The question of Shinnecock leadership and authority is once again raised by
these documents. What happened to the Montauk Sunk Squa Quashawan? She was
designated as the Grand Sachem over the Shinnecock in 1663, yet her name
does not appear on either document. In fact, there appears to be an attempt
to assert legitimacy through the family of Mandush. In the September
document one woman is identified as the widow (relic) of "Mandush the chief
Sachem." The four Shinnecock men who signed the agreement endorsing
Quashawarn in 1663 did take an active role in the negotiations, but the
nature of their involvement is unclear. Punch (Apunch, Appanch) and
Quaquashaug signed both documents, whereas Iaskhouse (Jhaskhanso) and
Accabaco (Accohacco) signed only the February testimony. One thing is clear:
the attempts to impose Montauk authority over the Shinnecock had failed. The
four major Shinnecock spokesmen appear to have reasserted control over their
own affairs within two years' time. |
The September document was signed in a flurry of last minute activity to prepare for a hearing before Governor Nicolls on the conflicting claims to Quogue. The Southampton townsmen were anxious to get the matter settled before the Southold proprietors made a move to claim the same beleaguered parcel of land. Two days after the daughter of Mandush and Quasquashaw challenged the Topping deed the testimony of Halsey and Sayre asserting the transfer of power from Mandush to Wyandanch was recorded.
The Town of Southampton attempted to gain additional legal support for both of their deeds to Quogue prior to the review of Governor Nicoll in the early fall of 1666. None of the colonial authorities from the local level on up to the governor, seemed troubled by the fact that the deeds endorsed the right of both the Shinnecock and the Montauk to sell the same land. It is also worth noting that never once did any of the town authorities comment about the role of Quashawan, the "official" Sunk Squa in this controversy. The elaborate political structure concocted for the document givng power of the Montauk Sachem over the Shinnecock appears to have been abandoned.
When Governor Nicoll reviewed the various claims he carefully avoided the issue of Indian title because he was primarily concerned with bringing the whole deed game under the centralized control of the colonial administration.The first step was to eliminate the individual entrepreneurs such as Topping, Scott, Ogden, and Gardiner from the process. The next step was to impose Crown authority over the towns as well. The Duke's Laws clearly set the legal base for this, and now Nicoll was in the process of establishing a record of precedents. A third deed for Atlantic beach land given to Gardiner by Wyandanch and later sold to John Cooper, was also placed on the table before Nicoll. He determined that the Town did own all the land described in the three deeds. Topping and Cooper were to retain the rights to beached whales on the property in question.
The principle of Crown approval for all sales of Indian land was further reinforced in the Andros patent of 1676 and again in the Dongan Patent of 1686. Dongan had thrown a scare into all the eastern towns. He indicated that he would recall all of the existing Indian deeds and issue new ones at a higher tax rate. He also threatened to purchase from the Indians all lands which had not been bought previously by the settlers. This sent the town proprietors scurrying around to make sure their documents would hold up to Crown scrutiny. Apparently there was concern about this in Southampton, because they sought out eleven Shinnecock and asked them to testify to the authenticity of the 1640 deed and the February 1666 testimony. A brief statement was written on the back of the 1640 deed and on the bottom margins of the 1666 document. It is possible that the Indian listed as "Cobil" in the 1686 confirmation was actually Cobish (Goatees), the husband of Mandush's widow, who had also signed the February 1666 document.