Territorial Acknowledgment

I’ve been thinking about the territorial acknowledgments they do in Canada. They open events and assemblies, particularly in urban and institutional spaces, with an acknowledgment that the land in that area is the the traditional homeland of the ___ people, and that it was ceded under the ___ treaty (or not ceded). We could use something like that in the United States.

This is in my mind partly because on YouTube I watch Ed Trevors, an Anglican priest who begins each episode with the acknowledgement that his parish is in the unceded lands of the Miꞌkmaq people. Sometimes I feel a twinge of pride that he is doing that; other times a tinge of guilt that I am not.

I’ve known for years the Canadians do these territorial acknowledgements. I’ve often wondered when they will make it to the U.S. Probably not in my lifetime. Americans seem to me to be much more easily triggered on the subject of settler colonialism.

If I were to create an acknowledgment for Denver, Colorado where I live, it would be something like: “I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are in Fort Laramie Treaty territory and that this is the traditional land of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people.”

Social Constructions of Geography

Geography is a social construction. People make the rules, and the rules are often arbitrary. Yet, “social construction” seems to be a difficult concept for many people. I like to have a bit of fun when I hear someone complaining about illegal immigrants, I say, “God didn’t create the border.” It pushes them off-kilter. I’ve never heard a good rejoinder on the the spot, although some folx come back later to argue; typically with a Manifest Destiny or Lebensraum kind of argument, although they rarely recognize it as such.

Every American genealogist knows that place names and political borders have changed over time. A routine part of doing genealogy is figuring out the political geography of the town where your ancestor lived, when they lived there.

But the area also other ways to “bend” geography. Years ago, when I belonged to the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), I lived in “Hawks Hollow“, the medieval fantasy area we usually call the northern suburbs of Denver.

And way before that, when I was in college at Boulder, it was the early days of Chicano liberation. We often heard Colorado re-envisioned as part of la República del Norte or even as Aztlán, the homeland of the Mexica and other tribes that went south ages ago. This one still has a strong pull on my heart. It’s only been a month now that the city of Denver renamed Columbus Park to La Raza Park. I’m not Chicano myself, but I had friends and relatives who would often say their ancestors didn’t come to the U.S. Instead, the border crossed them (in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo).


Catoneras, An Indian Princess

One of my ancestors on my dad’s side was an Indian princess.

Well, sort of. If you know me I know that I’m a rigorist in these matters. There are no Indian princesses because the “Indians” didn’t have royal families. And, the vast majority of these claims are hokum anyway.

But Catoneras is one of those rare exceptions.

Jan Cornelissen Van Tassel and his sons attested in New York colonial documents that Jan’s mother Catoneras was from Eader’s (Eaton’s) Neck Beach near Huntington, Suffolk County, Long Island. A petition dated 1705 says, “his mother Catoneras a native Indian of the Island of Nassauw who in her life time was Seized of a certain Tract or parcell of land lying and being on the Island aforesaid, now in the County of Suffolk neer the Town of Huntingdon called by the natives Anendeiack in English Eader Neck Beach and so allong the Sound four miles or thereabouts untile the fresh Pond called by the natives Assawanama where a Creeck runns into the Sound and from the Sound running into the woods six miles.”

This describes land probably occupied by the Matinecocks, now called Crab Meadow. The Matinecocks inhabited Flushing, North Hempstead, the northern part of Oyster Bay and Huntingdon, and the western part of Smithtown, while the Montauketts were mainly in Southampton township. The English were purchasing land from the Matinecocks and Montauketts in the mid-1600s. New Haven Governor Theophilus Eaton purchased Eaton’s Neck from the Indians in 1646. The Van Tassels apparently claimed that Chief Wyandanch of the Montauketts had unlawfully sold the land, and they wanted the land back. This might have been what lead earlier researchers to conclude Catoneras was a daughter of Wyandanch. As a further complication, some researchers have been led astray by the word “seized” in the 1705 Van Tassel petition, incorrectly assuming the land was taken from Cateronas. In fact, this legal phrasing means Cateronas was the lawful possessor of the land.

Daniel Van Tassel’s 1942 Van Tassel genealogy says Catoneras was “the daughter of the sachem or Chief Wyandance, of the Montauk Tribe, who then lived on, and claimed ownership to that portion of Long Island, situated along the north shore or Sound about Eaton’s Neck in Suffolk County.” [Daniel Van Tassel (1942).] However, there is no contemporary evidence connecting Catoneras to Wyandanch, and it appears that Wyandanch was born too late to have been Catoneras’ father. Daniel Van Tassel himself backed off the Wyandanch theory in the 1951 edition of his book. Instead, he said Cornelis Van Tassel “married an Indian girl named Catoneras, the daughter of the Sachem or chief of a tribe of Indians which then lived on, and claimed ownership to that portion of Long Island, situated along the north shore, or sound, about Eaton’s Neck in Suffolk County.” (Daniel Van Tassel (1951)).

Cateronas was born about 1603, her “husband” Cornelius was born about 1600, and they were “married” about 1621. Therefore, it would have been impossible for Wyandanch, who was born about 1620, to have been Catoneras’ father. Some researchers have attempted to salvage the connection with Wyandanch by suggesting that Catoneras was his sister, or daughter of his brother Poggaticutt.

Nevertheless, if Catoneras’ ancestry can be reconstructed, she was probably connected to the Matineocks. Her children can have claimed Eaton’s Neck only if she had been daughter of a Matinecock chief, who under English notions would have been the owner. Further, she is likely to have been the only child with surviving issue. Mike Smith has suggested that Cateronas was daughter of Asharoken. It has also been suggested that Asharoken was a son of Tackapousha, which would mean Catoneras was the neice of Oppasum and Wenox.

Here’s another article on the same subject, but slightly different conclusions about Catoneras’ relationships: that she might have been Tackapousha’s sister and Opsam’s aunt.

Until more evidence emerges there’s no point stressing about precise relationships. The experts seem to have identified the correct family, and in the end there’s no doubt about the point that makes Catoneras stand out–she is an Indian ancestor of a (now) White family.

Petition, 1685

Thomas Dongan Province of Ne[w York]

The humble petition of Cornelissen Showeth:

That your petitioner is a native of this Province, his father a Christian, his mother an Indian of Long Island. “That he hath married a Christian in this Province, and by her hath nine children now living. “And whereas the Indians, his kindred, are willing to divide, set out and allot that share of land, which according to their wisdom is his right, and inheritance at a certain place called Tersarge, being to the eastward of the town of Huntington, on the north side of Long Island, which for the better support of himself and his family he is intended to cultivate and improve. He therefore humbly prays that your Honorable will be pleased to order him a warrant for the same, upon which he may obtain a patent or grant and confirmation from your Honorable, under his Majesty, for the same. And your petitioner will ever pray etc.

Upon the right side of the paper is written:
[illegible]…did come to N. York
John Cornelissen

Left side of the paper is written:

Deed of Sale 1685

[p. 104] This indenture made the Tenth Day of October Anno Dom one thousand six hundred and Eighty five and in the first Year of the Reigne ofour now Soveraigne Lord James the Second by the Grace of God of England Scottland France and Ireland King Defender of the faith?Ye? Betweene Opsam Venox and John Cornelison Flushing in Queens County Esqs of the One Part xxxand John Palmer of the City of New Yorke Esq John Royse of the same Place Mercant–and Richard Cornhill of Flushing I Queens County Esp of the other Part and Whereas the said John Palmer John Royse and Richard Cornhill have obtained Lycence from the Honorable Collonell Thomas Dongan Governor of this Province baring Date the five and twentieth Day of June Last Past to Purchase a Certaine Tract or Parcell of Land in the Couty of Suffolk on Long Island lying between Huntington and Nissiquake Land and Comonly Knowne by the name of Crab Meadow or Katomomeck Land, as by the said Lycence may move at Large Appeare Now this Indenture Wittnesseth that the said Opsam, Wenox and John Cornelison – for and I Consideration of the Sume of Twenty one Pounds Tenn Shillings Lawfull Mony of this Province to them

[p. 105] at and before the Ensealing and Delivery of these Presents by the said John Palmer John Royse and Richard Cornhill well and Truly Paid the Receipt whereof they the said Opsam, Wenox and John Cornelison Doe hereby Accknowledge and themselves to be therewith fully Sattisfied Contented and Paid and thereof and of every Part and Parcell thereof Doe Clearely Accquitt Exonerate and Discharge the said John Palmer John Royse and Richard Cornhill their Exec’rs and Adm’rs forever by the Preesents have given granted Allienated Bargained Sold ?Enscoffe? and Confirme unto the said John Palmer John Royse and Richard Cornhill theire Heires and Assignes forever all that before recited Parcell of Land Lying and being on Long Island to the Eastward of Huntington Comonly Called or Knowne by the name of Crab Meadow and by the Indians Called Katawomeck bounded on the West by a Certaine Cove Leading to Huntington Mill and from the Head of the said Cove Running South to the Highway which Leadeth to Southampton and soe and from thence northward all along the said hollow alng the Highways side to a Place Called Whittmores Hollow as the Hollow runneth to a Place Called the Fresh Pond and from thence Westward as the Sound runneth to the Westermost Point of Land which maketh the Cove aforesaid and so up the said Cove to the Head thereof where it first began with all and Singular its Rights Members and Appurtenances together with all and all manner of Messuages Pastures feedings Meadows Marshes Woods Underwoods Ways Fences Lakes Ponds Creecks Beach or Beaches Rivers Brooks Hunting Hawking Fishing and Fowling and Appurtenances whatsoever to the said Peece or Parcell of Land and Premisses or to any Part or

[p. 106] Parcell thereof belonging or in any wise Appertaining and the Reversion and Revercons Remainder and Remainders of all and Singular the beforemenconed Premisses and Alsoe all the Estate Right Title Interest Possession Property Claime and Demand of them the said Opsam, Wenox and John Cornelison in or to the same or any Part or Parcell thereof. To have and to hold the said Tract or Parcell of Land and all and Singular other the Premissses hereby Granted Bargained and Sold with theire and every of theire Rights Members and Appurtenances whatsoever unto the said John Palmer John Royse and Richard Cornhill their Heyres and Assignes to the only Proper use and behoofe of them the said John Palmer John Royse and Richard Cornhill theire Heyres and Assignes forever and the said Opsam Wenox and John Cornelison for themselves their Heires and Successors Doe Covenant Promise Grant and Agree to and with the said John Palmer John royse and Richard Cornhill their Heires and Assignes and every of them by these Presents in manner and forme following that is to say that they the said Opsam Wenox and John Cornelison at the timeof the Ensealing and Delivery of these Presents have full Power Good Right and Lawfull Authority to Grant Bargaine Sell and Convey all and Singular the before hereby Granted or Menconed to be Granted Premisses with theire and every of theire Appurtenances unto the said John Palmer John Royse and Richard Cornhill theire Heires and Assignes in manner and forme aforesaid and that they the said John Palmer John Royse Richard Cornhill theire Heyres and Assignes and every of them shall or may by Verture or force of these Presents from time to time and at all times forever hereafter Lawfully Peacebly and Quietttly have hold use Occupy Possesse and Enjoye the said Peace or Parcell of Land and all and Singular the Before Granted Premisses with theire and every of theire

[p. 107] Rights Members and Appertunances to theire and every of theire owne Proper use and behoofe forever without any Lawfull Lett Suite Trouble Denyall Interuption Evicion or Disturbance of them the said Opsam Wenox and John Cornelison theire Heyres Successors or Assignes or of any ther Person or Persons whatsoever Lawfully Claimeing by from or under them or any of them or by their or any of theire meanes Act Consent Title Interest Privity or Procurement And that the said Opsam Wenox and John Cornelison and every of them for themselves theire Heries Successors and Assignes the said Peece or Parcell of Land and all and Singular other the Premisses before Granted Bargained and Sold with the Appurtenances unto the said John Palmer John Royse and Richard Cornhill their Heires and Assignes forever Efend by these Presents In Wittnesse whereof the said Opsam Wenox and John Cornelison have hereunto affixed theire Hands and Seales the Day and Yeare aforesaid……

The marke of Opsam
The marke of Wenox

Memorandum that on the Tenth day of October Anno: Dm 1685 the within named Opsam and Wenox Appeared before the Councill and their Accknowledged to have Received full Sattisfaccon for theire two third Partes of the Land and Premisses within menconed

John Spragge

P. 1-8 Sealed and Delivered
by the within named Opsam and Wenox
in the Presence of
Fredryck Flypson
S.V. Cort Landt
Geo Farewell
The marke of
Tack Pousha
The marke of
Lowee Sonne of
the within Menconed Wenox
The marke of Rappa Pany

Petition, 30 July 1705

To his Excellency Howard Niscomb —- Cornbury Capn Gent & Govr in chief in and over her Majesties Provinces of New York & New Jersey and Vice Admiral of the Same in Council—–

The humble petition of Cornelis Van Texel, Jacob van Texel, Jan Van Texel, William Van Texel, sons of Jan Cornelissen Van Texel, late deceased, and Hendrick Lent, husband of Catharine, one of the daughters of said John; Barent De Witt, husband of Sarah, another daughter of said John, and Peter Storm, husband of Margaret also a daughter of said John:

Humbly showeth that whereas your petitioner’s father as heir to his mother, Catoneras, a native Indian of the Island Nassamo, who in her lifetime was seized of a certain tract or parcel of land, lying and being in the Island aforesaid, now in the county of Suffolk, next the town of Huntington, called by the natives, Anendesack, in English, Eader’s Neck beach, and so along the Sound four miles or thereabouts until the Fresh Pond, called by the natives, Assawanama, where a creek runs into the Sound, and from the Sound running in to the woods six miles or thereabouts.

And your Petitioners, being all Christians, and professing the Holy Protestant religion, and knowing that the Heathen never were disturbed in the possession of their lands of inheritance in the Government, your petitioner,as Christians, also would very willingly hold the same by his Majesty’s Letters Patent under the seal of this Province.

Yor Petrs therefore humbly Pray yor Excellency to grant them a Patent of the Land aforesaid accordingly And Yor Petrs in Duty bound shall Ever pray

Cornelis Van Texel
the mark of Jacob van Texell
Jan Van Texel
Willem Van Texel
the mark of Hendrick Lent
Barent De Wit
the mark of Peter Storm

(Land Records: 30 July 1705; 4:56).

Petition, 15 May 1713

To his Excellency Robert Hunter Esqr Capn Gentl Govr in Chief in and over her Ma’ties Provinces of New York and New Jersey and the Territories depending thereon in —- America and Vice Admiral of the same and the Honble Council of the Province of New York The humble Petition of Cornelis Van Texell, Jacob Van Texell, Jan Van Texell, William Van Texell, Catarin Lent, Barent DeWit and Pieter Storm all Children and Coheirs of Jan Cornelis van Texell late deceased

Most humbly Sheweth

That yor petitionrs said fathers Mother was an Indian native Sachem in this Province called Catoneras, on the Island of Nassau, then called Long Island; and her relations being owners of sundry large tracts of land on the said Island, did give unto the said Catoneras, the Petitioner’s grandmother, in part of her father’s inheritance a certain tract of land called Crop Meadow, scituate on the Island aforesaid in Suffolk County, running along the Sound four miles and six miles into the woods or thereabouts.

And yor said Petitionrs being all Christians, and members of the Protestant Church, and being willing to enjoy their inheritance by Patent under the Crown, as all other his Majesty’s subjects of this Province do enjoy and hold their lands.

They therefore do most humbly pray that they may have a Warrant to the Surveyor General of this Province to lay out the said Tract of Land for yor ——- Petitionrs & that upon the return —— thereof they may have a Patent and the great Seale of this Province under moderate quitrent as to yor Excy and yor honors shall seem meet.

New York 15th May 1713

And afd Petrs in duty bound shall Ever Pray etc

Cornelis Van Texel
Jacob Van Texel
Johannis Van Texel

Can People Have Names?

Yesterday’s post about names as performance got me to thinking. Somewhere on the periphery of memory I seemed to recall a paper about a medieval debate whether people can have names. And, sure enough, I found it:

As a medievalist I’m fascinated by the details, but as a genealogist it’s enough to know that such a debate could and did occur. Probably no one in casual conversation would believe it.

So, let’s have just a taste. From the overview: “First, how was it theoretically possible to doubt the nameability of individuals? To answer this question, I look at the medieval traditions in the language arts. Specifically, I argue that Boethius’s commentaries on Aristotle’s Perihermeneias provide criteria for what counts as a nomen or “name” in a philosophical sense, but those criteria specifically exclude words that might otherwise be regarded as nomina or “nouns” in a grammatical sense. Granting this distinction, I then ask the second question of the thesis: On what reasonable grounds might a philosopher think that a name of an individual is merely a grammatical “noun” rather than a genuine philosophical “name”? Here the answer seems to be that individuals cannot be named as such because they cannot be understood as such. I investigate two broad motivations in the arguments: (a) human cognitive faculties are not equipped to grasp the individual as such, and (b) individuals are unknowable in themselves because they are composites of matter (which is unknowable) and form (which may be knowable, but which may also be common to many individuals).

In other words, it’s medieval European philosophers learning to digest Aristotle after re-discovering him in the 12th and 13th centuries. (Thank you, Muslims). Same old, same old.

I think those of us with personal names are safe enough. Our heritage doesn’t require us to give them up.

Name Performance

Are names performative? That’s a new idea for me. I came across it while reading a book by Abu El-Haj about the politics of Israeli archeology:

The author “specifies for the first time the relationship between national ideology, colonial settlement, and the production of historical knowledge. She analyzes particular instances of history, artifacts, and landscapes in the making to show how archaeology helped not only to legitimize cultural and political visions but, far more powerfully, to reshape them” (says Goodreads). Good stuff.

In a discussion about naming pottery types, Abu El-Haj points out that naming a type can be a way of creating evidence from a neutral fact. “In other words, the name of objects was integral to producing an independent evidentiary basis upon which an empirical tradition of archaeological practice would henceforth build” (119). A somewhat difficult idea but easy to understand once it’s grasped. For example, naming the type “Israelite” rather than “collared rim” is a conclusion from the evidence and facilitates the argument that this type is proof of Israelite occupation (118-19). It becomes more difficult to argue that finding the pottery type called Israelite is not evidence this is an Israelite site.

In making this argument, Abu El-Haj cites Jacqueline Stevens for the idea names are performative. And here’s where my attention is really captured.

As Jacqueline Stevens has argued quite eloquently with regard to personal names and national affiliations, they are not merely ‘contingent label’ detachable from some already constituted personhood. Rather, ‘the personal name is also the person’ (1999:154); such names perform nationality (158). Extending that argument to question of scientific facts and the naming of things, the name Israelite performs in the very ontology of material-cultural things. Thus, the repeated invocation if Israelite pottery as evidence for Israelite presence in debates concerning questions of chronology and character continuously enacts the nation itself as historical fact. The nation’s historical reality, after all, is evidence in the pottery form itself–a form that exists as a specific ethnic class of objects only when named.

Now I want to read the Stevens book as well. Goodreads’ summary says, “People are said to acquire their affiliations of ethnicity, race, and sex at birth. Hence, these affiliations have long been understood to be natural, independent of the ability of political societies to define who we are. Reproducing the State vigorously challenges the conventional view.” (Goodreads).

Adding it to my list.

Garden Church of Eden

I always loved the Episcopalian church in Eden, Wyoming but I always thought it was called Garden Church of Eden. Guess not. I did a Google search and quickly found it’s really called Oregon Trail Memorial Church. I wonder if the name might have changed.

My grandparents Harry Swanstrom and Vivian (Luce) Swanstrom didn’t belong to any of the local churches, although they contributed to all of them and sent their kids to Bible School.

Oregon Trail Memorial Church, Eden, Wyoming (Source: Facebook)

I can’t remember if I’ve ever been inside. I’d like to think so, but I think I’d remember if I had. I always meant to stop and take a look but never did.

Farson History

Here’s a brief article about the history of the Eden Valley.

“The majority of the settlers came into the Valley in 1907 when a large scale irrigation project under the provision of the Carey Act funded by John M. Farson, Sons and Company came to the area. The Carey Act allowed each settler to the area 160 acres at fifty cents an acre of land and thirty dollars per acre for water rights.”

My grandparents Harry Swanstrom and Vivian (Luce) Swanstrom moved there about 1934, I think. They were living in Daniel, Wyoming when my grandmother’s second baby was stillborn in 1934, then living in Farson when my mother was born in 1936.