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, and extended east into parts of Connecticut.
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.
The 1685 Dutch map of New Netherland places the Wappani tribe as one of many family tribes of the Tawakoni(Taconic)that lived in the Fishkill NY Highlands. The Towakoni tribe of which the Wappani belonged was a larger family of the Lenape. The Woarani family held the highlands of Pawling NY, and Nochpeem held the highlands of Kent NY, just below the Wappani Highlands of Fishkill (map of Nava Belgii Nieuw)
In 1805, 200 years after the stated 3000 person population General Clinton and Sullivan of the British forces destroyed 40 Indian Towns, their crops, fruit trees, and burned over 100,000 bushels of corn from Elmira to Genesse valley New York. This places the Indian Population well above 3000 considering the work force to maintain 40 stationary farming towns, and the various fields that supplied the vegetables. The Wappani as one small band of the Towakani of Southern NY, NJ and PA. may have had 3000 members living upon one mountain top region of Fishkill, however The Towakani tribe had Family tribes upon every mountain throughout the region which is completely over looked. further the Towakani adopted their Woarani neighbors who were relocated by the Dutch Privateer sailors into Pawling to run the iron furnaces. The Woarani( pronounced Gwuarani)originated in the Brazil/Paraguay region of South America. The Towakoni tribe of the Lenape was known for teaching healers or medicine through spirituality, Putnam County New York is known as the Stone chamber capital of the world and boasts over 300 known and intact stone chambers, massive effigies and man made lakes of the once vibrant Towakani tribes.
The first contact with Europeans came in 1609, during Henry Hudson's expedition. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
In 1766 Daniel Nimham "Daniel Ninmaham", a Nochpeem 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.
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 (Northern Lenape) Stockbridge-Munsee tribe in Ohio. Later they were removed to Wisconsin. Today, members of the federally recognized Stockbridge-Munsee Nation reside mostly in Wisconsin. Algonquin means the meeting place and was never the name of a tribe, instead it was the meeting place of the numerous Lenape tribes.
In one massacre of woman and children during war of 1812 in what is now Putnam County NY, on Nimham mountain more than 3000 Nochpeem Indian lives were lost in this Indian town alone. They were buried in a long mound by Stephen Rensselaer III upon his return from defending the US from the French invaders. At this same time Isaac Brock of the English military marched 600 Indians before a French line 3 times (as targets), Stephen Rensselaer led his forces across Niagra, He defeated Brock who was pronounced deceased upon the battle field.
The origins of the word "Wappinger" are uncertain. While the present-day spelling appeared as early as 1643, countless alternate phonetic spellings were also used by early European settlers well into the late 1800s, including Wappinck, Wapping, Wappingo, Wawping, Wappans, Wappings, Wappinghs, Wapanoos, Wappanoos, Wappinoo, Wappenos, Wappinoes, Wappinex, Wappinx, Wapingeis, Wabinga, Wabingies, Wapingoes, Wapings, Wappinges, Wapinger and Wappenger. 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.
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.
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.
- Wappinger proper, members lived on the east side of the Hudson River, in present-day Dutchess County, New York
- Hammonasset, an eastern group at the mouth of the Connecticut River, in present-day Middlesex County, Connecticut
- Kitchawank, northern Westchester County, New York
- Mattabesset, present-day New Haven County, Connecticut
- Massaco, along the Farmington River in Connecticut
- Menunkatuck, along the coast in present-day New Haven County, Connecticut
- Nochpeem, in southern portions of present-day Dutchess County, New York
- Paugusset, along the Housatonic River, present-day eastern Fairfield County and western New Haven County, Connecticut
- Podunk, east of the Connecticut River in eastern Hartford County, Connecticut
- Poquonock, western present-day Hartford County, Connecticut
- Quinnipiac, in central New Haven County, Connecticut
- Sicaog, in present-day Hartford County, Connecticut
- Sintsink, east of the Hudson River in present-day Westchester County, New York
- Siwanoy, coastal Westchester County, New York, into southwestern Fairfield County, Connecticut
- Tankiteke, central coastal Fairfield County, Connecticut north into Putnam County and Dutchess County, New York
- Tunxis, southwestern Hartford County, Connecticut
- Wecquaesgeek, southwestern Westchester County, New York
The Wappinger are the namesake of several areas in New York, including:
- The town of Wappinger
- The village of Wappingers Falls
- Wappinger Creek
- Wappinger Trail, Briarcliff Manor, New York
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