Author of the Month

Henry Hudson in a Time of Prophecy (cont.)
By Evan Pritchard

Meanwhile, Hudson went ashore to greet the people. The moment Hudson stepped onshore, the natives all stood around and sang to welcome him. The Europeans were given many gifts, mostly of tobacco, and they traded with the native people, at least some of whom seemed to live on the beach in temporary shelters, while a great number came from a few miles away in every direction. Some were allowed onto the ship. The men traded extensively in furs and food with the native people. The people had smoking pipes made of yellow copper from 85 miles away (near what is today Ellenville, New York) which they wore as pendants. As the cook began to cut the manta up with his sword, (more about the sword later) we can assume the Canarsie were horrified, possibly tearful. The hungry men ignored the pleas and warnings of the Canarsie and began to eat it Friday night, probably in front of the Canarsie. One can imagine the Canarsie women on board, singing the manta songs as they knelt to pray for the alien-looking creature.

Saturday, September 5, Hudson then sailed west two miles to Prince’s Bay, passing Wolfe’s Pond, where they were amazed at the towering oaks. Canarsiespeaking natives brought them tobacco and corn of various levels of cultivation from what is now Old Town, Staten Island, part of the Arrochar Region that is still marked on maps of Staten Island. John Colman and the other members of the crew feasted on the manta, oblivious to the taboos of the territory in which they were guests.

On Sunday, the morning of September 6, now fortified with a big meal, the crew’s English strongman, John Colman, led a small crew of six in a rowboat to explore Muscouten, now called the East River. They rowed up the Kikeshika (Harlem River), and then back down, smelling sweet scents in the air. They went east as far as Long Island Sound and then turned around. As the fog lowered and rain began to fall, they unwittingly headed straight towards the mouth of the Bronx River and for the heavily guarded Snakapins Wampum Factory, where much of the wampum for the Iroquois (Hodenosuannee) Confederacy and for the various nations of the “River Indians” was cut and stored. It was like barging into Fort Knox unannounced. Two large canoes filled with 26 heavily armed warriors, approached them, shouting at them to turn around. Colman’s crew shouted back, not understanding. Colman was shot with an arrow through the throat and died on the return trip. It was such an uncanny shot, one wonders who unleashed it; the father of the famed Wampage perhaps? The remainder of the crew tried to get away but paddled right into the Hellgate and some of the most treacherous crosscurrents on the east coast. Finally, they managed to get to a shore, and exhausted, spent a few hours hiding and caring for Colman. At dawn they continued south and at 10 am finally found the ship and told their tragic story. By this time John, a beloved senior officer, had died. Was it bad luck? Or the curse of the manta ray, as Long Island natives would have presumed?

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