The Indians Who Lived in Manhattan Were Happy to Get Rid of It!

Manhattan then and now

If you find it hard to imagine what Manhattan looked like in the 1600s versus today, here’s something that might help…

The tribe that inhabited the island of Manhattan in the 1600s were called the Lenape, the Lenape being part of the Delaware nation who inhabited the lower Hudson Valley.

Did the Dutch really purchase the island of Manhattan from the Lenape for a mere $20 in worthless beads and leave them holding an empty bag? Not by a long shot. Manhattan, which meant ‘hill island’ in the Lenape’s native language, wasn’t of much value to them, so they exchanged it for iron pots and tools that had considerably more use at the time.

It was a bargain then and no different than any other bargain that has been struck in New York City since.


I’m sure the Lenape Indians must have thought the Dutch a little bit crazy for wanting the swampy island of Manhattan!

What I find interesting is why the Indians wanted to live there in the first place. The island was rocky and swampy and had little strategic importance for them as it did for the Europeans.

Frederick Law Olmsted probably had the same reaction when he first laid eyes on the desolate parcel that was eventually to become Central Park. However, with the help of several tons of dynamite and ten thousand workers he somehow managed to turn it into the urban oasis that it is today–one in which Christopher Middleton, the main character in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story,  takes later refuge in himself.


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