The Wecquaesgeek (also Manhattoe and Manhattan) were a Munsee-speaking band of Wappinger people who once lived along the east bank of the Hudson River in the southwest of today's Westchester County, New York, and down into the Bronx.
As was common practice early in the days of European settlement of North America, a people came to be associated with a place, with its name displacing theirs among the settlers and those associated with them, such as explorers, mapmakers, trading company superiors who sponsored many of the early settlements, and officials in the settlers' mother country in Europe.
Known by many generally similar spellings, they fished the region's streams and lakes with rods and nets. Their main settlements flanked the then Saeck Kill—today's Saw Mill River—at its confluence with the Hudson at Getty Square in present-day Yonkers.
The main Weckquaesgeek settlements flanked the then Saeck Kill—today's Saw Mill River—at its confluence with the Hudson River in present-day Yonkers. It was bordered by the Sintsink to the north, below today's Ossining, and inland toward Long Island Sound to that of the Siwanoy, both related Wappinger bands.
To the south their range included the western part of today's Bronx along the Hudson and Harlem Rivers, and included the upper three-quarters of Manhattan island, which they did not permanently occupy but used as a hunting ground. Effectively it was their land that the Canarsee people of today's Brooklyn, who only occupied the very southern end of Manhattan island, an area known as the Manhattoes, sold to the Dutch.
The Dutch ended up with the island, and the Wecquaesgeek being called the "Manhattoe" or "Manhattan" Indians.
Numerous variants of are found on historical maps and in period documents. These include: Wiechquaeskeck, Wechquaesqueck, Weckquaesqueek, Weekquaesguk, Wickquasgeck, Wickquasgek, Wiequaeskeek, Wiequashook, and Wiquaeskec. The meaning of the name has variously been given as "the end of the marsh, swamp or wet meadow", "place of the bark kettle", and "birch bark country".
Just as a name of one of their trails - the Wickquasgeck - was given to the people so another conflation by white settlers further confounded their identity, when they were mistakenly referred to as the Manhattoes after a place of that name on the southern tip of Manhattan Island. Compounding this was that the Manhattoes was the only part of Manhattan not occupied by the Wecquasgeek; it was a seasonal ground of the Canarsee, a Metoac people who lived across the East River in today's Brooklyn.
- Their presence on the east bank of the Hudson River in today's Westchester County is clearly labeled on the 1685 revision by Petrus Schenk Junior, Novi Belgii Novæque Angliæ, of a 1656 map by Nicolaes Visscher.
- Sultzman, Lee (1997). "Wappinger History". Retrieved 14 January 2012.
- French, Alvah P. (1925). History of Westchester County, New York. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company. LCCN 25018271. OCLC 3554289. OL 22135974M.
- Moby Dick, Herman Melville, Chapter 1, reprinted in "Melville Depicted City of ‘Manhattoes’ Lured by the Sea,", New York Times, July 5, 1976, p. 13
- "Brooks, ponds, swamps, and marshes characterized other portions of the island of the 'Manhattoes'", The Memorial History of the City of New York, James Grant Wilson, New York, 1892
- "The $24 Swindle", Nathaniel Benchley, American Heritage, 1959, Vol. 11, Issue 1
- Dunlap, David (June 15, 1983). "Oldest Streets Are Protected as Landmark". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 21, 2015.
- Shorto, Russell (February 9, 2004). "The Streets Where History Lives". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
And what about a marker for the Wickquasgeck Trail, the Indian path that ran the length of the island, which the Dutch made into their main highway and the English renamed Broadway?
- Cohen, Doris Darlington. "The Weckquaesgeek" (PDF). Ardsley Historical Society.
- Trumbull, James Hammond (1881). Indian Names of Places, Etc., in and on the Borders of Connecticut: With Interpretations of Some of Them. Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company. p. 81.
- Letter from Stephen Goodyear to Peter Stuyvesant, 19 July, 1652, addressed to him at "The Manhattoes", Correspondence 1647-1653, Charles Gehring, The New Netherlands Institute, p. 189
- The Standards of the Manhattoes, Pavonia, and Hell-Gate, David B. Martucci, 2011, p. 786
- "Brooks, ponds, swamps, and marshes characterized other portions of the island of the 'Manhattoes'," The Memorial History of the City of New York, James Grant Wilson, New York, 1892
- Canarsee, the Native American band that sold Manhattan to the Dutch