Why did Indians sell Manhattan for just a few beads?

When Dutch traders built a post at New Amsterdam (now New York City), they did give the Lenape Indians some beads and other trinkets worth about $24.

The Lenape, however, did not consider this payment for their land. Like other Indian people, they did not think of land as something that could be bought and sold. They probably regarded the beads as a gift, a gesture meant to keep the Lenape friendly.

In Indian cultures, gift-giving was a common way of cementing allegiances between peoples. The Dutch likely knew this custom, so they, too, probably considered the beads to be no more than a token of their goodwill.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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