Sharecropping the Sea: Shinnecock Whalers
in the Seventeenth Century cont'd.

There is some indication that after the 1670 season the Indians were bargaining for their labor more effectively. In 1671 both Atugquian and Akuctatuas signed one-season contracts for about the same terms as Towasum and Paquanaug had received for three (Documents 9 and 10). Liquor continued to be used regularly in the process of signing Indians for whaling ventures. In 1672 Richard Cornhill was also granted an exemption to the laws prohibiting the dispensing of alcohol enabling him " furnish them with some moderate proporcon of strong liquors...".

Eventually the Indians must have sharpened their negotiating skills to a point at which they began to take advantage of the great demand for experienced whalers. At the beginning of the 1672 whaling season Governor Lovelace issued an order supporting a resolution passed at a Southampton Town meeting which put a cap on the payments Indians could receive for their services as whalers. It appears that the whaling companies must have sought relief from the bargaining advantages held by the Indians. The new law prohibited anyone from paying the Indians more than one cloth coat for each whale the crew killed or one half the blubber. These limitations prevented the Indians from getting a fair share of the profits and guaranteed that the white owners would not have to compete with each other to attract the more talented Indian whalers.

The Indians were forced by law into a contractual arrangement which called upon them to do all of the work, take all of the risks and receive one half of the blubber and none of the whalebone. Although the Indians were able to force a change in the prohibition against a share of the whalebone, they were never able to get more than fifty percent of the profits from the season's work.The records do not tell us whether or not the Indians were able to realize the full profit from the blubber, nor is mention made of the production of whale oil by the Indians. It seems likely that they sold the blubber to the settlers who owned the trying stations. There is no evidence that Indians were even allowed to participate meaningfully in the more profitable end of the whale industry.

The importance of the Indian Whalers was underscored by the petition of an East Hampton whaling company during King Philip's War. The colonial authorities had forbidden Long Island Indians from leaving their villages to prevent them from aiding Philip. Their request was granted in spite of the general hysteria over Philip's attacks on New England towns.

The demand for experienced whalers was so great that the companies found ways to entice Indians from their competitors without allowing them any significant leverage in the negotiations. Indians were bribed or intimidated through the use of fines and bonds. The Montauk, for example, were frequently asked to sign a bond of ten pounds to guarantee that they would show up at the beginning of the whaling season. If they did not, they would forfeit the money. In some instances Indians worked a full season for no pay at all (Ales, ibid). That Indians did not fare well in their dealings with white owners comes as no surprise and puts the natives in company with many others. The East End whaling companies had a well-deserved reputation for unscrupulous practices. They conspired to cheat the colonial government out of tax money by sending their oil secretly to Boston or London; they cheated their customers by shipping out whale oil in undersized barrels and they regularly cheated each other by tampering with Indian labor contracts and stealing mortally wounded whales which had eluded rival crews (Edwards and Rattray, 1956: 215, 216, 274; Ales, ibid.).