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When Native Americans Controlled the Northeast Coast

A depiction of Algonquin-speaking natives vying with the Dutch and English over Colonial Era waters from the book cover of Fossieck Lecturer Andrew Lipman's The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast.

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 14, 2017) — When the English and Dutch empires both tried to claim the same patch of coast between the Hudson River and Cape Cod during the 17th and early 18th centuries, the sea itself became an arena of contact and conflict. But there was an unexpected third player in that conflict.

Little known, until author Andrew Lipman went through a wide range of English, Dutch and archeological sources, Algonquian-speaking natives were not land-bound observers, but active sea adventurers in a struggle that marked the emergence of the Atlantic World.

Andrew Lipman Barnard

Fossieck lecturer Andrew Lipman.

Lipman, an assistant professor of history at Barnard College whose 2015 book The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast was awarded the Bancroft Prize in American History, will tell of the unique conflict among New Netherland, New England and the Native American when he delivers give the 2017 Janice D. and Theodore H. Fossieck Lecture at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday in the Standish Room of the Science Library.

“Andrew Lipman’s The Saltwater Frontier reorients some of the most enduring narratives of early American settlement," said Christopher L. Pastore, assistant professor in the Department of History, which sponsors the annual Fossieck Lecture.

"By challenging land-bound Eurocentric narratives of colonization, Lipman shows that Native Americans played integral roles in shaping southern New Netherland, New England, and the broader Atlantic world. His book will fundamentally change the way the colonial history of the Northeast will be taught.”

The lecture was established by an endowment from Theodore Fossieck (1914-96), who served as principal of the University’s experimental high school, the Milne School, from 1948-72. He sought to provide an annual forum along with library materials to enhance the field of American Colonial history, of which he had an intense interest. An indexer of Revolutionary War manuscripts for the New York State Archives collection, he was also a member of several local historical associations.

Fossieck no doubt would have been fascinated by the findings of Lipman, whose research uncovered the degree to which the Native Americans of the time were accomplished navigators, boatbuilders, fishermen, pirates and merchants, and how their participation in the battle for seawater lanes and helped shape imperial rivalries.

Lipman’s work, which was also a finalist for the New England Society Book Award and received honorable mention for the PROSE Award in U.S. History, also is attentive to the human dimensions of environmental change that occurred during the period covered.

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