Scholarly study of the Catskills

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To The Editor:
There is a rather idyllic aire to Mr. Birns’ recounting of ancient inhabitants of the area in his latest “Catskill Catalog” column. While we should give credence to the factual record as shown in archeological as well as written and spoken history, more needs doing for there to be a thorough accounting.

Evidence of more modern history of natives in the period after contact with Euro-Americans is well-referenced in Shirley W. Dunn’s, Mohican Seminar III (NY State Museum Bulletin 511, 2009), namely, her article “Indian Ownership in And Around The Catskills.”  It should be read by all interested parties, who might find it in book form and also via computer.  Munsie locations are cited, as are towns, or ‘castles’ in adjacent Schoharie County, both Mohawk and Mohican.

The latter two had towns that came into colonial history as being previously friendly neighbors - until land of one tribe was sold. The first inhabitants appealed to the Albany government for legal remedy.

In addition, there are unsettled issues, including common aspersions implicating limited slash and burn farming which is mistakenly portrayed as affecting arboreal ecology with dire consequences.  Inter-tribal relations between the Six Nations, or Iroquois, and the Munsie, need much more clarification in our evolving historical record.

Truthful exposition of history will only make our region attractive for those who would make it the subject of scholarly study and those who come for enjoyment.

David Rubenstein,
MA