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Native American History

Long Island's holds a rich Native American history that is still reflected in many of the names and places that dot the landscape.

In fact Long Island's original Native American name was 'Paumanok,' which means ‘land that gives tribute.’ This can be interpreted in one of two ways. First, Long Island is shaped like a fish, and some believe the native tribes named the land such because its shape gave tribute to the sea. Or, some historical accounts suggest that native tribes here were somehow forced to give tributes to surrounding more aggressive tribes.

Many other town and village names carry meanings that pre-date settlers, and include wonderful descriptions.

For example, Amagansett comes from the Native American word meaning 'place of good water;’ Ronkonkoma means "boundary fishing place;’ Hauppauge means ‘land of high water;’ Commack means ‘pleasant land.’

Cutchogue means ‘principal place,’ a place where many Native Americans lived. Fort Corchaug Archeological Site, which can be visited today, was originally a log fort built by Native American Corchaugs, possibly to protect them from other tribes.

Other towns are named for the tribes who lived here. In Suffolk County, these include: Nissequoge, Seatauket, Patchoag, Shinnecock, and Montauk.

Other town names on Long Island come from local tribes including: Canarsie, Rockaway, Matinecock, Merrick, Massapequa, Secatoag and Manhasset.

Following Verrazzano's first recorded encounters with native tribes in western Long Island in 1524, settlers arrived in Suffolk County in 1640 and encountered members of various tribes. Members of the Shinnecock Tribe remain in Southampton, along with the Unkechaug Indian Nation of Poospatuck Indians in Mastic.

There are several places on Long Island where visitors can explore Native American and other history here.

The Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center & Museum, at the corner of Montauk Highway and West Gate Road in Southampton, serves as a museum, educational center and holds various events throughout the year. It includes permanent exhibits such as A Walk with the People, including murals painted by Shinnecock artist, David Bunn Martine and 20 bronze sculptures of Native American figures called, My Spirit Dances Forever. The center also features storytelling, bead workshops and has a gift shop.

The Southold Indian Museum is located on Main Bayview Rd. in Southold and features an extensive collection of Algonquin ceramic pottery and earlier pots and bowls carved out of soapstone. Also on display are knife blades, hoe blades, hammers, gouges, drills and other tools. One exhibit places a modern tool next to the stone or bone tool that was shaped and used for a similar task. Other displays include children's games and toys, fishing methods, foods that were available to Indians on Long Island, mortars and pestles, and clothing. The museum is owned and operated by the Incorporated Long Island Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association.

The Suffolk County Historical Society Museum on West Main St. in Riverhead contains an impressive collection of Native American artifacts. A permanent exhibit there entitled: The Indians of Eastern Long Island tells the story of Native Americans who inhabited Long Island for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. The Indians of Eastern Long Island examines the social and cultural exchange between Native Americans and Europeans. The exhibit includes tools for everyday living, hunting and fishing.

Explore more Suffolk County history including whaling and maritime; lighthouses; windmillsscience and aviation and more.

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Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission
330 Motor Parkway, Suite 203, Hauppauge, NY 11788
877-386-6654 | tourism@discoverlongisland.com