Before Union

The Land

The land where Union College now stands was once under the management of women of the Mohawk Nation, one of the five nations that, at the time, made up the Iroquois Confederacy. It was also land of the Mohicans, who were eventually pushed to Wisconsin and exist today as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. The tribal name for the Mohawk in their language is Kanienkehaka. They did not keep written records, but land was passed down through maternal lineage, and women were given the role of care and management of the land and agriculture.1

Van Slyck and Wemp patent, 1662.  Image from the Willis T. Hanson, Jr. Collection (SCA-0312). Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library. 

Dongan grant, 1684. Image from the Willis T. Hanson, Jr. Collection (SCA-0312). Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library.

Dongan Grant

When the Dutch came to settle the area, a woman of the Mohawk Nation named Ots-Toch, who had been coined “Queen of Hogs Island” most likely by the Dutch, was recognized as managing the swath of land that would eventually become Schenectady. It is difficult to decipher the truth of this history; however, according to Jonathan Pearson’s A History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times, the land was passed on to two daughters of Ots-Och, Hilletie and Leah, and transferred through marriage to men of Dutch descent. This initial land grant, signed on November 1, 1684, would have been the source of all legal titles to land within the surrounding 128 square miles.2

You can read more about today's communities of the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs and the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians

1 Pearson, Jonathan. A History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times. Albany, NY: J. Munsell's sons, 1883: 21.
2 Ibid., 23.
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