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The New Netherlands and the Indians in the Religion History


The Dutch settlers came to America with the sole objective of making money. They did migrate from their original land due to political or religious persecution. A majority of the settlers were single men who were out to make money. The Dutch West Indian company facilitated the movement of the settlers to the New Netherland. The company believed that the settlers would revive the economy of the region, therefore boosting its revenue. On the other hand, the settlers took this as an opportunity to make a fortune. The company supplied the settlers with horses, land and cattle as incentives (Haefeli 17). Within a short duration, the settlers repaid all that they owed to the company and started to make a profit.

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The Dutch and Indians had a cordial relationship. Intellectuals claim that the Dutch sympathized with the Indians due to the repression they experienced in the hands of the Spanish. Nevertheless, the Dutch did this with the objective of making money from the Indians. The Dutch did all they could to persuade the rich Indians to do business with them (Haefeli 21). They treated the Indians with respect, sincerity, and faithfulness to maintain rapport, thus do business. This paper will discuss how the Dutch related with the Indians and the spread of Christianity in New Netherland. The paper will also consider the position of the Dutch settlers regarding freedom.

Relationship between the Dutch and Indians

The Dutch treated the Indians with honesty and respect. In the Hudson Valley, the Dutch and Indians worked hard to ensure that they accommodate one another. The parties signed numerous treaties. Moreover, they instituted various ad hoc agreements. The Dutch agreed to these arrangements as a way to demonstrate that they were ready to respect the Indians and engage in honest business (Haefeli 25). Other colonialists invaded and grabbed land from the Indians. However, the Dutch demonstrated their respect by signing agreements over the disposition of business ventures and property. The Dutch settlers were encouraged to ensure that they were fair-minded when dealing with the Indians. Consequently, they could not engage in transactions that did not meet the needs of the Indians.

Both the Dutch and Indians maintained a realistic relationship. The Dutch settlers knew that they could not achieve their goal without the help of the Indians. Trade led to the Iroquois and the Dutch respecting one another (Richter 531). Despite numerous instances of racial and personal hostility, the communities were held together by mutual trade interests. Rather than seeing each other as invaders, maize robbers, or Indian givers, the Dutch and Mohawks viewed one another as a source of economic growth. The two communities never considered what they thought of one another on a personal level as long as they could trade.

The Dutch tried as much as possible to avoid possible confrontation with the Indians (Richter 534). The two communities maintained both informal and sporadic trade in the upper valley. Even though the Dutch were eager to exploit new frontiers within the New Netherland, they could not do it since they were afraid of ruining their relationship with the Indians. The Dutch consulted the Indians before bringing more people to the New Netherland. For instance, they contacted the Mohicans before establishing new trade posts at Fort Orange (Richter 535). The Dutch promised the Indians that they could benefit from the establishment of new business posts. As the population of the Dutch community continued to increase, the need to diversify the economy arose. The Dutch ceased its overdependence on trade and embarked on agriculture. Investing in Agriculture called for more land. As a result, the Dutch settlers did not have an alternative but to look for more land, which meant encroaching on the territories that the Native Americans owned. They could no longer maintain the relationship with Indians. In 1642, the Indians and Dutch settlers declared war.

Gradually, the Dutch settlers stopped treating the Indians with respect and started to sideline some communities. In 1626, Daniel van Crieckenbeeck opted to violate the policies that obliged the Dutch to maintain a friendly relationship with all Native Americans. Daniel helped the Mohicans to launch an invasion against the Mohawks. Until today, no one knows the primary reason that made Daniel violate the policies (Jameson 45). However, some researchers claim that he had signed an agreement with Mohicans, which would have guaranteed that the families living in Fort Orange got the property. The invasion of the Mohawks was disastrous. Van Crieckenbeeck together with some Dutch soldiers lost their life and did not manage to drive the Mohawks out of the land.

Spread of Christianity

Jonas Michaelius and Bastiaen Jansz were the first Christians to interact with the Indians in the New Netherland. Bastiaen came to console the sick. On the other hand, Jonas was previously a commissary at Fort Orange. It was hard for Bastiaen to convince the Indians to abandon their alcoholic scuffling to attend religious services (Haefeli 38). In any case, he was mainly preoccupied with business and had limited time to spread Christianity. After spending four months in the New Netherland, Jonas concluded that the Indians were wicked, unfriendly, devilish and unintelligent. Thus, he had to come with a new strategy to draw them to Christianity. Jonas encouraged the missionaries to learn the local language to boost communication. Besides, he used gifts to influence the parents to allow the children to join Christianity. The missionaries set up schools where they accommodated the children. Being away from parents, the children could easily learn Christianity as well as the Dutch language (Jacobs 60). Michaelius left New Netherland after three years. He did not manage to convert a single Indian.

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Later, Johannes Megapolensis built the first spiritual beachhead in the New Netherland. The patroon had requested Johannes to serve the residents of Rensselaerswyck. He also had the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the Indians. One of the patroon’s intentions was “to have the Christian Reformed religion proclaimed there so that the blind heathen might also be brought to the knowledge of our Savior, Jesus Christ” (Jacobs 67). In 1643, Johannes started to preach to the Mohawks. He began by learning the local language. Nevertheless, it was hard to learn the language since it kept on changing. In spite of the difficulties in learning the local language, some Mohawks converted and were baptized and introduced to Christianity. Johannes had doubts that his mission would bear more fruits. Years later, he declared that it was hard to convert the Native Americans. The few Indians who converted to Christianity could not help in the mission.

The disputes between the Dutch West Indian Company and the church repressed the spread of Christianity. Reverend Bogardus blamed the director general of the company for his drinking habit. The two entered into a war of words and eventually, the manager stopped going to church. The brawl between Reverend and the director general did not stop there (Meuwese 297). The latter planned for military personnel to conduct their training outside the church. It became hard for the worshippers to understand what the reverend was preaching. The conflict between the two degenerated into a battle for supremacy between the church and the company. The sporadic conflicts between the director generals of Dutch West Indian Company and local ministers made it hard for the Reformed Church to win many souls. In the 1650s, more European immigrants came to the New Netherlands. The immigrants comprised of Dutch Jews, German Lutherans, and English Quakers (Meuwese 302). The director general who succeeded Kieft was a strong believer of Calvinist doctrine. Thus, he supported the spread of the faith in the New Netherland. The manager’s actions were not received well by the Lutheran practitioners who were out to spread their doctrine. The Lutherans fought for religious tolerance in the region. Later, the director general gave in to their demands leading to the spread of numerous religious doctrines in the region.

The Dutch’s Status on Freedom

The Dutch believed that religious and economic freedom were essential for the growth of the New Netherland (Otto 35). As a result, they tolerated different religious groups though with some limitations on the liberty of worship. The director general together with the ministers argued that freedom of public worship and other irreligious acts like pulling the goose were detrimental the entire society. The Dutch valued the freedom of conscience. The Indians were allowed to believe and practice whatever they wanted without harassment. The ministers and clergymen in New Netherland were determined to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. The two believed that a Christian should not be a slave (Otto 39). Thus, to accomplish the goal of converting Indians to Christianity, they had to accord them the freedom. Besides the religious liberty the Dutch valued the freedom of association. The primary purpose of settling in the New Netherland was to do business. They could not trade with the Native Americans without allowing them to move from one place to another. Therefore, the Dutch tolerated free movement of people and goods across New Netherland.


The Dutch encountered minimal conflicts with the Indians in New Netherland. The Dutch settlers sought the friendship of the Indians to facilitate trade. They were fair to the Native Americans and did not take advantage of their illiteracy. All transactions were carried out with sincerity, honesty, and faithfulness. The Dutch and Indians signed numerous agreements as a show of respect and value for one another. Economic interest served as the cord that sustained a cordial relationship between the communities. Initially, it was hard to spread Christianity in New Netherland since the Indians did not understand the Dutch language. Disagreements between missionaries and director generals of the Dutch West Indian Company also hindered the spread of Christianity. Later, they reconciled leading to numerous religious doctrines coming to New Netherland. The Dutch valued freedom of conscience. They allowed the Indians to exercise their cultural practices without interference. Additionally, they knew that it was hard to trade without promoting freedom of association. Therefore, they allowed the Indians to move freely.

Works Cited

Haefeli, Evan. New Netherland and the Dutch Origins of American Religious Liberty, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012. Print.

Jacobs, Jaap. New Netherland: A Dutch Colony in Seventeenth-Century America, Boston: Brill Leiden, 2005. Print.

Jameson, John. Narratives of New Netherland, 1609-1644, New York: Scribner, 1999. Print.

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Meuwese, Mark. “The Dutch Connection: New Netherlands, the Pequots, and the Puritans in Southern New England, 1620-1638.” Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 9.2 (2011): 295-323. Print.

Otto, Paul. “Review of Van der Donck’s “A Description of New Netherlands” and Wendell’s “To Do Justice to Him & Myself”.” Ethnohistory 58.1 (2011): 31-45. Print.

Richter, Daniel. “War and Culture: The Iroquois Experience.” The William and Mary Quarterly 40.4 (1983): 528-559. Print.

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