More enigmatic than they should be in this late age, even among historians of New York, the Munsee are less known than the story for which they are best known – the purchase of Manhattan Island for veritable pittance in 1626. One reason the Munsee (a northern sub-set of sorts of the Lenni Lenape or Delaware, as they were called by Europeans) have been ignored by historians is their rather early refugee status by the 1740s.
Anthropologist Robert S. Grumet’s The Munsee Indians: A History attempts to paint a portrait of the Munsee, whose territory stretched form the lower Hudson River Valley to the headwaters of the Delaware, as an Indian Nation in their own right. Previous histories, particularly those of the Lenape, have generally ignored the important role of the Munsee.
Grumet marshals archeological, anthropological and archival evidence to bring to life the memorial lives of Mattano, Tackapousha, Mamanuchqua, and other Munsee leaders who helped shape the course of American history in the mid-Atlantic before the American Revolution. The Musee emigrated to reservations in Wisconsin, Ontario, and Oklahoma where their descendants live to this day.
Grumet is the senior research associate at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Historic Contact: Indian People and Colonists in Today’s Northeastern United States in the Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries.
The Munsee Indians: A History is part of the Civilization of the American Indian Series by the University of Oklahoma Press.