Once upon a time, Manhattan wasn’t covered with buildings. At the time, there were several tribes comprising about 200 people living in what is now all of New York City. The Cuyahoga lived in Soho, the Shinnecock lived on the Lower East Side, the Montauk lived in Chinatown, the Lyanape tribe lived in Central Park West, and the Dodgers lived in Brooklyn.
There wasn’t doodly squat going on in Lower Manhattan. It was mostly covered with woods and some swamps, used mainly by teenage Montauk boys who would sneak off there to smoke cigarettes and play with matches.
The Indians first encountered white men when Henry Hudson stopped by in 1609. He was headed up the river which would one day bear his name looking for a water route to China, where he hoped to get some carryout. When saw some neon casino signs., he figured, “what the heck, I have been on a long, arduous voyage,” and he stopped by to play some keno. Hudson stuck around and partied for awhile with an Indian lass who worked a window in the sports book and then thought, “Wo! I’d sure like some egg rolls,” and he took off. Some of his crew (who were born-again Christians) were really pissed off that Hudson had introduced the Indians to firewater, and the Indians had introduced him to roulette and rose up against him in a mutiny. They took over his ship, put Hudson, his son and some other guys in a boat and set them adrift. They were never seen again. The mutineers, however, went on to live long fun-free, beverage-less lives without music. So you tell me who had the worse deal.
Anyway, a few years went by and in 1626 A Dutch guy named Peter Minuit cruised into town. The King of Holland, Hans Brinker, had recently granted Minuit the RE/MAX franchise for North America and Minuit was out looking for properties to list. After asking around, he was introduced to the chief of the Lyanapes. After the obligatory pleasantries, they got down to business:
Minuit: I am looking for property to list.
Chief: Commercial or residential?
Minuit: I’m actually interested in raw land with development potential.
Chief: We’ve got plenty of that around here. Two nice rivers, a good harbor, flat land, nice view across the water to New Jersey…and I can guarantee zoning won’t be a problem.
Minuit: I will give you $24 in beads, trinkets, blankets and wampum.
Chief: Toss in a fifth of rye whiskey, some sweet vermouth and some maraschino cherries and you’ve got a deal!
Minuit: Why the cherries?
Chief: I’ll show you after we sign the papers.
So they had the papers drawn up and notarized. Once they had signed the papers, the chief called for an ice bucket and some glasses and made a drink consisting of two parts rye and one part sweet vermouth. He tossed in a cherry and handed the drink to Minuit. “Hey, this is good!” Minuit said. “What’s it called?
“Doesn’t have a name,” said the chief. “We’re Indians and not into giving booze names.”
“I think I’ll call it a Manhattan!” Minuit said. “I’d like another one, but make this one straight up with less vermouth…oh, and two cherries, please.”
The chief loaded up the wampum and headed back to his tribe. Minuit got a survey crew out to create plats. He then called Donald Trump’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather and set up a lunch meeting.
Over the years, a lot of people have said that Minuit screwed the Indians since Manhattan is now valued at a hair over $8 trillion. A recently discovered recording of a cell phone conversation sheds different light on the subject:
Chief 1: Tony, this is Mike.
Chief 2: Mike! How’s things in Lyanape land?
Chief 1: Doing great, Tony. How are things with the Montauk mafia?
Chief 2: Never better…except for those damn kids sneaking off to smoke cigarettes.
Chief 1: I think I might have solved that for you.
Chief 2: Oh, man, I’d owe you big time! How’d you do it?
Chief 1: I just “sold” that area to some white sucker named Minuit.
Chief 2: SOLD it? LMAO, dude. You don’t even OWN it.
Chief 1: Minuit doesn’t know that and let’s keep it that way, OK? Wanna bring the missus over for a cocktail?
Chief 2: On my way!