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staten island deed [1670]

Many are familiar with the legend of Manhattan’s purchase by Dutchmen from the Lenape Native Americans (though the real story remains somewhat contested), but far fewer New Yorkers know the story of how Staten Island was bought and sold. The final 1670 deed, which now rests at the New York Historical Society reveals the painful eviction of Native Americans from Staten Island and is evidence of the 40-year contestation and more than a week of face-to-face negotiations between the people of Aquehonga Manacknon (Munsee) and the Dutchmen.  “Its story reveals the many tensions and obligations between natives and newcomers, between parents and children, between the living and the dead.” The Dutchman’s initial offer of clothing, tools and munitions did not satisfy the Munsee, who returned with a request for 600 fathoms of wampum, the sacred shell beads that functioned as cross-cultural currency and were highly valued as decorative jewelry and a symbolic gift. The colonists counter-offered only half that, and they finally settled on 400 fathoms. The Munsee also convinced the colonists to triple the amount of clothing offered and significantly increased the amount of guns, lead, powder, hoes and knives offered. As a result of these negotiations, the Dutch established its first lasting settlement called Oude Dorp, or Old Town, near South Beach in Staten Island.