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Indian Tribes of Long Island

Footnotes to Long Island History

Indian Tribes Of Long Island

by

Thomas R. Bayles


       When Long Island was first settled by the white man it was inhabited by 13 tribes of Indians, or groups as some historians call them. The Canarsie tribe claimed the whole of King’s country and also part of the town of Jamaica. The Rockaway tribe was scattered over the Southern part of Hempstead town and the greater part of the tribe lived near Rockaway. The Merrick tribe occupied the territory to the east of the Rockaway’s and then came to Marsapeague group, who claimed the lands to East Islip. The Secatogue tribe occupied the territory east of this to Patchogue.

      Then came the Unkechaug tribe, which has been called the Patchogue tribe by some historians, but it has been finally decided that Unkechaug is the correct name for the Indians who occupied the lands eastward on the Southside of the island to Southampton. Tobaccus was Sachem of this tribe in 1664, and their headquarters was near Mastic.

      The Shinnecocks came next on the south side and then the Montauks, who occupied the territory eastward to and including Montauk. Wyandanche, the Sachem of this tribe seemed to have been the Grand Sachem of all the Indians on the island, and his signature was required on early deeds given by the local tribes to the various towns.

       The Matinecocks claimed the land east to Smithtown on the North side. This was a large tribe and had settlements at flushing, Glen Cove, Cold Spring, Huntington, and Cow Harbor.

       The Nesaquake tribe came next and claimed as far east as Stony Brook. 

      Then came the Setalcotts, who occupied the land from Stony Brook to Wading River. They were a most powerful group.

       The Corchaugs owned the territory from Wading River to Orient point, formerly called Oyster Ponds, and were spread along the North Shore Peconic Bay.

      The Manhasset tribe occupied Shelter Island. Poggattatuck was Sachem in 1648, and was a brother of Wyandanche.

      The Indians of the Island were tall and straight, muscular and agile, with straight hair and reddish brown complexion. Their language was the Algonquin, the highly descriptive tongue in which John Eliot wrote the Indian bible, and was the language which greeted the pilgrims at Plymouth. It is doubtful if there is now anyone living who can speak this tongue, which was used so freely in those early days.

       The Indian names of Long Island are said to be Sewanhacky, Wamponomon and Paumanake.  These names or at least the first two seemed to have come from the abundance of quahog, or hard clam, the shell of which furnished the wampum, which was at first used as the money of the settlements.

       Wyandanche, chief of the Montauk Indians, and Grand Sachem of all the Indian tribe’s stands out strikingly as having been the friend of the white man, and it was no doubt due in a great measure to the=2 0friendly feeling which existed between him and the white settlers, that their relations with the Indians were so peaceful and harmonious. Wyandanche refused to enter into any conspiracy with the tribes from Connecticut against the settlers on the Island, and so ruled the other Island tribes that they always maintained a friendly attitude towards their white neighbors.

       Many monuments have been reared towards heaven with names less worthy of memorial than that of Wyandanche, the white mans unwavering friend, whose grave lies unhonored, in the solitude of Montauk.

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