Montaukett Tribe

Variant name:

Indians of Long Island

Address:

Montauk, Long Island

Description:

The Montauks, or Montauketts, are an Algonquian tribe from Montauk on eastern Long Island. The Montauketts are closely related to other Algonquian tribes, including Mohegans, Pequots, and Shinnecocks, and the Mohegan and Montaukett languages are very similar. The Montauketts played an important role in Occom’s life and the history of the Brothertown tribe. Shortly after European arrival, the Montauketts found themselves in the unenviable positions of occupying a strategically important piece of land. English commanders made several treaties with the Montauketts in attempts to secure the eastern end of Long Island as a foothold against the Dutch. When the Dutch withdrew in the mid-17th century, the English found themselves unopposed in Long Island and renegotiated their relationship with the Montauketts. A series of land leases and purchases took place, the most significant of which was a 1703 “purchase” that is still debated in the tribe’s ongoing quest for recognition. Furthermore, because the Montauketts were producers of wampum, a functional currency in Native North America, the English found repeated excuses to fine the Montauketts and obtain wampum for their own diplomatic and economic pursuits. The Montauketts received attention from New Light preachers during and after the First Great Awakening, most notably James Davenport and Azariah Horton. In 1749, Occom took over Azariah Horton’s mission. He lived among the Montauketts from 1749 until 1761. During his time with the Montauketts, Occom wrote an account of their lifeways, which remains one of the best sources on the Montaukett tribe, and married a well-connected Montaukett woman, Mary Fowler. He also educated two of his brothers-in-law, David and Jacob Fowler, both of whom went on to attend Moor’s, serve as school masters among the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), and organize the Brothertown movement (the composite Algonquian tribe led by Moor’s alumni that migrated to Oneida territory after the Revolution). More than 30 Montauketts joined the Brothertown movement (David Fowler had considered the possibility of relocating the Montauketts to Oneida territory to escape encroaching colonists as early as 1765). Those who remained at Montauk continued to battle for legal control over their land. The next several centuries nearly amounted to a guerilla war between Long Island Americans and the Montauketts, as Long Islanders attempted to outlast the Montauketts and the Montauketts determinedly remained. In the first decade of the 20th century, a judge ruled that the tribe was “extinct” because they were no longer living as a unified tribal entity. That ruling has recently been overturned, and the tribe has hopes of state recognition in the near future.

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Sources:

Brooks, Joanna. The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Leadership and Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Native America. Oxford 2006. Fisher, Linford. The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America. New York: Oxford University Press 2012. Love, Deloss. Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England. Pilgrim Press 1899. Montaukett Indian Nation. “History Overview.” http://montauknation.org/?page_id=55 Accessed 10/15/13. Strong, John A. The Montaukett Indians of Eastern Long Island. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press 2001.