Native New Yorkers: The Legacy of the Algonquin People of New York

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9781571781352: Native New Yorkers: The Legacy of the Algonquin People of New York

When Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed into the New York Harbor in 1524, he climbed a hill and beheld "campfires as plentiful as stars, as far as the eye can see." Native New Yorkers reveals the city beneath The City, telling the fascinating story of the ancient Algonquin culture that maintained a thriving civilization in the greater New York area that is now the world's foremost metropolis. A thousand years before Columbus, the area that is now New York City was a thriving paradise, hilly and green, lush with forests and wildlife, inhabited by the Lenape Indians. In many respects, this Algonquian tribe created the template by which the city was designed: Broadway, which followed the high ridge of the island, was the Mohecan Trail; Routes 80 and 78 out of the city are both ancient pilgrimage trails. Greenwich was an actual Indian village that stood on the banks of Manetta Creek, whose waters, named for a legendary monster, still run beneath the city. Contemporary New Yorkers' footsteps - and their subways, ferries, and bridges - trace many of the identical paths the Lenape used.

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A thousand years before Columbus the area that is now New York City was inhabited by the Lenape Indians. In many respects this Algonquin tribe created the template by which the modern city that emerged was designed. Broadway, which followed the high ridge of the island, was the Mohican Trail; Routes 80 and 78 were ancient pilgrimage trails, Greenwich Village was an actual Indian village that stood on the banks of Manetta Creek.

From the Inside Flap:

New Yorkers love their city-but how well do they know it? A thousand years before Columbus, the area that is now New York City was a thriving paradise, hilly and green, lush with forests and wildlife-and very much inhabited by the original Native New Yorkers: the spiritually and ecologically advanced Lenape Indians, part of the great Algonquin nation. Contemporary New Yorkers' footsteps-and their subways, ferries, and bridges-trace many of the identical paths and trails the Lenape used. In many respects, the Lenape created the template by which the city was designed: Broadway, which followed the high ridge of the island, was the Mohican Trail; Routes 80 and 78 out of the city are both ancient pilgrimage trails. Greenwich Village was an actual Indian village that stood on the banks of Manetta Creek, whose waters, named for a legendary monster, still run beneath the city; Bowling Green was the site of a sacred council fire and council elm; a vast Lenape cherry orchard once existed at the corner of Franklin Square and Cherry Street.

The accomplishments of New York's Algonquin population have gone almost completely unnoticed in the history books. Native New Yorkers corrects this omission by documenting the geography, population, philosophy, fashion, customs, ecology, spirituality, diplomatic ability, and the several beautiful and poetic languages of the Algonquin peoples in New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson River Valley-to present the clearest and most complete picture yet of exactly what life was like in New York before Europeans arrived.

The Lenape, whose relationship with the earth was one of stewardship, not ownership-they believed that "we belong to the earth"-considered themselves sacred land keepers, in this life and from the spirit world. Though they lived off the land in great numbers, they maintained a pristine ecological system-walking so gently on the land they left no impact, down to lining their graves not with stone, but tree bark. The intricate, metaphoric languages they spoke, described by an early Dutch observer as "sweet and full of meaning," reflected and colored their holistic worldview. The experiential and relational Algonquin languages lacked the distancing article "the," which prevents intimacy and blocks emotion. They had no word for "good-bye," only "see you again," because there is no final parting, even in death: we are all part of a great and endless circle of being.

Native New Yorkers also explains what became of the first Manhattanites. Removed by treaty at least twenty times, their history was suppressed, their language driven out of them and their New York settlements "cartographically submerged." Yet their movement west may be traced by the major cities they founded along their way and, as part of the group that came to be called the Delaware, they produced some of the most influential figures in frontier history.

Drawing on a wide range of historical sources as well as extensive interviews with living Algonquin elders; exhaustively tracing ancient trails, villages, burial grounds, and sacred sites; the text is supplemented with maps, a timeline of New York's Algonquin history, a glossary of Algonquin words, and a transcript of Giovanni da Verrazzano's letter to King Francis I of France describing his first glimpses of the people and landscape of New York in 1524.

For those who wish to glimpse the pastoral parallel universe beneath the concrete and skyscrapers; for lovers of New York, born and raised or distant; Native New Yorkers offers a comprehensive and fascinating account of the graceful Algonquin civilization that once flourished in the area that is now New York.

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