Nassau County, located on Long Island in New York, has a rich and diverse history that dates back thousands of years. While many may associate the county with its affluent suburbs and bustling city life, it is important to recognize the significant role that Native American tribes played in shaping the area's past.
The Original InhabitantsBefore European settlers arrived in the 17th century, Nassau County was home to several Native American tribes, including the Matinecock, Massapequa, and Rockaway. These tribes were part of the larger Algonquian language group and had been living on Long Island for thousands of years. The Native Americans of Nassau County were skilled hunters and gatherers, relying on the land and its resources for survival. They lived in small villages along the coast and were known for their intricate beadwork, pottery, and other crafts.
European ColonizationIn 1639, Dutch colonists arrived on Long Island and began to establish settlements.
This marked the beginning of European colonization in Nassau County. As more Europeans arrived, conflicts between them and the Native Americans arose. The Dutch and English colonists often clashed with the Native Americans over land ownership and resources. The colonists also brought diseases that decimated the Native American population. By the late 1700s, most of the original inhabitants had either died or been forced to leave their land.
The Revolutionary WarDuring the Revolutionary War, Nassau County was a strategic location for both British and American forces.
The area was home to several important battles, including the Battle of Long Island in 1776.
Native American tribesplayed a significant role in the war, with many siding with the British. The Mohawk and Seneca tribes, who had migrated to Long Island from upstate New York, were known for their fierce fighting skills and were valuable allies to the British. However, some Native Americans also fought on the side of the Americans. The Oneida tribe, who had a long-standing alliance with the colonists, provided crucial support during the war.
The Impact of Land SalesAfter the Revolutionary War, the new American government began to sell off Native American land in Nassau County to pay off war debts. This led to further displacement of the remaining Native American population. In 1795, the Massapequa tribe sold their land to the state of New York, and by 1801, most of the remaining Native American land in Nassau County had been sold off.
This marked the end of Native American presence in the area.
Preserving Native American HistoryDespite their displacement and loss of land, Native American tribes have continued to play a role in Nassau County's history. In recent years, there has been a push to preserve and honor their legacy. The Matinecock Nation, one of the original tribes of Nassau County, has been working to reclaim their ancestral land and preserve their culture. In 2010, they were granted federal recognition as a tribe by the United States government. The Shinnecock Indian Nation, located on Long Island's eastern end, has also been fighting for recognition and land rights. In 2010, they were granted federal recognition as well. In addition to these efforts, there are several museums and cultural centers in Nassau County that showcase Native American history and artifacts.
These include the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve, which features exhibits on the Matinecock tribe, and the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum.