Indians, Whites Lived in Peace

Footnotes to Long Island History


DEC .7,1950


Thomas R. Bayles

       The Montauk tribe, although occupying the most remote section at the east end of Long Island, was the royal tribe, and Wyandanch, the powerful chief of his tribe, was the grand sachem of all the tribes on Long Island. In the purchase of land by the early settlers, his signature was required to the deeds in addition to that of the local chief from whom they purchased.

       Montauk was the seat of royal authority, and here was located the largest and best fortification of purely Indian construction to be found. in the eastern part of the country, The fort was located on the northeast side of Fort Pond and was about 800 feet square. The "Chronicles of East Hampton" gives the following description of this fort.

       "The rampart and parapet were of earth, with a ditch at the foot of the glacis, and probably palisaded with the trunks of fallen trees. At each angle there was apparently a round tower of earth and stone, and the fort would probably have held from 300 to 500 men. The pond on the east afforded a safe and convenient harbor for canoes, under the immediate protection of the fort. The location was one of decided advantage for protection and defense, and must have been sufficient against any attack which Indian tactics could have brought to bear upon it."

       Located at Montauk were several of the largest burial places on the Island, and probably thousand of the red men were buried here. They brought their dead from a distance and the remains of Poggatacut (chief of the shelter Island tribe, and brother of Wyandanch) were brought from Shelter Island, the greater part of the way of men's shoulders, to be buried with the royal family.

       From the first settlement by the whites, Wyandance was their unwavering friend, and thought often threatened by the Indians across the Sound, he refused to conspire against his new white neighbors. He reposed unbounded confidence in Lyon Gardiner and always communicated to him everything that concerned his own interests or that of the white settlers.

       The conduct of the Long Island Indians towards the white settlers is without parallel in the history of this country. It was to be expected that individual acts of aggression would occur, but even these were rare, and the Indians always showed themselves willing to submit to an impartial investigation and to a just decision of wrongs committed.

        One of the first occurrences of this kind was the murder of a woman at Southampton in 1649, which spread terror of a general Indian uprising against the whites. The magistrates of Southampton immediately sent a messenger to Montauk, and summoned Wyandanch to appear before them. His tribesmen fearing that he would be killed in the way of revenge, advised him not to go,He sought the advice of Lyon Guardiner who happened to be lodging in in his wigwam that night and he told him to go and that he would remain as a hostage of the tribe for the safety of their beloved chief, Wyandanch set out for Southampton at once and on the way captured the murderers of the woman who instead of being of his own tribe, proved to be Pequot Indians from the mainland who were lurking on the Island. These men Wyandanch delivered to the authorities at Southampton, and they were sent to Hartford where they were tried, convicted and executed.

       During the early years, the suspicions of the whites were so strong that they carried their arms into the field with them, and to the churches when they attended services. They also forbade the Indians to enter their settlements with their usual weapons, but except for occasional instances, the Indians, from one end of the Island to the other lived on terms of friendship with the whites. It is a remarkable fact, which should be recorded to the honor of the Long Island Indians, that they never formed a general conspiracy even of a single tribe, against the white settlers.

       Silas Wood, in his history of Long Island, states, "The Indians on Long Island seem to have been less troublesome to the whites than those north of the Sound, and it does not appear that they ever formed any general combination against the first settlers. The security of the whites must be ascribed to the means they employed to maintain peace with the Indians. Both the English and the Dutch respected the rights of the Indians, and no land was taken until it had been fairly purchased of the chief of the tribe who claimed it. There is no reason to believe that this exemption from Indian hostilities was owing to a better disposition or milder character of the natives of the Island.

       It would seem that if the rights of the Indians in every part of the country had been as well respected, and the same means had been used to secure and preserve their friendship, the horrors of Indian aggressions and the bloody measures of retaliation which disgrace the early pages of our country's history, might have been prevented. The Indians have been not only a deeply injured but a greatly misrepresented people.

       The ravages of war with tribes across the sound, and diseases which swept through the Indian tribes reduced greatly their number on the Island and in 1658 a terrible disease attacked the Indians, resulting in the death of nearly two thirds of their number.

       Wyandanch died in this year, leaving a son called "Wconcombone" and a daughter, in addition to his widow who succeeded him under the title "Sachem or Sung Squaw," but she died in 1660, and the son and daughter also died in 1662 of small pox.

       It is the fashion of the world to immortalize the destroyers of men while their benefactors are permitted to sink into oblivion. Many a monument has been erected heavenward, and inscribed with names less worthy of memorial than of Wyandanch, the grand sachem of Sewanacka, and the white mans unwavering friend.

(note; The material in this article has been taken from Prime's history of Long Island, published in 1848)

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