ABOUT THIS BOOK
The Indians of coastal Long Island were closely attuned to their maritime environment. They hunted sea mammals, fished in coastal waters, and harvested shellfish. To celebrate the deep-water spirits, they sacrificed the tail and fins of the most powerful and awesome denizen of their maritime world—the whale. These Native Americans were whalemen, integral to the origin and development of the first American whaling enterprise in the years 1650 to 1750.
America’s Early Whalemen examines this early chapter of an iconic American historical experience. John A. Strong’s research draws on exhaustive sources, domestic and international, including little-known documents such as the whaling contracts of 340 Native American whalers, personal accounting books of whaling company owners, London customs records, estate inventories, and court records. Strong addresses labor relations, the role of alcohol and debt, the patterns of cultural accommodations by Native Americans, and the emergence of corporate capitalism in colonial America.
When Strong began teaching at Long Island University in 1964, he found little mention of the local Indigenous people in history books. The Shinnecocks and the neighboring tribes of Unkechaugs and Montauketts were treated as background figures for the celebratory narrative of the “heroic” English settlers. America’s Early Whalemen highlights the important contributions of Native peoples to colonial America.