The language spoken on Long Island and in southern New England are all part of the Eastern Algonquian language family.1 The Unkechaug language, for example, shares a vowel pattern with such northern New England languages asAbenaki and Micmac.2
The Algonquian names for individuals and places were recorded by colonial scribes as they heard them pronounced by Native speakers. The spellings were phonetic. The scribe listened to the Native speaker and spelled the word out as he heard it. Thus the spelling was idiosyncratic, varying from scribe to scribe, and often even from one part of a given document to another. The scribes were little concerned with precise spellings for Algonquian names. Contemporary scholars, including Gaynell Stone and John Strong, have been guided by the spellings in William Wallace Tooker‘s classic, Indian Place Names on Long Island, for the sake of consistency.3
In 2017, Unkechaug Chief Harry Wallace, with Stephanie Fielding of Mohegan and Tina Tarrant of Shinnecock, launched a language immersion class hosted by Stony Brook University.
The grammatical rules and dictionaries used in the class can be found here, http://moheganlanguage.com/ , though the database and rules are being updated constantly.
Below are historical, cultural, spiritual and archaeological sites that have Algonquian names. William Wallace Tooker was instrumental for associating location with the traditional site names based on deeds between colonists and Indians, but his given translations have been described as unreliable.
Based on the James Hammond Trumbell’s 1903 Natick Dictionary, which largely corresponds to the Shinnecock dialect of Algonquian, along with contemporary scholarship of Tina Tarrant (Shinnecock), Harry Wallace (Unkechaug) and Stephanie Fielding (Mohegan), new translations for ancestral sites without names have been given.
Ayeuonganit Wampum Ayimꝏup translates to 'in this place wampum was made.'[1. Translation: Tina Tarrant, Shinnecock]
Konkhunganik is the name of the southern part of Fort Pond, Montauk, East Hampton town, generally applied by historians to the whole part. First noted in the Indian deed of 1661, viz.: "All the piece or neck of land belonging to Montauk land western to a fresh pond in a beach, the name of the pond being Quanuntowunk on the north and Konkhunganik on the south," (Hedge's Address, 1849).[1. William Wallace Tooker, Indian Place Names of Long Island, 1911 pp 84]
Manhansack-aqua-quash-awamock translates to "island sheltered by islands," which was the Algonquian name used by the resident Manhanset Indians in the seventeenth century.[1. Duvall, 1952, pp. 9, John Charles Witek, Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut, Nm 53, 1990, pp. 39]
Montauk translates to "the fort country."
The Dutch called the Montauk Mirrachtauhacky[1. William Wallace Tooker, Indian Place Names of Long Island, 1911, pp. 135];
Mirrachtauhacky: Dutch Notation for Montauk. This form of spelling is found on record in the treaty of May 29, 1645; when Wittaneymen Sachem appeared before the Council of New Netherland, declaring to be impowered by his bretheren[sic], naming among other Weyrinteynich [Wiandance], Sachem of Mirrachtauhacky[1. col. Hist. N. Y., vol. xiv., p. 60]. De Kay cites: "Merautahacky an unknown locality on Long Island"[1. Tooker, Indian Names of L.I.]
The Montaukett had their own local dialect of Algonquian, but were understood by the Shinnecock, Unkechaug, and New England tribes.
On March 25, 1798, John Lyon Gardiner recorded Montaukett vocabulary from Sachem George Pharoah in a personal manuscript;
"March 25, 1798. A vocabulary of the Indian language spoken by the Montauk tribe. George Pharoah, aged 66, oldest man of that tribe and their chief gave me this specimen of their language. There are only about seven persons that can now speak this language and a few years more and it will be gone forever. It was spoken with little difference by all the Indians upon the East end of Long Island and perhaps the whole Island and the adjoining Islands. George says the Moheags of Connecticut speak the same language. George repeated these words several times and I write them as near as he pronounced as I can with the English alphabet."
The vocabulary list has been published in Gaynell Stone's Languages and Lore of the Long Island Indians, Vol IV
Nissaquogue translates to "the clay or mud country."[1. William Wallace Tooker, The Indian Place Names on Long Island, 1991, pp. 161]
Tooker found variations of the name; Tesequagg 1655; Nessaquock, 1665; NEsaquake, 1666; Nasaquack, 1666; Neesoquauk, 1663; Nesquauk, 1665; Nesoquack, 1671; Nassaquake, 1675; and modernly Nissequogue.
Poquahoc Uhtuk translates to "clam fire," based on a recorded vocabulary of 'Unquachog / Puspatuck[sic]' collected by Thomas Jefferson at Brookhaven, Long Island on June 13, 1791.[1. Gaynell Stone, Languages and Lore of the Long Island Indians pp.17]
Although this site has been used for a long period of time as a clam baking and fish smoking site, it did not have a historical name.
Ruht was the original spelling recorded by Jefferson, however modern scholars suggest 'r' was silent or not pronounced generally.
Shinnecock is a neck of land, and the name may translate to 'at the big neck.'
This name supports the idea that the element -uniikw- means 'neck of land.' Tooker noted the Dutch spelling of the name [Mochgonnekonck[1. Tooker, Indian Place Names of Long Island, 1911, pp. XXV, 136-8]] (in the Munsee language, spoken on Manhattan), which is a key to the interpretation.
Munsee */mxwuníikwunk/ ‘at the big -uniikw-’ would be in SNEA (Southern New England Algonquian) */mhshuniikwuk/ (with /m(u)hsh-/ ‘big’, which is what Shinnecock is, with loss (in the language) or omission (by English hearers) of the whispered “m-”. (written here schwa [technically /O/] with “u” for convenience, following the Munsee practical orthography.)[1. Ives Goddard, A Note on Shinnecock in Munsee, Email Corrispondance 2017]
Variations of Weeckatuck are Weeckatuck [better spelling as earlier spellings likely more accurate], used in 1706; Weckatuck, 1797 and Wickatuck, 1964.
This name is susceptible of two interpretations: either, weque-tugk, "end of the woods or trees"; or weque-tuk, "end of the cove or creek." There is no difference between "gk" and "k," but the first spelling wouldn't be correct grammatically. End of the cove or creek is likely to be the correct translation.
Reaching far afield in the Algonquian family, we could reasonable compare Ojibwe wiikwedong, locative of wiikwed 'bay,' which would have an expectd SNEA (Southern New England Algonquian) cognate wîhkwâtuk. Thus the meaning here would be 'in or at the cove,' assuming, on this evidence along that this word existed. We are also assuming that the 'ck' in the name should have been 'qu,' on the basis of a word we know elsewhere, but it could also mean something different.[1. Ives Goddard, email correspondence, 2017]
Both significations will apply to the locality, Weeckatuck spring being at the "end of the woods," from any direction of approach, from Noyack, Sag Harbor, or Bridgehampton. It is also the "head of the cove" from the same directions.
The first component, in either case, will be weque (in Massachusetts, uhquae), "end"; the -tugk of Wequetugk will correspond to Massachusetts m'h'tug (root, h'tug), "tree"; the -tuk of Wequetuk is -tuck, "tidal stream," "creek." [1. Tooker, W. W. (1962). The Indian place-names on Long Island and islands adjacent with their probable significations. Port Washington, NY: I.J. Friedman. pp 277]
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