The Tribal Council of the Siwanoy Nation

The Siwanoy Nation - A History

The Siwanoys are a tribe of Native Americans, indigenous to the coastal areas of Long Island Sound in modern-day New York and Connecticut. Historically, they were one of the western bands of the great Wappinger-Mattabesec Confederacy, whose territory extended beyond the Connecticut River and deep into Dutch territory. They spoke the Renneiu language, also called Algonquian R dialect. The name Siwanoy may be a corruption of Siwanak, "salt people". 

Circa 1636, there was a paramount chief over the Wappinger-Mattabesec confederacy named Romaneck (or Romanock, known to the English as Joseph), a warrior whose authority none dared to challenge. He had one daughter, Prasque, and she became the bride of Wampage I, the sagamore (or chieftain) of the Siwanoys.

By 1640, the Siwanoys' territory (known as Wykagyl) extended from Hell Gate in The Bronx to Norwalk, Connecticut, and as far inland as White Plains, New York. Their largest village, Poningo, named for Siwanoy chieftain Ponus, was located near modern-day Rye, New York. They also had stockade settlements at Davenport Neck (Shippan), Ann Hook's Neck and Hunter Island (Laaphawachking, "place of stringing beads"), and possibly additional settlements at Mamaroneck, New York, and Greenwich, Connecticut. They referred to the area now known as The Bronx as Rananchqua. Siwanoy territory became hotly contested between Dutch and English colonial interests, and the western bands of the Wappinger-Mattabesec Confederacy became embroiled in Kieft's War in 1640. The war, primarily motivated by New Netherland Director-General Willem Kieft's disdain for indigenous people and greed for land, lasted five years, and cost the lives of some 1,600 natives. Thus, tensions between the colonists and the indigenous people of the area were extremely high at this time, and this undoubtedly led to the massacre of Anne Hutchinson and her family in 1643. Anne Hutchinson's home was being built on Siwanoy lands by Capt. James Sands, and construction continued even after the Siwanoys made the repeated gesture of handing Capt. Sands his tools and motioning for him to go away.

The Siwanoys, under the leadership of Wampage I, possibly along with a group of Caribs and Arawaks, murdered the family of Anne Hutchinson in August 1643. It has been written that Wampage himself was the murderer of Hutchinson and that he adopted the name of Anhōōke due to a Mahican custom of taking the name of a notable person personally killed. The name "Ann Hook's Neck" (or "Anne's Hoeck") came to refer to the land where the massacre was believed to have occurred - now called Rodman's Neck. The lone survivor of the attack, Anne's nine year old daughter Susanna Hutchinson, bore a son to Wampage while in Siwanoy captivity - Ninham-Wampage, who would become Wampage II on his father's death. Through this bloodline, many Siwanoys can now claim descent from many of the kings and queens of Ancient Europe. 

In February 1644, the entire village of Nanichiestawack ("place of safety") located near modern-day Woodsbridge Road at the Muscoot Reservoir, was wiped out by 130 Dutch mercenaries under Capt. John Underhill. The surprise attack, known as the Pound Ridge massacre, took place while a large number of Siwanoy and Wecquaesgeek people were gathered together for a corn festival. The Dutch forces slaughtered between 500 and 700 indigenous people, including women and children, who were forced into their homes and burned alive.

Not long after the Hutchinson massacre, Wampage befriended Thomas Pell, then the Indian Commissioner at Fairfield, Connecticut. On June 27, 1654, sagamores Shāwānórōckquot (Shanarockwell), Poquōrūm, Anhōōke (Wampage I), Wawhāmkus, and Mehúmōw executed a treaty deeding to Thomas Pell 9,160 acres of land east of the Hutchinson River northward to Mamaroneck, including modern day Pelham, New Rochelle, the Pelham Islands, and portions of The Bronx. The treaty also required that the Siwanoys and English peacefully attempt to resolve boundary disputes over the land in the future. Thomas Pell was thereafter known as the first Lord of Pelham Manor, although he never resided on the estate. On March 10, 1658, Wampage I and Pell negotiated the definitive treaty between the English and the Siwanoys, establishing their territorial claims, which would later keep Wampage and the Siwanoys out of King Philip's War.

Around 1677, the elderly Wampage went to Fairfield, Connecticut, to collect on a bill of sale of lands to residents of the town, which lands he had inherited from his father in law, the late Romaneck. Nathan Gold, then Fairfield's chief magistrate, had Wampage beaten and thrown into jail. Gold argued that the English held all lands by right of conquest and that contracts between the English and Indians had no validity. Sir John Pell, the second Lord of Pelham Manor, intervened on Wampage's behalf, and represented him before the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. The Council ruled in Wampage's favor on March 28, 1679, denouncing Gold's "evill practices" and finding that "not only [Wampage] but all such Indians of New England as are [the British monarch's] Subjects and submit peaceably and quietly to his Government shall likewise participate of his Royall Protection".By the time of the ruling, Wampage and Prasque had been baptized, taking the names of John and Anne White, respectively. The Privy Council's ruling referred to him as "John Wampus alias White" and to his wife as "Anne the Daughter of Romanock late Sachem of Aspatuck & Sasquanaugh". Wampage died shortly thereafter, prior to July 1681. While his place of burial is not definitively known, one source claimed that a mound on the northern coast of Rodman's Neck was Wampage's final resting place. Nevertheless, it is known that he was buried in a traditional way, among his people, in his ancestral homeland.

Wampage I was known to have fathered two children: Ninham-Wampage, by tradition said to be his son by Susanna Hutchinson. On the death of Wampage I, Ninham-Wampage inherited his father's title and became Wampage II. He also used the name "Ann Hook" in many transactions with English colonists. His only known child was Anna, who married Thomas Pell, Third Lord of Pelham Manor. John Wampage White, son of Wampage I by Prasque (Anne), daughter of Romaneck, married Elizabeth French, and their children were Elizabeth, Mary, and Nathaniel White.

Following the 1654 treaty, many Siwanoys remained in the area around Westchester County for another hundred years, until they eventually "melted away" by intermarriage and by assimilation into larger groups of "urban Indians". Some continued to reside along the shore in Westchester County until 1756, when most of the Wappinger and Mahicans remaining in the area joined the Nanticoke, then living under the protection of the Iroquois, and with them were eventually merged into the Lenape. Some of them joined the Stockbridge Indians, who were removed to Wisconsin in the 1830s. However, many Siwanoys continue to reside on ancestral lands.

--- Robert "Ninham-Wampage" Koehler, Tribal Secretary

Approximate extent of Siwanoy territory, circa 1640
Source:  Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico by Frederick Webb Hodge, 1912, Vols. 3 & 4

Siwanoy Leaders