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Long before Europeans “discovered” the area we call The Hudson Valley, Native Americans had been populating and cultivating the land for thousands of years, perhaps ever since the glaciers first retreated some 13,000 years ago.
The Catskills lie at the intersection of three Native American territories which overlap:
- Haudenosaunee (ho-dee-no-SHOW-nee) who we used to call the Iroquois (comprised of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca) — most of the Catskill Park lies within Haudenosaunee territory which covers the northern and western Catskills
- Mohican (mo-HEE-kan) — includes the northeastern Catskills starting in Spruceton Valley
- Munsee Lenape (le-NAH-pay) — areas south of the Devil’s Path in the eastern Catskills, and the Pepacton in the western Catskills, including the Ashokan, Rondout and Neversink reservoirs
Indian Removal Act
These Native American communities were forced out of The Catskills by the Indian Removal Act, signed into law in 1830 by President Andrew Jackson.
As a consequence of the Indian Removal Act…
- “Iroquois” descendants now live in scattered communities throughout New York, and in Wisconsin, as well as in Ontario and Quebec.
- Under the same policy, many Mohican were also displaced to Wisconsin and Ontario.
- And in the 1860s, the U.S. government sent most Lenape remaining in the east to present-day Oklahoma.
- Modern-day Lenape still live in Oklahoma, with some communities in Wisconsin and Ontario.
- Displaced. Far from their native land.
How did the Indian Removal Act lead to the Trail of Tears?
The Indian Removal Act contributed heavily to the Trail of Tears, the forced migration of indigenous tribes which facilitated the land grab by white settlers.
For example, during the fall and winter of 1838 and 1839, approximately 4,000 Cherokees died on a forced march, which became known as the Trail of Tears.
“The Cherokee Trail of Tears resulted from the enforcement of the Treaty of New Echota, an agreement signed under the provisions of the Indian Removal Act which exchanged Indian land in the East for lands west of the Mississippi River, but which was never accepted by the elected tribal leadership or a majority of the Cherokee people.” [Wikipedia]
- Discover the Hudson Valley’s Native American History
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