New York, New York: The City of Immigrants on Stolen Land

Known in Lenape time as Manaháhtaan on a river called Muhheakantuck, part of the ancestral domain of the Lenape-speaking peoples that inhabited the Lenapehoking. Today this territory stretches from Virginia to New England and Manhattan now is a borough within New York City that stands at Hudson River. The renaming is the conqueror’s sign that locals have been defeated and subjucated. The rights to the land is now with the conqueror and his descendants. The first conqueror to rebrand the land were the Dutch but after their defeat the English took over and marked the land according to their wishes.

The first European country to build permanent structures in Manhattan were the Dutch who built a trading post there in 1624. This trading post became very profitable and the small trading post became a village and then a prosperous large town and finally a small city. To further their influence the Dutch expanded their domain upriver and built a new trading post at the capital of the Mohicans and called it Fort Orange. The area around the trading post in Manhattan became Nieuw Amsterdam, the river became Noortrivier and their domain became Niuew Nederland. All this was accomplished via fraudulent deals with Lenape groups who sold land usage rights to the foreign white settlers but not the land itself. The whites however understood the deals purposefully as land sale for all perpetuity and behaved towards the offended Lenapes as bullies would, with threat of violence and in many instances direct violence.

Lenapes trading with the Dutch ship Half Moon.

The Lenapes were never a cohesive and politically organized ethnic group that could take a united stand against a common threat. Their political organisation never evolved above the chiefdom level of organisation. The lifes of ordinary Lenapes was centered on the village and the clan, it’s agricultural fields and hunting territories. Warfare was organised mostly on the clan or village level but sometimes a few villages in a small area banded together to form a warrior party to seek avengence or glory in skirmishes against the enemy, who sometimes could also be other Lenape speakers. Large scale military operations involving unified Lenape groups was unheard of.

The pictures above in this group taken at National Museum of American Indians in south Manhattan.

The Lenapes had however one common enemy in the Haudenosaunee League (Iroquois Confederacy) in present day upstate New York State but never organised an effective united front to eliminate that threat. Same applied when the Dutch first established their presence in Manhattan. The Dutch were able to negotiate seperate trade deals with various Lenape groups who were all too eager to gain prestige in precious and exotic goods and military advantage against rival groups. If relations would sour between the Dutch and the specific group to the extent that open warfare broke out, then the Dutch could concentrate their superior military tactics and limited manpower on one single group instead of a united Lenape front.

Ceremoniously however the Lenape had a vague sense of common identity based on origins, values, language, dialects, society and culture. Tragically for them this common memory never found a common action. They were people that were politically disorganised and militarily weaker than their competitors. That is the reason we have New York City in a land called United States of America instead of Manaháhtaan in a land called Lenapehoking.

The Cowgirl restaurant in West Village that blends Texan cowboy culture with lesbian imagery in a fun way.

Today New York is a multicultural hub, a traditional destination for disparate groups seeking shelter in a turbulant world. It is also a financial center for the United States where you have Wall Street and a power base for many of the most powerful and rich families and corparations in the world. Sadly this financial side of New York is taking over the more colourful and charming part of Manhattan. The old shops are closing and instead a banking institution opens on the spot. Will this development be the end of the charming multicultural side of New York? Only time can tell.

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