Why Did the Indians Sell Manhattan Island for Only $24?

When the Dutch settlers came to the New World in 1626, they wanted to build a town on the island called “Manna-Hattin,” at the mouth of the Hudson River. So Peter Minuit, representing the Dutch West India Company, approached a group of Indians on the island and traded the land for some beads, cloth, and trinkets worth about 60 Dutch guilders, or about $24.

Many white settlers claimed that the Indians were tricked by this deal, for the property was very valuable. But the Indians did not regard land as something to buy and sell, something of wealth. To them, it was just there to use, like the air and water. And so, the Indians were happy with the trinkets they received in the trade.

However, some historians claim that the Canarsie Indians, with whom Minuit made the deal, were actually from Long Island and never owned the island of Manhattan. It has been said that they took their “loot” and went on their way, and that Minuit later had to repurchase the land from the actual Indians who lived there.

A mathematician once figured out (for no reason that we know) that if the Indians had invested their $24 in a bank, with the interest compounded annually for over 300 years, they would have over $50,000,000,000 (50 billion dollars) today!

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    The Indians sold Manhattan to the Dutch for a song because Obama was advising them. For proof ask the Poles and the Czechs.

  2. Anonymous says

    A mathematician once figured out (for no reason that we know) that if the Indians had invested their $24 in a bank, with the interest compounded annually for over 300 years, they would have over $50,000,000,000 (50 billion dollars) today!

    ^yeah. but they’d be dead! :P

  3. Abby Dees says

    This is a simplistic and inaccurate version of this story. First of all, there is no mention in the one remaining document of this transaction that any beads or “trinkets” were sold. The items in the deal were useful things, such as weapons, pots, blankets, etc., and they were worth more than $24. Though there is some disagreement among historians as to what exactly transpired, they are generally in agreement that the Indians had a very sophisticated system of land rights and were not naive in their negotiating. Many think, actually, that the Indians who sold the property weren’t from manhattan at all, but from Long Island. There is also evidence that this deal was more of a treaty — a trading and rights exchange — than a simple sale. It benefited the parties beyond the items sold. The trope about “$24 worth of beads” is bad history and utterly devoid of critical thinking. Both parties to the deal were much savvier than high school history books would suggest.

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