A Documentary History of the Shinnecock Peoples:
How the Land Was Lost cont'd

The list of expenses for the negotiations clearly suggests strategies used by the town proprietors involved direct bribes to influential Indians and large quantities of alcohol. The use of alcohol to manipulate and exploit is well documented throughout the colonial period. Pious lip service bemoaning the evil effects of alcohol on the Indian was always offered as the reason for the many colonial laws prohibiting its dispensation by sale or gift to the Indians. Closer examination of the record suggests that the well-being of the Indian was seldom of any great concern to the settlers. They passed the laws because they knew that the erratic behavior which followed Indian drinking bouts often led to violence and destruction of property. The laws were passed to protect the lives and property of the colonists. This observation is underscored by the casual manner in which the laws were either waived or simply ignored when the use of alcohol facilitated exploitation of the Indian as with Sharecroppers of the Sea. The use of bribes became effective only after the Indians had been introduced into the European money economy. By the turn of the century most of the Indians had come to recognize, for better or worse, the value of the English pound. The unashamed recording of bribes is most revealing of local attitudes. The L2.15 given to Pungamo and the L2.00 for Chice do not appear in the receipt signed on the 21st at the end of the week-long marathon of negotiations. The document acknowledges only the monies dispersed to the other members of the tribe. The casual manner in which the colonial laws and moral codes were ignored in the generous dispensation of liquor speaks for itself.

The negotiations on Friday were unable to resolve the differences between the parties. The maneuvers and unofficial bargaining which must have gone on over the weekend will probably never be known. On Monday so much was accomplished in so short a time that one has to be a bit suspicious. The first document appears to have been the deed between the Shinnecock and the Trustees of the Commonality of Southampton. This deed reflected the concern of the trustees for a total divestment of Indian title. The wording leaves no doubt that the Indians turned over every inch of land from Seatuck on the west to the border of East Hampton on the east for the magnificent sum of twenty pounds. The value of twenty pounds at the time can be roughly measured by examining Pelletreau's compilation of statistics on prices in the 1760's. You could buy five barrels of pork for the money given to the Indians for their ancestral lands.

The sixteen Indians who signed the document appear to have had second thoughts soon afterward; perhaps when word reached the other Indians there was an outcry. We have no way of knowing what actually transpired, but two nineteenth century documents suggest that anger over the deed forced the town authorities to give the Shinnecock a thousand year lease to the Shinnecock hills area west of the Town. Two copies of the lease were drawn up, one for the townspeople to sign and a second for the Indians. The Indians' copy, however, included a second confirmation along the margin on the front signed before Justice of the Peace John Wheeler. The addendum on the back, which gave Indians permission to harvest ground nuts and grasses for thatching their wigwams, was also followed by an additional confirmation. It appears that the townspeople were convinced that the more signatures you could add, the more "legitimate' the deed became. That same day the town trustees brought out the 1640 deed and the February 1666 Quogue purchase to be reconfirmed once again as they had done in 1686.

Somehow the town representatives found time that same day to negotiate a five pound settlement with Wiangonhut, the Unkechaug sachem, divesting him of any claim to the land in Quogue. This completed a most unusual day of legal transactions. The nature of the documents suggests that some may have been negotiated one day and signed on a different day. It seems likely that the deed may have been drawn up on Friday the 13th. If the lease was signed as a result of pressure generated by anger over the deed there would have to have been a reasonable time lapse between the two documents.

On the seventeenth the payments to the Indians were made as promised and they must have begun dispersing small amounts of money to other Indians. Four days later, on August 21st, two more documents were drawn up and signed. One was a receipt for the deedand the other was a confirmation of the deed by twenty-one more Shinnecock. The town representatives were rounding up every Indian they could find in order to compile an impressive array of signatures. The authenticity of the thirty-seven names on the deed and the confirmation is, of course, difficult to determine. They were probably recipients of some small share of the money given to Pungamo and Chice. A comparison of these signatures with the census taken five years earlier in 1698 reveals a troublesome discrepancy. Over half of the Indians who signed the documents were not listed on the census. Eight of the sixteen Indians who signed the August 16, 1703 deed were not listed as residents of Southampton in 1698.