Friday, June 12, 2009

The vanished race

About 15000 Indians from all over the USA live in New York City. But where now are the people whose ancestors were the city's first inhabitants?

Two surviving groups of Indians do have a connection with Manhattan. They are the Delaware, who now live, after enforced migration, over 2000 km (1250 miles) away in Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Ontario; and the Ramapough, a community living on the order of New York and New Jersey, direct descendants of Manhattan's original inhabitants. When the Dutch first settled the island, two groups of Indians, the Canarsee and Wickquaasgeek, came seasonally to settlements in the south and north respectively, to hunt, fish and grow crops.

By the 1740s, disease, the spread of European settlers and warfare had emptied the island of its first Indians. Yet Indians and New York's most famous modern feature are indelibly associated. As the skycrapers began to rise over Manhattan, descendants of New York State's Iroquois Indians became renowned as supremely skilled steel-workers in the construction industry.

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