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Interpreting the Evidence

Declaration of Ponkes, an Indian of Marechkawick, Regarding the Destruction of a House, 1644

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Document Description

Declaration of Ponkes of Marechkawieck, in the presence of Jan Evertsen Bout, Frederick Lubbertsen, Cors Pietersen and Cornelis van Tienhoven, all versed in the Indian language, respecting the burning of Jochem Pietersen (Kuyter's) house, March 9, 1645.


Declaration of Ponkes, an Indian of Marechkawick, regarding the burning of Jochem Pietersen
Kuyter’s house

Before me, Cornelius van Tienhoven, secretary of New Netherland, appeared Ponkes, an Indian of Marechkawieck, who has been among the Indians, our enemies during the war, and who on the 7th of March last, in the presence of Jan Eversen Bout, Fredric Lubberz and Cors Pitersen, inhabitants here, and before the honorable fiscal, voluntarily made a statement in his own tongue, which tongue and statement of the Indian above mentioned the aforesaid persons declare fully to understand. Wherefore they, the deponents, declare that on the 7th of March last they heard the statement made by the Indian, who said that the Indians, our enemies, did not set Jochim [Pie]tersz’ house on fire, the more so they inquired among themselves who might have done it and were not able to learn that those who burned the house were Indians, notwithstanding the fact that the Indians when they commit any outrage boast of it and think that they have done a good and great thing. All of which the deponents declare to have heard from the Indian in the Indian language, offering to confirm the same.
Done in Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, the 9th of March 1645.
The deponents refused to sign in the presence of the council and the undersigned witnesses, in whose presence they acknowledged that they had heard the foregoing from the Indian. Done as above.
Phillipe du Treux
Willem Briedenbent, under-sheriff
Daniel Kaggen
Before me, who also understand the Indian language and likewise heard the same from
the Indian, Cornelius van Tienhoven, Secretary
[* Translations from Arnold Van Laer, trans.,
New York Historical Manuscripts: Register of the Provincial Secretary, 1642-1647
(Baltimore, Genealogical Pub. Co, 1974), 200-201, 297, 298.]


In what year was this document written?

Why the Dutch might have assumed that the Indians started the fire?

What is the meaning of the statement, “the Indians when they commit
any outrage boast of it and think that they have done a good and great thing”?

Historical Context

Encounters between American Indians and European colonists in New York ranged from cultural exchange, trade, and alliance to conflict and outright war. While facing the reality of dominance by European powers and the loss of economic independence, many Indians nevertheless retained their core traditional values. They employed creative and at times unpredictable means to resist their colonial neighbors. British colonial authorities mildly discouraged Indian slavery and on several occasions tried unsuccessfully to prohibit it.
Early court cases and laws listing duties to be placed on Indian slaves imported into New York indicate that colonial authorities allowed the enslavement of Indians to persist. Even freeborn American Indians had reason to fear being forced into slavery and petitioned the colonial
council for protection. From the late seventeenth through the mid-eighteenth century, the French and English pressured the Iroquois to choose sides during frequent periods of imperial warfare. Iroquois leaders, distrustful of both powers, opted to maintain neutrality, often playing one side against the other. Still, individual Indian nations at times formed temporary alliances with one power or another. The Oneida and Tuscarora Indians, influenced in part by the missionary work of Presbyterian minister William Strickland, chose to fight alongside
the patriot forces in the Revolutionary War. The Oneidas aided the rebels at the battles of Oriskany, Saratoga, and Barren Hill, in addition to sharing their corn with George Washington’s starving troops at Valley Forge.

Essential Question

What was the relationship between the Dutch and the Indians?

Check for Understanding

Describe the relationship between the Dutch and the Indians using evidence from the document.