America's Early Whalemen: Indian Shore Whalers on Long Island, 1650-1750

America's Early Whalemen: Indian Shore Whalers on Long Island, 1650-1750

by John A Strong


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The Indians of coastal Long Island were closely attuned to their maritime environment. They hunted sea mammals, fished in coastal waters, and harvested shellfish. To celebrate the deep-water spirits, they sacrificed the tail and fins of the most powerful and awesome denizen of their maritime world—the whale. These Native Americans were whalemen, integral to the origin and development of the first American whaling enterprise in the years 1650 to 1750.

America’s Early Whalemen examines this early chapter of an iconic American historical experience. John A. Strong’s research draws on exhaustive sources, domestic and international, including little-known documents such as the whaling contracts of 340 Native American whalers, personal accounting books of whaling company owners, London customs records, estate inventories, and court records. Strong addresses labor relations, the role of alcohol and debt, the patterns of cultural accommodations by Native Americans, and the emergence of corporate capitalism in colonial America.

When Strong began teaching at Long Island University in 1964, he found little mention of the local Indigenous people in history books. The Shinnecocks and the neighboring tribes of Unkechaugs and Montauketts were treated as background figures for the celebratory narrative of the “heroic” English settlers. America’s Early Whalemen highlights the important contributions of Native peoples to colonial America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780816541515
Publisher: University of Arizona Press
Publication date: 08/14/2020
Series: Native Peoples of the Americas
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

John A. Strong is a professor emeritus of history and American studies at Long Island University. He is the author of numerous books, including The Montaukett Indians of Eastern Long Island and The Unkechaug Indians of Eastern Long Island.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Foreword ix

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xiii

1 The Whale in Aboriginal Long Island Culture 3

2 Drift Whales: A Contentious Asset 21

3 Sachems, Entrepreneurs, and Conflicting Sovereignties 41

4 Origins of "Ye Whaling Design" on Long Island 57

5 New Needs, Old Traditions: The Cultural Impact of "Ye Whale Design" 79

6 Debt Peonage and Indentured Servitude 99

7 Papasaquin's World: Politics, Economics, and Family in Seventeenth-Century Long Island 127

8 Leaving the Shore: The End of an Era 151

Appendix 1 Examples of Whaling Contracts 164

Appendix 2 Whaling Contracts by Season 171

Appendix 3 St. George Manor 175

Appendix 4 Estimates of Shore Whale Catches, 1697-1734 177

Appendix 5 Names of Indian Whalers and English Investors on the Whaling Contracts, 1670-1685 179

Notes 203

Bibliography 211

Index 225

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