Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24 - Peter Minuit and Manhattan Island

May 24, 1626, is the date on which Peter Minuit, a Dutch colonial administrator, is believed to have “purchased” the island of Manhattan from native inhabitants. A Walloon, Minuit had been appointed the third director of New Netherland by the Dutch West India Company. The vast region covered what is now the Delmarva Peninsula to Cape Cod. He arrived in the colony’s capital, New Amsterdam, on May 4. A letter from November 1626 indicated that Minuit and the natives exchanged goods valued at 60 guilders (now equivalent to about $1,000). There is no evidence of “swindling” by either the Dutch or the natives (probably Canarsees, inhabiting what’s now Brooklyn, not Manhattan). Minuit likely proffered equipment of great value and usefulness for tasks such as clearing land. The natives likely were making a shrewd, exclusive alliance with the Dutch against rival native nations and courting a valuable trading partner. The key point of Manhattan for both parties was fur trade, i.e., money and power. Nothing has changed since.

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