By Carolyn Gordon
A few weeks ago, while volunteering to transcribe archives I saw a letter written about 1790 from an American Indian named Hendrick Aupaumut to the New York Legislature. I was fascinated, not just because he wrote it in English and I could read it, but also because it offered a glimpse into the struggles of indigenous people after the Revolution as we were establishing our democracy.
Hendrick Aupaumut was a member of the Stockbridge Munsee tribe and was probably descended from the Mohawk chief Hendrick. He, and many people from his tribe, fought in the Revolution where they served as scouts. Aupaumut was part of Captain William Goodrich’s company and rose to the rank of captain. He later fought in the War of 1812. He was educated by the Moravians, a Protestant sect, and in the 1790s became a leader of his tribe. In the letter, he pled for his tribe to be educated and integrated into our society. He advocated for his tribe to be educated in the protestant religion. He states “we wish to imitate your ways of life – but is not in our power to do the suddenly.” Aupaumut saw a future for his tribe.
Aupaumut explains his frustration with the early Americans’ attitude toward the Stockbridge tribe. The Stockbridge was originally from the Housatonic River valley in Massachusetts. After the French and Indian war the Stockbridge-Makkecommak, an early spelling of the Mohican, tribe moved to north central New York by invitation of the Oneida Indians. Unfortunately, the Oneida land was sought after timber land. White settlers pressured the Stockbridge-Makkecommak and Oneidas to relocate to the Midwest shortly after the former’s arrival in New York. The tribes eventually settled in northern Wisconsin; where the Stockbridge joined with the Munsee tribe, who had also been relocated to the Midwest. Apaumut purpose was to persuade the lawmakers to protect American Indian rights to the land.
This letter was donated to Historic Huguenot Street by Mary Stokes-Jensen and Richard Stokes. It is suspected that Hendrick Aupaumut’s letter fell into the possession of Joseph Hasbrouck, who saved it. Joseph Hasbrouck was born March 3, 1743. He became a general in the Revolutionary war and served in a militia after the war. In 1777 he served supervisor of New Paltz; and 1791-1796 was a state legislator. He was buried on the farm of Joseph. L. Hasbrouck in Libertyville and was later was removed to New Paltz Rural Cemetery. He was in the senate around the same time that Aupaumut was leading his tribe, and the tribe was asked to leave the New York area. The letter was rediscovered and donated to HHS where it will be preserved in the archives. Thanks for reading!
“Aupaumut, Hendrick.” Aupaumut, Hendrick. Dartmouth College, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.
Hasbrouck Kenneth E, The Hasbrouck Family in America, Huguenot Society, 1952
Poucher, J Wilson. Terwilliger, Byron J. Old Gravestones of Ulster County New York. Ulster County Historical Society 1931.
Rindfleisch, Bryan. “The Stockbridge-Mohican Community, 1775-1783.” Journal of the American Revolution. Journal of the American Revolution, 28 Aug. 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.
“Stockbridge-Munsee History.” Stockbridge-Munsee History – Indian Country Wisconsin. Indian Country, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.
“Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians.” Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.