Peter Minuit Negotiated with the Indigenous Lenape People for the Rights to Use Manhattan Island

Clarifying History

Throughout American history, this event has been recorded as “Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from Native Americans in exchange for traded goods valued at 60 guilders.” The Dutch and the Indigenous Lenape People held contrasting cultural perspectives on the transaction, however, ultimately resulting in the Dutch establishing a permanent presence on Manhattan Island and causing the Lenape People to leave their ancestral lands.

To Europeans, land was something that could be bought, sold, and owned by an individual. Native people did not see land this way. Because of this, Native groups would exchange land, but in their minds had only given permission to use the lands. When Native people exchanged Manhattan with the Dutch, they did not give up their right to live on it. Native people probably meant to allow the Dutch to use the land while they continued to live on it. *

The Event

When the Dutch West India Company arrived, the Lenape People and other tribes of Indigenous people resided in a territory encompassing southern New York, eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and northern Delaware. This region, referred to as Lenapehokink, meaning the ‘land of the Lenape,’ had been under their stewardship for thousands of years. Besides the 1626 agreement in which the Dutch acquired the rights to use Manhattan Island, the Lenape (Delaware) people were the first tribe to sign a treaty with the United States in 1778.

This event will commemorate the original intent of friendship between the Original People and the early settlers of New Amsterdam as well as shed recognition on the Lenape heritage and their role in the history of New York City and the nation. This historic meeting took place where the Customs House on Bowling Green at the tip of Manhattan Island is now located. Today, this is the permanent home of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian.

The event is in development.

For more information on the Lenape people visit their website and read this article in the Smithsonia,  The True Native New Yorkers Can Never Truly Reclaim Their Homeland.

*De Halve Maen 72, no. 4 (Winter 1999): 75–83, reprinted in Margriet Lacy, ed., A Beautiful and Fruitful Place: Selected Rensselaerswijck Papers, vol. 3 (Albany: New Netherland Institute, 2013): 41–48.

Contrary to Legend, the Dutch didn’t buy Manhattan for $24  and other tribes of Indigenous people

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