Saturday, March 8, 2008


When Johan Van Der Zee, a young Dutch soldier in the Manhattan territory of the New Netherland colony, intervened to save the life of a Native American woman about to be skewered by one of his fellow soldiers, it nearly cost Van Der Zee his own life. It turned out he had saved the life of a shamaness, and with the help of other women in her tribe, she brought Van Der Zee back to life. She also blessed/cursed him with immortality, but with a hitch: he would live forever, until he met the one who would become part of his own heart. And then he would become mortal again.

That shamaness must have been part of the Weckquaesgeek tribe, a subset of the Wappani. Here's what I cobbled together from various Wikipedia entries:

The Wappani, or the Wappinger, were a group of Native Americans whose territory in the 17th century spread along the eastern side of the Hudson River from Dutchess County south to Manhattan and east into parts of Connecticut. Although the European understanding of "tribes" did not generally apply for most of the Wappingers' history, they were most closely related to the Lenape and Mahicans, all speaking the Algonquian languages.

Manhattan was home to the Weckquaesgeek, who were not pleased by the May 24, 1626 barter exchange between Peter Minuit and the Canarsee Native Americans of Brooklyn for the possession of Manhattan. By 1643, the two groups went to war.

Kieft's War, also known as the Wappinger War, was a conflict between Dutch settlers and Native Americans in the colony of New Netherland from 1643 to 1645. The war is named for Willem Kieft, who was the Director-General of New Netherland at the time.

During Kieft's War in 1643, the various Wappinger groups united against the Dutch, attacking settlements throughout New Netherland. The most prominent group in that war were the Weckquaesgeek, more than 1500 of whom were killed in the two years of the war. (There were little more than 500 Dutch settlers in New Netherland at the time.)

After the war, the confederation broke apart and the remaining Wappingers left their native lands for the protection of neighboring tribes.
That skirmish in 1642, which set Johan Van Der Zee on the path to becoming John Amsterdam (as seen in 'New Amsterdam'), must have been a prelude to the major conflict to come.

Toby OB

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