicans to the history of New York colony and state. Today, many of us live on land from Dutchess County to Lake Champlain that once was theirs. In colonial New York, the Mohican Indians lived with European settlers in peace. Their lives and locations are recorded through land deeds, which author Shirley Dunn has researched. Her third book about the “River Indians” brings to light important aspects of New York history. Mohicans were essential to the survival of early settlements around later Albany. Moreover, a century later, from villages on the Susquehanna River, Mohicans aided the colonial cause during the French wars. There is more. Dunn reminds the reader how these Mohicans were important both before and after the Dutch arrived." --Susan Blandy, MS, MA, Professor, Hudson Valley Community College

"The River Indians: Mohicans Making History is a meticulouly researched account of the Mohican people, their allies and adversaries, in the colonial period of New York. Shirley Dunn has created an essential work for both scholars and enthusiasts of the early historic period in the Hudson River valley." --Tom Lake, Archaeologist at Dutchess Community College; editor, Hudson River Almanac, and Estuary Program Naturalist, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.


On the cover: The Van Bergen Overmantel, a rare c. 1733 painting on wood, is attributed to artist John Heaten. In this detail, Indians, probably Mohicans, pass the farm of Marten Van Bergen at Leeds in Greene County, New York. Not far away was a Mohican village at present-day Freehold. Reproduced by permission of the New York State Historical Association, photo by Roderic H. Blackburn.


Shirley Wiltse Dunn, a holder of Masters' degrees in English and History, has worked as a teacher, museum interpreter, and historic preservation consultant. She was a founder of the Dutch Barn Preservation Society. In recognition of her research on Dutch farm locations, she was honored as a Fellow by the Holland Society of New York. A scholar of the Mohicans and early Dutch, she is the author of The Mohicans and Their Land, 1609-1730 (1994), The Mohican World, 1680-1750 (2000) and co-author of Dutch Architecture Near Albany: The Polgreen Photographs (1996), and The Mohicans (2008), a booklet for young readers. (All have been published by Purple Mountain Press.) She also has edited a book of family stories, Pioneer Days in the Catskill High Peaks (Black Dome Press, 1991) and three bulletins, each containing Native American Institute seminar papers, for the New York State Museum. She became interested in the Mohicans two decades ago while studying Indian deeds for early properties in the Albany, New York, area. She lives with her husband in Rensselaer County.


135 pages, illustrated, 7 x 10, 2009
$17.00 paper--A Purple Mountain Press original

Copyright © 2009 Purple Mountain Press. All rights reserved.