A Description of New Netherlands
Adriaen van der Donck - 1649
OF THE MANNERS AND PECULIAR CUSTOMS OF, THE NATIVES OF THE NEW-NETHERLANDS
A Relation of their Hunting and Fishing.
To hunting and fishing the Indians are all extravagantly inclined, and they have their particular seasons for these engagements. In the spring and part of the summer, they practise fishing. When the wild herbage begins to grow up in the woods, the first hunting season begins, and then many of their young men leave the fisheries for the purpose of hunting; but the old and thoughtful men remain at the fisheries until the second and principal hunting season, which they also attend, but with snares only. Their fishing is carried on in the inland waters, and by those who dwell near the sea, or the sea-islands. The latter have particular advantages. Their fishing is done with seines, set-nets, small fikes, wears, and laying hooks. They do not know how to salt fish, or how to cure fish proper. They sometimes dry fish to preserve the same, but those half tainted, which they pound to meal to be used in chow in winter.
Their young and active men are much engaged hunting bears, wolves, fishers, otters, and beavers. Near sea-shores and rivers where the Christians mostly reside, hunt deer, where many are killed. Those are mostly caught in snares, they also shoot them with arrows and guns. The Indians sometimes unite in companies of from one to two hundred, when they have rare sport. On those occasions, they drive over a large district of land and kill much game. They also make extensive fikes with palisades, which are narrow at their terminating angles, wherein they drive multitudes of animals and. take great numbers. At a word, they are expert hunters for every kind of game, and know to practise the best methods to insure success. The beavers are mostly taken far inland, there being few of them near the settlements-particularly by the black Minquas, who are thus named because they wear a black badge on their breast, and not because they are really black, by the Senecas, by the Maquas, and by the Rondaxes or French Indians, who are also called Euyrons (Hurons).
For beaver hunting the Indians go in large parties, and remain out from
one to two months, during which time they subsist by hunting and on a little
corn meal which they carry out with them, and they frequently return home with
from forty to eighty beaver skins, and with some otter, fishers and other skins
also, even more than can be correctly stated. We estimate that eighty thousand
beavers are annually killed in this quarter of the country, besides elks, bears,
otters, deer and other animals. There are some persons who imagine that the
animals of the country will be destroyed in time, but this is unnecessary anxiety.
It has already continued many years, and the numbers brought in do not diminish.
The country is full of lakes, seas, rivers, streams and creeks, and extends
very far, even to the great south sea; hence we infer, that there will not be
an end to the wild animals, and also because there are large districts where
the animals will remain unmolested.