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This article is about the Native American Indian tribe. For other uses, see Wappinger (disambiguation).

The Wappinger were a confederacy of Native Americans whose territory in the 17th century spread along the eastern bank of the Hudson River. Primarily based in what is now Dutchess County, New York, their territory bordered Manhattan Island to the south, the Mahican territory bounded by the Roeliff-Jansen Kill to the north,[1] and extended east into parts of Connecticut.[2]

They were most closely related to the Lenape, both being members of the Eastern Algonquian-speaking subgroup of the Algonquian peoples. The Lenape and Wappinger spoke using very similar Delawarean languages—similar enough that a Wappinger speaking in the Munsee Delaware tongue and a Lenape would mostly understand each other.

Their nearest allies were the Mahicans to the north, the Montauketts to the south, and the remaining New England tribes to the east. Like the Lenape, the Wappinger were not organized into cohesive tribes for most of their history; instead, they formed approximately 18 loosely associated bands.[3]

European relations[edit]

The first contact with Europeans came in 1609, during Henry Hudson's expedition.[4] As the Dutch began to settle in the area, they pressured the Connecticut Wappinger to sell their lands and seek refuge with other Algonquian-speaking tribes. The western bands, however, stood their ground amidst rising tensions.[5]

During Kieft's War in 1643, the remaining Wappinger bands united against the Dutch, attacking settlements throughout New Netherland. Allied with their trading partners, the powerful Mohawk, the Dutch defeated the Wappinger by 1645.[6] The Mohawk and Dutch killed more than 1500 Wappinger in the two years of the war. This was a devastating toll for the Wappinger, whose population in 1600 was estimated at 3,000.[3]

The Wappinger faced the Dutch again in the 1655 Peach Tree War, a three-day engagement which left an estimated 100 settlers and 60 Wappinger dead, and strained relations further between the two groups.[7] After the war, the confederation broke apart, and many of the surviving Wappinger left their native lands for the protection of neighboring tribes.

In 1765, the remaining Wappinger in Dutchess County sued the Philipse family for control of the land but lost. In the aftermath the Philipses raised rents on European-American tenant farmers, sparking riots across the region.[8][9]

In 1766 Daniel Nimham, a Wappinger sachem from Stockbridge, was part of a delegation that traveled to London to petition the crown for land rights and better treatment by the colonists.[10]

Many Wappinger served in the Stockbridge Militia during the American Revolution. Following the war, most of the surviving Wappinger moved west to join the Algonquian Stockbridge-Munsee tribe in Ohio. Later they were removed to Wisconsin. Today, members of the federally recognized Stockbridge-Munsee Nation reside mostly in Wisconsin.



The origins of the word "Wappinger" are uncertain. While the present-day spelling appeared as early as 1643,[11] countless alternate phonetic spellings were also used by early European settlers well into the late 1800s, including Wappinck, Wapping, Wappingo, Wawping,[12] Wappans, Wappings, Wappinghs,[13] Wapanoos, Wappanoos, Wappinoo, Wappenos, Wappinoes, Wappinex, Wappinx, Wapingeis, Wabinga, Wabingies, Wapingoes, Wapings, Wappinges, Wapinger and Wappenger.[11] There are also a couple of references to the names Wam-pa-nos and Wamponas, a possible confusion of the Wappinger with the Wampanoag of southeastern Massachusetts.[11]

Some early sources derive the name from the generic Algonquian word Wapani or "Eastern People", so-called by their local neighbors, given their location east of the Hudson River, and also by the Lenape, since the Wappinger were the most eastern nation of their own stock.[1][14]

Others suggest that Wappinger is anglicized from the Dutch word wapendragers, meaning "weapon-bearers", alluding to the warring relationship between the Dutch and the Wappinger.[1][15]

Other sources emphatically dispute both of the above origins, saying that the name originates from the Munsee language. These sources claim that the name derives from the Munsee word for "Opossum", or moo-wha'-pink-us, which literally translates to "he has no fur on his little tail". The Lenape used the shortened form Wappinkus to refer to them, in much the same way that one might say 'possum in modern-day English.[16][17]


The named bands, or sachemships of the Wappinger included:[18]


The Wappinger are the namesake of several areas in New York, including:


  1. ^ a b c Ruttenber, E.M. (1906). "Footprints of the Red Men –- Indian Geographical Names in the Valley of Hudson's River, the Valley of the Mohawk, and on the Delaware: Their location and the probable meaning of some of them". Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association - The Annual Meeting, with Constitution, By-Laws and List of Members (New York State Historical Association). 7th Annual: 40 (RA1-PA38). Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  2. ^ Encyclopedia Americana. 1920. p. 256. 
  3. ^ a b Trelease, Allen (1997). Indian Affairs in Colonial New York. ISBN 0-8032-9431-X. 
  4. ^ Swanton, John R. (2003). The Indian Tribes of North America. p. 47. 
  5. ^ "Wappinger". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2010. Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  6. ^ Axelrod, Alan (2008). Profiles in Folly. Sterling Publishing Company. pp. 229–236. ISBN 1-4027-4768-3. 
  7. ^ Reitano, Joanne R. (2006). The Restless City: A Short History of New York from Colonial Times to the Present. CRC Press. pp. 9–10. ISBN 0-415-97849-1. 
  8. ^ Kammen, Michael (1996). Colonial New York: A History. Oxford University Press. p. 302. ISBN 0-19-510779-9. 
  9. ^ Steele, Ian K. (2000). The Human Tradition in the American Revolution. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 85–91. ISBN 0-8420-2748-3. 
  10. ^ Vaughan, Alden (2006). Transatlantic Encounters: American Indians in Britain, 1500-1776. Cambridge University Press. p. 177. ISBN 0-521-86594-8. 
  11. ^ a b c Hodge, Frederick Webb, ed. (October 1912). Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Part 2 (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology. pp. 913, 1167, 1169. ISBN 978-1-4286-4558-5. Retrieved November 1, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Wappinger History". First Nations - Issues of Consequence. June 28, 1997. Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  13. ^ Brodhead, John Romeyn, Agent (1986) [First Pub. 1855]. O'Callaghan, E.B., ed. London documents: XVII-XXIV. 1707-1733. Documents relative to the colonial history of the State of New York procured in Holland, England and France. Vol. 5. Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons & Co. ISBN 0-665-53988-6. OL7024110M. Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  14. ^ Federal Writers' Project (1975). Dutchess County. AMS Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-404-57944-2. 
  15. ^ Vasiliev, Ren (2004). From Abbotts to Zurich: New York State Placenames. Syracuse University Press. p. 233. ISBN 0-8156-0798-9. 
  16. ^ Pritchard, Evan T. (April 12, 2002). Native New Yorkers, the legacy of the Algonquin people of New York. Council Oaks Distribution. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-57178-107-9. Retrieved November 1, 2010. 
  17. ^ Bright, William (November 30, 2007). Native American placenames of the United States. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 548. ISBN 978-0-8061-3598-4. Retrieved November 1, 2010. 
  18. ^ "New York Indian Tribes". Retrieved 2008-09-19.