After months of work, indigenous historian Evan Pritchard and Stony Point Center recently unveiled a digital map outdoor display designed to educate our guests and our campus community about the Native Peoples who lived on this land before European settlers arrived. The map, titled "Here Before Us," is accompanied by text about important Native settlements, trails and rivers in the region. It draws from the chapter in Evan Pritchard’s book Native New Yorkers entitled “People of Stony Country." Graphic design was done by Christa Torres (instagram: ct.art.design).
The map is now displayed at a high-traffic crossroads near Beech Tree Lodge so as to be viewed by as many guests as possible. Read on for the text, and click here to view the full PDF!
HERE BEFORE US:
This map includes various Native American places of interest in and around Rockland County. There is no time frame -- from the indigenous perspective, the old place names are still relevant as the ancestors of these villages and settlements still watch over the land. The First Peoples of our area knew these places as their homeland, but by Algonquin, Dutch and English names.
The original name of our estuary, M’hikanituk, (Hudson) is pronounced mough-hee-kan-i-tuck. Mough means “greatest of all,” heekan means “arm of the sea,” or estuary, and tuck means “a river that flows both ways.” Stony Point/Indian Point was a major crossing for the “Sagamore Trail” (Cape Cod to California) as it crossed the M’hikanituk. Ferry boats were dugout canoes (moo-xool) made of durable tulip tree wood. East and West Main Street (route 108, including Grassy Point Road and Canoe Cove) preserve part of that trail westward.
The predominant tribal group in Rockland County is Ramapough, part of the Munsee Delaware (Lenape) Nation which stretched from Saugerties to the Raritan River, and which is one of approximately 84 Algonquian-speaking nations of North America. Frank Speck (1881-1950) describes visiting small enclaves of Ramapough all over Rockland County in his article of 1911. Some of the villages he visited include Bulsontown (near here, along route 65) Johnsontown (near Sloatsburg), Ladentown, Mahwah, Monsey (pronounced Munsee), Ringwood, Sandyfields (near here), Sherwoodville, Suffern, and Willow Grove. Ringwood, Stag Hill, Hillburn and Suffern are still Ramapough strongholds today.
The map includes the Nochpeem to the east and the Waoraneck Munsee to the north of our county, closely related to Ramapough who also have ancestral ties to the Hackensack Munsee. The multi-racial Ramapough are considered Munsee by a US Government study of 1950, but to this day have not been granted Federal recognition. They were joined by Tuscaroras as that group moved northward from North Carolina during the Tuscarora Wars of 1711-1715.
The Toppaun were another prominent Munsee sub-tribe on the Mohicanituck. The name means “cold water place.” The Dutch named the Tappan Zee (Inland Sea of the Toppaun) after them. Famed Chief Willem was one of their sachems. The Nyack, or Narrioch, another Munsee sub-tribe, were driven out of Brooklyn by Dutch attacks in the early mid-1600s. Nyack is a variant of Narrioch (R dialect) which means “a prominent point of land.” In the 1950s, descendants could be found among students at Nyack High School, possibly at Nyack Crossing, Glacier National Park in Montana, and elsewhere. The Haverstroo, or Rumanchenak were another Munsee-speaking sub-tribe on the Hudson. Rumanchenak means “bad planting fields.” The soil there is mostly clay and so the Dutch cut it up to make bricks, which is why the National Brick Museum is located there. The Dutch added “haverstroo” (oatstraw) to make the bricks stronger, hence the town and later tribal name Haverstraw.
Anthony’s Nose is a rock formation in the Manitou Mountains across the river. Gitchi Manitou means “Great Spirit” in Algonquian tongues. The mountain adjoining it to the southeast is still called Manitou Mountain while the township on the other side is still called Manitou, New York. The nose was named after St. Anthony in 1697. Across the river is Meanagh, which means “oysters,” the site of a large oyster midden, later called Indian Point -- named after an annual powwow held between 1900-1910. Beyond it is Appamagliopogh (great corn fields), all part of the Nochpeem Nation, a member of the loosely organized Wappingers’ Confederacy.
Today’s Tuxedo, NY (birthplace of the “tux”) is in Ramapough territory, derived from the word P’tuxedo, or “round-footed ones,” which is in reference to the “Wolf Clan” of the Delaware, ie, Munsee. The name Minisceongo Creek, which meets the Hudson just below the canoe cove also implies “the land of the Munsee (Minis-kee).” Ringwood is rich with Ramapough history. Along with Warwick, it was once part of a large Algonquin “city” called Mistucky (“Land of the Red Maple”). Mahwah means “gathering,” (short for mah-wee-o-mee, or spiritual gathering). The Paramus River was formerly called Parampseapus River. Nanuet was formerly called Nannawitt, named after a prominent Ramapough chief by that name.
Spook Rock, once a vision quest spot, is located at the SW corner of Spook Rock Road and North Airmont Road/Highview Road. The name derives from the Dutch word for spirit, or ghost. A prominent slanted rock which once served as a rock shelter, is in Hillburn, on the NE corner of 6th Street and Boulder Avenue, and may have inspired the name Ramapough, which some sources translate as “Slanting Rock.”
For more information, read Evan Pritchard’s Native New Yorkers, and the chapter entitled, “People of Stony Country.” (Council Oak Books, San Francisco, 2002) Also go to www.algonquinculture.org.