Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, August 13, 2018

There Seems To Be Another Early 17th Century Map that References Siwanoys

As noted repeatedly in the Historic Pelham Blog, I long have argued that there were no local Natives who knew themselves -- or were referenced by others -- as "Siwanoys" despite the nearly two-hundred-year-old Pelham tradition to the contrary.  See Wed., Jan. 29, 2014:  There Were No Native Americans Known as Siwanoys.  

Quite a number of scholars on the subject likewise have expressed doubts that there was a group of local Natives that identified themselves (or were identified by others) as "Siwanoys."  For example, famed Native American scholar Ives Goddard once wrote:

“Some early deeds suggest that the [Long Island] Sound-shore residents were not organized in political groups distinct from their western neighbors, but evidence has been claimed nevertheless for a Siwanoy group extending east from the Bronx River . . . However, the name Siwanois is found only among early information of a general nature, not linked to specific individuals . . . The political groupings and proper designations for the Sound-shore Indians of Westchester and Fairfield counties thus remain obscure.” 

Source:  Goddard, Ives, Delaware in Handbook of North American Indians: Volume 15, Northeast, 213, 214 (Trigger, Bruce G., ed.; Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian Institution 1978) (citing De Laet 1909:44; Ruttenber 1872: 77-85; Bolton 1920: 246-69).

Research has not revealed to this author any instance of 17th or 18th century records referring to local Natives as "Siwanoys," "Sewanoys," or other such derivations.  Those who have considered the issue, however, long have known that there are at least two early 17th century maps that contain conflicting -- and unexplained -- references to what appear to be Siwanoys.  The first is the Adriaen Block map prepared in 1614 in connection with Block's voyage during which he "discovered" Long Island Sound.  A detail from that map appears immediately below with two red arrows added to the detail.  The arrow on the left depicts approximately where the lands that became modern Pelham are depicted on the map.  The arrow on the right shows the reference to "Sywanois." shown on the map in an area that depicts approximately where today's northeastern Massachusetts is found.

Detail from 1614 Adriaen Block Map with Arrow on Left
Showing Approximate Location of Today's Pelham and
Arrow on Right Pointing to "Sywanois." Near Today's
Northeastern Massachusetts.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

There is another well-known 17th Century map by Nicolaes Visscher that was largely based on a map published by Joannes Janssonius in 1651 (which itself borrowed heavily from a 1635 map by Willem Janszoon Blaeu).  There are many later editions of the Visscher Map.  It is entitled “Novi Belgii Novæque Angliæ : nec non parties Virginiæ tabula multis in locis emendate / per Nicolaum Visscher nunc apud Petr. Schenk Iun.”  That map contains a reference to the area that the Dutch knew as “Freelandt” (also Vreelant, Vreedlant and Vreedlandt) – where Englishmen sponsored by Thomas Pell settled near an area known today as Westchester Square in the Bronx – as well as a reference to “Siwanoys” in an area roughly north of today's Stamford, Connecticut.  The map detail immediately below shows "Siwanoys" referenced in nearly the center of the detail in an area north of what is referenced as "Stamfort."  To the left (west) of the "Siwanoys" reference is a reference to the "Wickquaskeck" Natives.

Detail from an Edition of the Visscher Map with the Reference to
"Siwanoys" Near the Center of the Detail.  NOTE:  Click on Image
to Enlarge.

There seems to be a third map that contains a similar reference.  It is a map attributed to Dutch explorer Cornelius Hendrickson (also, Hendricksen) prepared in 1616.

Hendrickson was a contemporary of Dutch explorer Adriaen Block whose 1614 map included a reference to "Sywanois."  (See above.)  Hendrickson's own explorations in North America have been described as follows:

"In November 1613 Dutch fur trader Adrian Block was preparing to return to Holland with a cargo of furs when his ship, the Tyger, caught fire and was destroyed while moored in the North River [i.e., Hudson River] near the tip of Manhattan Island. Over the winter, Block and his crew built the Onrust (Restless), which he used to explore the East River and Long Island Sound. The Onrust was 44.5 feet long with a capacity of 16 tons. Later that year, Block rendezvoused with Hendrick Christiaensen off Cape Cod. Before boarding the Fortuyn to return to the Netherlands, Block turned the Onrust over to Hendrickson. In 1614, Hendrickson navigated the Onrust, through Barnegat Inlet to the Toms River, which he charted, along with Barnegat Bay, and Great Bay to the south. Delaware Bay . . . In mid to late 1615 Hendrickson sailed into Godins Bay (Delaware Bay) and up the Zuyd Rivier (South River) to the Schuylkill River, searching for a site to establish a trading post for the Dutch West India Company. Hendrickson's voyage was made aboard the IJseren Vercken (Iron Hog), a vessel built in America. During the winter of 1614-15, some Dutch sailors remained at Fort Nassau to engage in the fur trade. Interested in the benefit of Dutch firearms, the Mohawk persuaded three to accompany them on a raid against the Susquehannocks. That spring the sailors were captured by the Susquehannocks who brought them south. In the course of his explorations Hendrickson he met a band of Susquehannock (Minquas) and ransomed the three for kettles, beads, and trade goods. In 1616 in Amsterdam he filed the first definitive map of the New Jersey coastline."

Source:  "Cornelius Hendrickson" in Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia (visited Aug. 11, 2018) (endnotes omitted).  

It is this 1616 map by Hendrickson that contains a reference in an area well northeast of the Island of Manhattan that seems to relate to "Siwanoy."  The reference reads "Sauwanew."  A detail from the map appears immediately below with an arrow added on the left pointing to the area of today's Manhattan and an arrow on the right pointing to the "Sauwanew" reference.

Detail from 1616 Cornelius Hendrickson Map With Arrows
Pointing to Manhattan and to the Reference "Sauwanew."
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

The association of "Siwanoy" with Pelham seems to stem from Robert Bolton Jr.'s efforts to detail a history of the "Aborigines" of Westchester County in the first edition of his History of Westchester County published in 1848.  See Bolton, Jr., Robert, A History of the County of Westchester From Its First Settlement to the Present Time, Vol. I, pp. vii - x (NY, NY:  Alexander S. Gould, 1848) ("INTRODUCTION. - ABORIGINES.").  Bolton seems to have relied on otherwise unexplained (and undocumented) references to "Siwanoys" and "Sywanois" in materials such as the Block and Visscher-Janssonius maps to assert that the Natives that once populated the Pelham region must have been known as Siwanoys.

There may or may not even have been a term in the Munsee dialect spoken by Lenape in the region that sounded like "Siwanoy."  A few years ago, John Alexander Buckland published an important and fascinating book on the Wiechquaeskeck Natives who once inhabited the Pelham region and sold land to Thomas Pell on June 27, 1654.  Entitled "The First Traders on Wall Street:  The Wiechquaeskeck Indians of Southwestern Connecticut in the Seventeenth Century," the book contains a fascinating claim.

According to the author, the term "Siwanoy" is a derivation of Munsee terms intended not as a "name" of a tribe or clan of local Natives, but rather a descriptive term that denoted an activity pursued not only by Natives in the region of today's Pelham, but also in other locations including Long Island, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.  Buckland writes in his book:

"Over time, the Wiechquaeskeck have been called the 'Siwanoy.'  Siwanoy referred to their occupation, however, and was not their tribal name.  Many of their artisans made sewan, or wampum, along the shore, and they were the 'Siwanoy' ('oy' means people), or 'makers of wampum.'  Other Natives, who lived on Long Island, in Pennsylvania, and even in Massachusetts north of Boston, were also called 'Siwanoy.'"

Source:  Buckland, John Alexander, The First Traders on Wall Street:  The Wiechquaeskeck Indians of Southwestern Connecticut in the Seventeenth Century, p. xiii (Westminster, MD:  Heritage Books, 2009).  

Many authors have attempted to describe the origins of the term "Siwanoy."  Noted anthropologist and Lenape scholar Dr. David Ostreicher has stated that his research suggests that the term “Siwanoy” did not apply to a specific tribal band.  Rather, a word sounding much like “Siwanoy” was used by Native Americans to refer to other Native Americans nearby. “It was a loose term used to describe people who lived in an area and surrounding lands extending as far south as Delaware and as far north as New York, Connecticut or even – as suggested above – northeastern Massachusetts. No one today knows whether the term "Siwanoy" had any meaning to the Native Americans who lived in the area.  Dr. Ostreicher, however, indicates that “[i]t is guessed that the roots of the word ‘Siwanoy’ come from one of three other words meaning southerner, sea salt or wampum.” 

Source:  Notes of presentation by Dr. David Oestreicher Delivered at St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site, 897 South Columbus Ave., Mount Vernon, NY 10550 on Jan. 13, 2007; copy in files of the author.

With utterly no known 16th, 17th, or early 18th century Dutch or English records referencing local Natives as "Siwanoys," it seems clear -- to this author at least -- that there were no Natives who referenced themselves (or were referenced by others) as "Siwanoys."  That said, something must have prompted 17th century Dutch cartographers such as Block, Visscher, and Hendrickson to include references like "Siwanoys," "Sywanois," and
"Sauwanew" on their maps of the northeast.  Whether such references were to geographic features or local groups of Natives (or were merely mistaken references based on misunderstanding information communicated by Natives) we may never know.  Yet, once again, it seems clear that there were no Natives known as "Siwanoys."

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