Friday 2 May 2014

As Stupid as Peter Minuit

File:Peter Minuit portrait New Amsterdam 1600s light.jpg
Peter Minuit was born in the Netherlands around 1580. The actual date isn’t known but who really cares anyways. He joined the Dutch West India Company in the mid 1620s and was sent to the New Netherlands to trade for animal pelts and anything else of value. He was appointed the Governor General of New Netherlands in 1626. No one would even remember Peter except for a deal that he made with the Natives. Even with the deal, most of us have no idea who Peter Minuit was.
The deal he is famous for was the purchase of Manhattan Island for sixty guilders or about $24. The natives had no use for Guilders, so it is suspected that they took the value in trade goods, probably trinkets and beads. There is some question about who made the better deal. Minuit did manage to buy a large island of strategic importance that had plentiful hunting and in a few hundred years the real estate would be some of the most valuable land in the world. It is suspected that the natives who sold the island actually came out on top because the tribe that sold the island didn’t actually own it. It may have been New York’s first real estate scam. The natives also didn’t share a European view of ownership, and felt that air, water and land couldn’t be owned or traded. They were in for a painful lesson in economics, European style.

I like the idea that the indigenous peoples valued beads above all else. They would use them to trade and also to decorate clothing and tools. I guess that beads were very time consuming to make and a bag of beads would be indicative of great wealth and power. They traded what couldn’t be traded for untold wealth.

Today I was in the second hand store looking for something that might catch my eye. Most of the time there isn’t anything that anyone else would find intriguing, but I am caught by the item. I once found something that looked like a tape measure, but it didn’t have any numbers on it. I did a little research and it was actually a bowls measure. It is used to discover whose ball is closest to the tiny white ball. Well, mine is used to take up space in a drawer, but someday, I will be lawn bowling and won’t everyone be amazed as I reach in my pocket and pull out an official measure.
Today I ended up buying two bags of assorted glass beads. I justified the purchase because my grandson Tornado sometimes enjoys making necklaces for his grandma and poppa. I really just bought them because I like the look of them. It’s like looking into a rainbow that has fallen to the ground, broken into a million pieces and have been swept into a pile. I’ve had them just a short time, but I already have my favourites.

I understand those natives that traded Manhattan for a bag of beads, I would have done the same thing, and if I can find someone as stupid as Peter Minuit, I just might.

Know anyone interested in an island?

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