The Native Presence:
Contact Period, 1520-1640

The Montauk most likely fit that description. Their first known European visitor was probably Adrian Block, who coasted around the point in 1619, naming it Visscher's Hoek (for the extensive fishing going on) and mapping Block Island.

"The people excel us in size: they are of bronze color. some inclining more to whiteness. others to tawny color: the face sharply cut. the hair long and black. upon which they bestow the greatest study in adorning it: the eyes black and alert. the bearing kind and gentle." Thus Giovanni Verrazano described the Native people he discovered in New York and Newport harbors in 1524.

John Scott's map of the Island drawn in 1655 and published in 1680 showed the village of Easthampton, the point as Wampanog, and Myantoket as the peninsula, as well as the new Native fort - the only map to do so. By the beginning of the 1700s Southack's map of Long Island lists E. Hampton, Montock Point, Napage Sandy Beach, and Indian Town on the Napeage part of the peninsula. A British navigation map of the 1770s depicts the Indian Plantation in the middle of the peninsula on the east side of Fort Pond Bay, named after the Native fort there.

Maps of the 1800s show Indian Fields to the east of Great Pond. The maps record the pushing of the Montauk further eastward with each 'land purchase' (usually coerced) into a "reservation" at the tip of the point. Maps after 1880 list only the Montauk Development Company on the former Native land, reflecting the final dispersal of the Montauk off their ancestral land to enclaves in Freetown (north of East Hampton), Eastville (eastern Sag Harbor), the Shinnecock Reservation, and other areas of Long Island and the nation.

From both the documentary and map record, it is clear the first European explorers entered an inhabited area and that the subsequent colonists invaded another people's land. This was accomplished peacefully because epidemics of European diseases brought by earlier fishermen and explorers like Verrazano had decimated the Native population to about 1/lOth its former size before colonization. The English justified their settlement through Queen Elizabeth's edict that any non-Christian land could be taken. The Dutch purchased land from the Natives to better secure the title, and the English followed suit.

The Natives did not understand that they were "selling" the land forever, as they had no concept of individual ownership - the bounties of Nature were for all to share. They retained the right to fish, hunt, fowl, and gather basket and wigwam materials in many deeds, which soon was taken from them as the colonists fenced the land. They thought the goods given to them by the Europeans were gifts for the use of the resources, a custom of their society.

Restriction of their food sources, the resultant malnutrition, worsened by liquor they were plied with by the settlers, plus the recurring epidemics of European diseases, further depleted the Montauk as well as all Native groups.