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History Of Native American Indians On Long Island

First of Three Articles By Howard

During the Early settlement of the Colonies, the Dutch and the English were the prominent settlers of Long Island. Unlike the Pilgrims which first settled our country, these two nationalities were not simply content to live with the Native American tribes of the region. While some did, greed soon over took the White man and he began to see that the Native Americans were not capable of governing so rich and fertile a land. Whether it be due to the religious practices; the intelligence, or the lack of a civilized nature, these settlers decided that only THEY should be the masters of this new land.

To achieve this stature, the settlers would employ other warring tribes to eradicate the people inhabiting the lands they wanted. Mind you this was only after they realized that some would not be moved or bought out. By the winter of 1643, things really got bad for both sides when reports that an elderly wheelwright was killed on Manhattan Island in what is now Westchester county. Naturally these reports said that the elderly chap was killed by and Indian. A gentleman by the name of William Keift, the Dutch official in charge at New Amsterdam at the time, ordered the Indians living near where the murder took place to hand over the killer. They refused. Keift was told the Indian who killed the old man "had only avenged the death of his Uncle, who had been slain over one and twenty years by the Dutch."

This did not settle well with Keift who met with an official council called the Twelve. They concluded that if this murderer was NOT brought to justice, war would be inevitable. This lit the proverbial fuse of distrust and a Dutch ensign was sent out with a detail of 80 men to find the village. But the ensign got lost in the dark, could not find the village and turned back.

Several weeks later, large groups of Indians from the north began to move south towards New Amsterdam, most likely to attack traditional Indian enemies in the south to collect wampum. The Dutch saw this as a move to foment war against both the Dutch and the English along the southern New England coastline and the east end of Long Island. (Sounds a bit like what the government did 1973 with the Native Americans at Wounded Knee with the Lakota Sioux) With the move of said Native Americans, other tribes near Manhattan Island sought the protection of Keift and the settlers. Keift by this time was paranoid and not in a charitable mood concerning Native Americans. Hence on 25 Feb 1643, he and Dutch soldiers attacked the refugee encampment killing 80 Indians and taking 30 prisoners. A book titled "A History of the City of Brooklyn" published in 1867 describes atrocities to men, women, and children that would rival even some of the worst hack and slash movies on the market today. It said the Indians were remorselessly butchered.

This slaughter by the Dutch seems to have inspired other attacks. The Dutch living at the western end of Long Island asked Keift for permission to attack their Indian neighbors, but he refused fearing they might be hard to conquer. But attacks on Long Island did occur and panicked Dutch farmers fled west seeking the protective shelter of New Amsterdam. To help quell this unrest, the Dutch invited a group of Long Island Indians to New Amsterdam to conduct a peace treaty. But that treaty would not last for long.

For a few months after the Dutch summoned the Native American leaders to New Amsterdam, there was a peace across the region. But by the fall of 1643, the killing began anew. Panicky settlers fled to the safety of New Amsterdam and sought help from Keift. He and his advisors reached out for help from English communities in Connecticut. While the English could offer no troops, they did allow for the raising of mercenaries to head up the task. Enter one John Underhill, a man with a reputation.

Underhill was basically an "Indian Killer" by his own account, He and his men killed 1000 Pequots- men, women and children and torched their villages. He was heralded as the savior of the Europeans from extinction. While the Native Americans feared and hated him, the settlers hailed him as a hero. This would change Long Island history forever. Underhill's claim to a bloody piece of Long Island history began in April of 1644, when it was recorded that seven savages were accused of killing pigs in a settlement called Hempstead were arrested. (Later it was discovered that English themselves had done it) Keift sent in Underhill along with 15 or 16 men to the settlement. Upon arriving, three of the savages were killed outright. Then they took the other four with them on a sailing boat, two of whom were towed along by a rope around their necks till they were drowned. The remaining two were detained at the fort in New Amsterdam. They were kept for a time until Keift tired of feeding them and looking after them, at which time he turned them over to the soldiers to do with as they pleased. Suffice it to say…the atrocities that ensued…were simply that, atrocities. While Keift, stood laughing heartily at the "fun". It seems this was great sport to the soldiers. I will not go into detail about what was done, for it makes my heart sad as a human being to even think on how cruel people can be, then and now.

To continue on, the bloodbath on Long Island continued to escalate when Underhill and his troops attacked a PEACEFUL community of Native Americans on what is believed as modern day Massapequa. After the shooting stopped and the smoke cleared, they had killed 120 Indians. The exact location of this massacre is disputed. Although a famed archaeologist Ralph Solecki states that the evidence strongly suggests it occurred at a site in Massapequa called Fort Neck. Confirmation would have come in 1935 when the bones of some 24 people were dug up during an excavation of the site.

After the battle of Fort Neck, with the weather being cold and the wind coming from the northwest, Captain Underhill and his men collected the bodies of the slain Indians and tossed them in a heap on the brow of the hill, then sat down and had their breakfast. I gather from records, they were never buried. Underhill's rampage went on to a place in Westchester, where he killed the Indians of that area and torched the fort they lived in. The body count was in excess of 180. Underhill was honored with statues, obelisks and markers as a great pioneer for European settlers, while the dead he left behind…had nothing. While there was a marker…to indicate the site of the massacre at one point in time…it was stolen for some reason and never replaced. The grounds of the site are said to have a reddish tinge, indicative of the slain natives of that time.

Now, in 1907 a HUGE obelisk was erected by the Underhill Society of America, a genealogical group, on Factory Pond Road, in Mill Neck. The monument features four plaques on its base showing Underhill reading to natives who are kneeling worshipfully at his feet. On the cover of the book Underhill is reading can be seen the words "Love one Another."


This subject is discussed in these three threads on our forum:
Indian Involvement?
Please Read [article on Native Americans]
Amityville History Pt 1: Mauntak Indians and Devil Worship