A History of The Matinnecock(sic) Indians


(Houghton Mifflin Encyclopedia of Indians)


The Matinnecock Indians, an Algonquian people, are the aboriginal occupants of northwestern Long Island. Among the first to feel the impact of European settlement, and seldom mentioned after the colonial period, the Matinnecocks experienced profound changes after the seventeenth century. But they did not vanish; they are still an identifiable people.


Following a massacre of local Indians by the Dutch in 1643, some Matinnecocks fled eastward to the Smithtown area. Holland's feeble attempt at the colonization of Long Island ended in 1644, and during the ensuing English period the loss of tribal domain was complete. In 1789 the Flushing courthouse was destroyed by fire, and all records of transactions with the Mattinecocks were consumed. With no supporting documents, modern descendants find it extremely difficult to trace their history or press a claim for the return of illegally seized lands.


In 1829 the village of Success was officially founded near Manhasset. The inhabitants were Matinnecock Indians, free blacks, and whites. Local tradition declares that a multiracial community had already existed there during the Revolutionary War. Descendants of these first settlers of Success (which was later renamed Lakeville) still live in the immediate area.


Following their conversion to Protestant Christianity, the Matinnecocks organized independent congregations called starlight churches. Circuit-rider preachers traveled by night to the various Mattinecock settlements, often conducting services in homes. By the mid-nineteenth century, the starlight churches had joined black denominations, and the churches' traditional June meetings became tribal reunions.


In 1931 an Indian cemetery in Douglaston stood in the path of a proposed highway. The Mattinecocks' chief, James Waters (Wild Pigeon), waged a well-publicized campaign against the cemetery's desecration, but the highway was built nonetheless. The bones of forty-four Matinnecocks were reinterred in the churchyard of nearby Zion Episcopal Church beside a glacial boulder that received the following inscription: "Here Rest the Last of the Matinecoc." The Daughters of the American Revolution added a bronze plaque with nearly identical wording

in 1948.


During the 1950s a charismatic leader appeared. Ann Harding Murdock (Sun Tama) experienced a compelling vision in which she was commanded to lead her people out of obscurity. Her guardian spirit was probably Tackapusha, a colonial-period sachem. In 1958 the Matinnecock Indian Tribe was formally reactivated. A tribal census was taken in 1963, and approximately two hundred persons provided notarized genealogies attesting to their Matinnecock ancestry.


In 1975 the tribe began the revitalization of its ancestral religion. To date, four ceremonies have been revived. Nunnowa ("Indian Thanksgiving") is held in October, and a midwinter ceremony takes place in February; naming and pipe ceremonies are held when appropriate. Wallace Pyawasit, a traditional Menominee religious leader from Wisconsin, assisted in reviving these rites.


Tribal leadership has been a recurrent problem since the death of Ann Murdock in 1969. The Matinecock Longhouse of Long Island, a formal organization, was chartered by the state of New York in 1985 but is now inactive, having fallen victim to factionalism . At present the tribe has a chief, but some reject his authority.


Like the Algonquian remnants of southern New England, the Matinnecocks are now involved in a regional form of Pan-lndianism. An unknown number have been assimilated by the black and white communities, but a core group cling steadfastly to their Native American identity.


T. J. C. Brasser, North American Indians in Historical Perspective "The Coastal Algonkians: People of the First Frontiers," ed. Eleanor Burke Leacock and Nancy Oestreich Lurie (New York: Random House, 1971 ); Ann McMullen, Enduring Traditions: The Native Peoples of New England "What's Wrong with This Picture? Context, Conversion, Survival, and the Development of Regional Native Cultures and Pan-lndianism in Southeastern New England," ed. Laurie Weinstein (Westport, Conn.: Bergin and Garvey, 1994).


Source: http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/naind/html/na 021600 matinnecock.htm