Sunday, September 18, 2016

1764 New York Mohawk finds himself on display in Europe



Etching of the New York Mohawk Sychnecta, in traditional dress. He wears a characteristic head-dress & nose-&ear-jewellery of the Mohawks. He carries a bow & arrow in his left hand plus a pipe-tomahawk in his right hand. Next to his feet a pair of snowshoes is depicted. Dreesmann-collection of the Municipal Archives of Amsterdam, dr.pr.1463

In the 16C, Dutch ships frequently sailed across the oceans. Once back in their home ports, the crew members told stories of the wondrous things they had seen. Interest in these stories was enormous. Merchants were eager to learn all they could about trade possibilities with distant lands; cartographers were hungry for facts about newly discovered regions; & collectors tried to purchase the exotic objects these venturers had brought home. Living & stuffed animals found their way to menageries (forerunners of today's zoos); collectors' cabinets; traveling exhibitions; and, in some cases, inns.

In the autumn of 1764, an American Mohawk Indian could be seen at the Blauw Jan Inn in Amsterdam. In the port city of Amsterdam, there were countless inns in the 17C & 18C, & some of them maintained collections of exotic animals & even exotic humans. A German living in the Mohawk Valley had joined forced with his neighbours to earn some money in Europe. He reached Amsterdam via England with 2 Indians. He sold one of them, named Sychnecta, to the manager of the inn who in turn put him on display. Sychnecta was drawn there from life in his traditional costume by Amsterdam artist Pieter Barbiers  (1717-1780) . A. Smit made an etching from the drawing. Sychnecta returned to the Mohawk Valley in the summer of 1765. 


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