In the 17th century, they were primarily based in what is now Dutchess County, New York, and their territory included the east bank of the Hudson along both Putnam and Westchester counties all the way to Manhattan Island to the south, the Mahican territory bounded by the Roeliff-Jansen Kill to the north, and extended east into parts of Connecticut.
Wappinger territory (in centre, "Wappinges"), from a 1685 reprint of a 1656 map
|(Extinct as a tribe)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States ( New York)|
|Eastern Algonquian languages, probably Munsee|
|traditional tribal religion|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other Algonquian peoples|
They were most closely related to the Lenape, both being members of the Eastern Algonquian-speaking subgroup of the Algonquian peoples. The Lenape and Wappinger spoke using very similar Delawarean language. They are close enough that a Wappinger speaking in the Munsee Delaware tongue and a Lenape would mostly understand each other.
Their nearest allies were the Mahicans to the north, the Montauketts to the south, and the remaining New England tribes to the east. Like the Lenape, the Wappinger were not organized into cohesive tribes for most of their history; instead, they formed approximately 18 loosely associated bands.
The total population of the Wappinger Confederacy has been estimated at about 13,200 individuals at the beginning of European contact. Their settlements included camps along the major rivers with larger villages located at the river mouths. Despite references to villages and other site types by early European explorers and settlers, few Contact period sites have been identified in southeastern New York (Funk 1976).
Robert Juet, an officer on the "Half Moon", provides an account in his journal of some of the lower Hudson Valley Native Americans. In his entries for September 4 and 5, 1609, he states:
"This day the people of the country came aboord of us, seeming very glad of our comming, and brought greene tobacco, and gave us of it for knives and beads. They goe in deere skins loose, well dressed. They have yellow copper. They desire cloathes, and are very civill. They have great store of maize or Indian wheate whereof they make good bread. The country is full of great and tall oakes. This day [September 5, 1609] many of the people came aboord, some in mantles of feathers, and some in skinnes of divers sorts of good furres. Some women also came to us with hempe. They had red copper tabacco pipes and other things of copper they did wear about their neckes. At night they went on land againe, so wee rode very quite, but durst not trust them" (Juet 1959:28).
David Pieterz De Vries recorded another description of the Wappinger who resided around Fort Amsterdam:
"The Indians about here are tolerably stout, have black hair with a long, lock which they let hang on one side of the head. Their hair is shorn on the top of the head like a cock's comb. Their clothing is a coat of beaver skins over the body, with the fur inside in winter and outside in summer; they have, also, sometimes a bear's hide, or a coat of the skins of wild cats, or hefspanen [probably raccoon], which is an animal most as hairy as a wild cat, and is also very good to eat. They also wear coats of turkey feathers, which they know how to put together. Their pride is to paint their faces strangely with red or black lead, so that they look like fiends. Some of the women are very well featured, having long countenances. Their hair hangs loose from their head; they are very foul and dirty; they sometimes paint their faces, and draw a black ring around their eyes."
As the Dutch began to settle in the area, they pressured the Connecticut Wappinger to sell their lands and seek refuge with other Algonquian-speaking tribes. The western bands, however, stood their ground amidst rising tensions.
During Kieft's War in 1643, the remaining Wappinger bands united against the Dutch, attacking settlements throughout New Netherland. Allied with their trading partners, the powerful Mohawk, the Dutch defeated the Wappinger by 1645. The Mohawk and Dutch killed more than 1500 Wappinger in the two years of the war. This was a devastating toll for the Wappinger, whose population in 1600 was estimated at 3,000.
The Wappinger faced the Dutch again in the 1655 Peach Tree War, a three-day engagement which left an estimated 100 settlers and 60 Wappinger dead, and strained relations further between the two groups. After the war, the confederation broke apart, and many of the surviving Wappinger left their native lands for the protection of neighboring tribes.
In 1765, the remaining Wappinger in Dutchess County sued the Philipse family for control of the land but lost. In the aftermath the Philipses raised rents on European-American tenant farmers, sparking riots across the region.
Nimham and some forty braves fell in the Battle of Kingsbridge fighting against the British on August 30, 1778. It proved an irrecoverable blow to the tribe.
From that time the Wappingers ceased to have a name in history. A few scattered remnants still remained, and as late as 1811, a small band had their dwelling place on a low tract of land by the side of a brook, under a high hill, in the northern part of the town of Kent."
Many Wappinger served in the Stockbridge Militia during the American Revolution. Following the war, most of the surviving Wappinger moved west to join the Algonquian Stockbridge-Munsee tribe in Ohio. Later they were removed to Wisconsin. Today, members of the federally recognized Stockbridge-Munsee Nation reside mostly in Wisconsin.
Following their service on behalf of the American cause in the Revolution, loss of their leader Daniel Nimham, and subsequent irrecoverable loss of their land, the tribe became scattered. A very few were still found in Kent as late as 1811.
The Wappinger are also known as the Wappink, Wappings, Wappingers, Wappingoes, Wawpings, Pomptons, Wapings, Opings, Opines, Massaco, Menunkatuck, Naugatuck, Nochpeem, Wangunk Wappans, Wappings, Wappinghs, Wapanoos, Wappanoos, Wappinoo, Wappenos, Wappinoes, Wappinex, Wappinx, Wapingeis, Wabinga, Wabingies, Wapingoes, Wapings, Wappinges, Wapinger and Wappenger.
The origins of the name Wappinger is debated. While the present-day spelling appeared as early as 1643, countless alternate phonetic spellings were also used by early European settlers well into the late 19th century. Anthropologist Ives Goddard suggests the Munsee language-word wápinkw, meaning "opossum", might be related. No evidence supports the folk etymology of the name coming from a word meaning "easterner," as suggested by Edward Manning Ruttenber in 1906. and John Reed Swanton in 1952.
The suggested bands, or sachemships of the Wappinger has been described as including:
The following content comes from: Freemasonry in the American Revolution, Sidney Morse, 1924, and contains numerous contentions, including the introduction of Brazilian Amazonian Indians into the Hudson Valley:
The 1685 Dutch map of New Netherland places the Wappani tribe as one of many family tribes of the Tawakoni (Taconic) that lived in the Fishkill highlands.
The Towakoni tribe of which the Wappani belonged was a larger family of the Lenape. The Woarani family held the highlands of Pawling NY, and Nochpeem held the highlands of Kent NY, just below the Wappani highlands of Fishkill (See: Map of Nava Belgii Nieuw)
In 1805, 200 years after the stated 3000 person population General Clinton and Sullivan of the British forces destroyed 40 Indian Towns, their crops, fruit trees, and burned over 100,000 bushels of corn from Elmira to Genesse valley New York. This places the Indian Population well above 3000 considering the work force to maintain 40 stationary farming towns, and the various fields that supplied the vegetables. The Wappani as one small band of the Towakani of Southern NY, NJ and PA. may have had 3000 members living upon one mountain top region of Fishkill, however The Towakani tribe had Family tribes upon every mountain throughout the region which is completely over looked. Further the Towakani adopted their Woarani neighbors who were relocated by the Dutch Privateer sailors into Pawling to run the iron furnaces. The Woarani (pronounced Gwuarani ) originated in the Brazil/Paraguay region of South America. The Towakoni tribe of the Lenape was known for teaching healers or medicine through spirituality.
Putnam County New York is known as the Stone chamber capital of the world and boasts over 300 known and intact stone chambers, massive effigies and man made lakes of the once vibrant Towakani tribes.
The Wappinger are the namesake of several areas in New York, including: