Saturday, July 08, 2006

Some Nieuw Netherlands tidbits

now known as New York City.

Been alternating between two books: "The Island at the Center of the World" by Russell Shorto and "Brick Lane" by Monica Ali.

"The Island" can be bit dry in some parts but so far so good. In 1609, Henry Hudson claimed the lands around North River (now Hudson) surrounding Fort Orange and Renassaelerwyck (Albany and Renasslaer) and Manhattan. Manhattan was a company town of Dutch East Indies - people worked, lived, drank, whored.. not that much different from today, or in 1980s in fact. Lots of farming tracts and tobacco plantations in Manhattan, Long Island and Staten Island.

Interesting trivia:

Broadway - the general knowledge in NYC is that it's paved over an Indian trail.. The Custom House that currently stands on the very near south east bottom of Manhattan sits on the beginning of Broadway. It's a long meandering street from south east of the island going north-northwest direction into Washington Heights on West 190s I think. The Custom House is built over Fort Amsterdam where people hid in safety from extreme weather, the annoying upright English from New England, and some dissenting Indian tribes. National Museum of American Indian is housed in Custom House. A couple paragraphs and a foot notes describes the original Indian trail from south east:

"...the Europeans could likewise follow it north - through stands of pin oak, chestnut, poplar, and pine, part open fields strewn with wild strawberries ('the ground in the flat land near the river is covered with strawberries' one of them noted, 'which would grow so plentifully in the fields, that one can lie down and eat them'), crossing the fast brook that flowed southeast from the highlands in the area of Fifty Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue, more or less where the Plaza Hotel stands, to empty into a small bay on the East River - to hunt in the thick forest at the island's center and to fish the inlets that penetrated the eastern coast......... the Dutch widened the path that they referred to it as the Gentleman's Street, or High Street, or simply the Highway. The English, of course, called it Broadway." (pp 60)

An asterdisk for footnote indicated that "Broadway does not follow the precise course of the Indian trail, as some histories would have it. To follow the Wickquasgeck trail today, one would take Broadway north from the Customs House, jog eastward along Park Row, then follow the Bowery to Twenty Third Street from there the trail snaked up the east side of the island. It crossed westward through the top of Central Park; the paths of Broadway and the Wickquasgeck trail converge again at the top of the island. The trail continued into the Bronx; Route 9 follows it northward." (60)

Turtle Hill - the midtown east into upper east side - 50s into 70s I think, was originally named Turtle Bay due to a turtle like shape of the bay in East River. It's been long since filled in.

the Bowery, where the famous punk rock club CGBG will be closed down soon, derived from Dutch word, Bouwerie for "farm".

The Bronx, named after Jonas Bronck who owned a plantation in 1639.

Adriaen van der Donck, the first "lawman" came to the city fresh out from legal training in Amsterdam. He studied under Groitus (who is now known as "Father of International Law" many of us students in International Relations love to curse his name) and applied his legal training and his keen observation of people living in New Netherlands and Renassaelerwyck. He also lived among Mohawk and Machican communities. Because of English neglect of history of Netherlands New York, van der Donck's writings were either forgotten until unearthed recently and some portions of his work badly mistranslated in 19th century. He wrote of types of plants, soil, how white people lived and worked, their relations with all Native American tribes in the area.

Some of van der Donck's writings on Mohawk system of Representation revealed some things that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson conveniently left out (Franklin and Jefferson were said to base the American representative government on Iroquois confederacy that Mohawk are members of) :

"(van der Donck) seemed to admire that the Indians' government was "of the popular kind," but found that it had its problems. While a whole village would gather to debate matters of importance, and a chief would work like a politician to sway the people to his preferred course of action, the democracy had an abrupt ending point. If an opponent remained obstinate eventually 'one of the younger chiefs would will jump up and in one fell swoop smash the man's skull with an axe in full view of everyone.' Van der Donck was forced to conclude that this species of popular government was 'defective' and 'lame'."

It's not all that different today using power to find scandal or shut down the government to "fell" the opponent.

Anyways on a last note of my rambling summation - I showed some of van der Donck's writings to Surdus today. Van der Donck's writing and analysis of Mohawk has a very strong anthropological theme. Kind of like an educated and observant Hearing academic ignorant of Deaf culture would write on deaf community he or she has lived in for few years, acquiring their languages.

Now I'm on the part where Amsterdam, in their desperate effort to control New Netherlands, would dispatch Peter Stuyvestant, a one pegged man who would be known to American history as a dictator of New Netherlands before the English control.

Editor's note: I mixed in with my observation from my training in government, international studies, and history with Shorto's writings. Shorto's writings are quoted. - kb


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