How Did the Dutch Colonists Treat the Native Americans?

The Dutch colonists initially treated Native Americans with respect, however eventually relations between the two became strained. The first Dutch colony that was established in 1609 was mainly a trade outpost, therefore, it was advantageous for the colonists to cultivate amicable relationships with their Native American neighbors. In later years, as the colonists looked to expanding their lands, conflicts arose, eventually leading to armed fighting.

During the early 1600s, the Native Americans were able to supply the Dutch with fur, corn and shells. The Dutch used these shells as a form of currency with the indigenous peoples. Directors of the West Indian Trading Company, the investment group that financed the first Dutch colonization efforts, instructed their settlers to avoid antagonizing the native people. One of the directors, Johannes de Laet, even described the Native Americans as friendly people who would be sympathetic toward the Dutch if treated fairly.

However, as the years progressed and more settlers came to the Dutch colonies, the Dutch economy shifted from relying on trade, to relying on agriculture. Land became a sought after commodity and Dutch farms began to expand into Native American territory. This strained the relations between the Dutch and the Native Americans until the first large scale war between the two sides was declared in 1642. The war is commonly known as “Kieft’s War” and is named after the Dutch Director-General, Willam Kieft, who is believed to have ordered two attacks on neighboring Native American tribes.