Colonial Period:
New Lifeways

The Montauk participated in the new European economic system by using their traditional skills: hunting to provide game and fowl for colonists' tables: woodworking to make bowls, scrubs, tools, toys, and later, houses and mills, craft work to make baskets, eelpots, and rush and cane bottoms for chairs. They also participated in the economy by purchasing their guns and sometimes furniture from the local Dominy family of craftsmen.

The Montauk skilled at whaling were eagerly sought after by those engaged in the trade. Their pay at first was low (a coat and gunpowder for the season), but with competition for the best by the whaleboat owners, the amount of goods Increased and bribes of liquor were offered. The Town government passed laws prohibiting traders from stealing each other's men, creating monopolies to stifle competition, and punishing Montauk who did not fulfill a season's contract.

But the most lucrative - and dangerous - occupation for Montauk men was shore whaling. The settlers located East Hampton where it is in order to participate in the Whaling Design, besides piracy, this was a get-rich-quick enterprise - one year's profit on the oil could purchase a farm.

In order to make the Natives a tractable part of the European order, It was essential to Christianize them. The Rev. Thomas James preached to them, gave the Montauk shelter near the village during their problems with the Narragansett, and got them to sell from Napeague to Montauk Point to himself and a few other men. Rev. James composed a Catechism In the Montauk language, a variant of Mohegan-Pequot, which has not been found.

More attention to the Natives of Long Island was needed, so the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel sent the Rev. Azarlah Horton, originally of Southold, to minister to them from 1740 to 1750. Staying and preaching in their wigwams, he traveled a circuit from Jamaica to Montauk, but spending more time at Montauk.

After Horton left for New Jersey, Samson Occom, a Mohegan of Connecticut, came to Montauk to minister and to educate them. Occom was an exceptionally talented man, not formally educated until 16, but mastering English, Greek, and Latin, as well as theology beginning in 1743. By 1750 he was teaching at Montauk and married a Montauk, Mary Fowler, later he was ordained a Presbyterian minister by East Hampton's Rev. Samuel Buell. Because of his presence, the Montauk were probably the best educated Native group on Long Island.

He and his brother-in-law, David Fowler, also educated by Wheelock, traveled to Oneida from 1761 on to preach to and educate the Iroquois. His Christian Cards and wood alphabet blocks, developed while teaching at Montauk, indicate his unique teaching ability. His extraordinary skill at preaching led his teacher, the Rev. Eleezar Wheelock, to send him to England to raise funds for a school for Indians.

This performance led the Earl of Dartmouth to provide funds for what became Dartmouth College - no longer a school for Native Americans. He also composed hymns to Native melodies, some of which are still sung in Presbyterian churches today. Throughout his pastoral career, his salary was about half that of his white colleagues, besides teaching, he was forced to garden, bind books, and perform other chores in order to support his family.