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University of Vermont Theses & Dissertations

Bassi, Daniella Franccesca
Dutch-Indian Land Transactions, 1630-1664: A Legal Middle Ground of Land Tenures
Living by a commercial ethic and resisting English encroachment from New England, the Dutch made at least 40 land purchases by written deed from their Indian neighbors from 1630 to 1664. In the past, scholars have seen only a European instrument of dispossession in the so-called “Indian deeds” that document land transfers from Indians to Europeans. In fact, they are colonial phenomena with uniquely Indian qualities. This is particularly true of the Dutch-Indian deeds signed or marked between 1630 and 1664. The Dutch-Indian deeds of the seventeenth century exhibit a middle ground of land tenures, in which the Dutch were compelled to yield to aspects of Indian land tenure and law in order to successfully purchase the land and retain it without facing retaliation. Indians, for their part, partook in the sale rituals of the literate world—deed-signing—but resisted European notions of land deals as fixed, permanent agreements. The Dutch-Indian deeds thus emerge as fluid agreements that were a compromise between Dutch and Indian land tenures and legal conventions.

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