Native Village 
Youth and Education News

November 1, 2013

A Dutch Massacre of Our Lenape Ancestors on Manhattan
Condensed by Native Village

New York: In August, a Haudenosaunee delegation commemorated the 400th year of the Two Row Wampum. The event followed a remarkable 380-mile canoe trip down the Hudson River from Haudenosaunee territory to Lenape territory in Manhattan.

The Two-Row Wampum was made in 1613 between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch government of Holland. For some members of the Lenape tribe, however, the event brought to mind the bloody experience their ancestors faced at the hands of the Dutch government.

In the 1640’s, Dutch Governor William Kieft tried to impose a tax on the Lenape. The Lenape refused to pay for the ‘privilege’ of living in their own territory.

Governor Kieft judged the “relatively nonbeligerant Hackensack Indians at Pavonia to be in a weakened position.” He vowed to force them into submission.

David Pietersz de Vries, who documented the events, tried to talk Kieft out of slaughtering the Lenape. The governor would not be dissuaded. De Vries gave the following first-hand account of the atrocity which occurred in February, 25, 1643. It makes for very difficult reading:

I remained that night at the Governor's, sitting up, and I went and sat by the kitchen fire, when about midnight I heard a great shrieking, and I ran to the ramparts of the fort, and looked over to Pavonia. Saw nothing but firing, and heard the shrieks of the savages murdered in their sleep. . .

When it was day the soldiers returned to the fort, having massacred or murdered eighty Indians, and considering they had done a deed of Roman valor, in murdering so many in their sleep; where infants were torn from their mother's breasts, and hacked to pieces in the presence of their parents, and the pieces thrown into the fire and in the water, and other sucklings, being bound to small boards, were cut, stuck and pierced, and miserably massacred in a manner to move a heart of stone.

Some were thrown into the river, and when the fathers and mothers endeavored to save them, the soldiers would not let them come on land but made both parents and children drown--children from five to six years of age, and also some old and decrepit persons.

Those who fled from this onslaught, and concealed themselves in the neighboring sedge, and when it was morning, came out to beg a piece of bread, and to be permitted to warm themselves, were murdered in cold blood and tossed into the fire or the water.

Some came to our people in the country with their hands, and some with their legs cut off, and some holding their entrails in their arms, and others had such horrible cuts and gashes, that worse than they were could never happen.

Thirty more Lenape were murdered elsewhere in Manhattan.  The Dutch raiders then “returned to Fort Amsterdam with thirty prisoners and the heads of several Indians.”

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