The Name of the River

Native American Names.  Shatemuc was one of the Indian names for the Hudson River.  In 1646 van der Donck was granted a patroonship from the Dutch West India Company consisting of land from Shatemuc (Hudson) river to the Aquchung (Bronx) river and from Spyten Duyvil to Amackassin creek, just north of Yonkers.  Shatemuc appears as the name for the Hudson River in Washington Irving's "Knickerbocker's History of New York" (1809).  “The Wappengi and Matteawan tribes called the Hudson by this name, and the Highlands below the Matteawan, or Fishkill Mountain, the Hills of the Shatemuc” [1] .  It was a common, local name of the Hudson River before the Civil War and occurred in the writings of Elizabeth Warton [2] .   Mahkannittuk or Muhheakunnuk [3] and Skanehtade are also native names for the River. Dutch settlers [4] recorded Cahohatatea as the local Indian name for the Hudson River in the Tappan Zee area.

Authorities report various meanings for Shatemuc.  “The Mohegans spoke of the river as the Shatemuc, a word said to be derived from ‘shaita’, a pelican, though it has not been proven that such was the Mohegan name for this bird” [5] .  “Dr. Ives Goddord of the Smithsonian Institution believes Shatemuc may be a Mahican word.  He compares it with ‘sitemak’, an eastern Abenaki word meaning ‘on this side of the large river’".  William M. Carpenter, the first Captain of the Shattemuc Canoe Club, writes in 1905 that it means "the river that rises in the mountains and flows to the sea". [6]   Other sources state it means "the river that flows both ways", although these sources do not reference that translation. 

European Names  Early maps of the New World call it Riviere Vendome, Rio de Guames, Rio San Antonio, the Great River, Manhattan, Mauritius, Nassau, Noorden Kill and Groote Kill.    Noordt Rivier, or North River,  first appears on the De Laet-Gerritsz map of 1630.  It distinguishes this river from the Zuyd Rivier, or south river, which was the contemporary name of the Delaware River.  After the English captured New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664, the new governor renamed many of the formerly Dutch areas under his domain.  New Amsterdam became New York after the English Duke of York, and the North River became Hudson’s River, after the English explorer who had discovered it on behalf of the Dutch   The Dutch recaptured New York in 1673 and renamed it New Orange after the prince of Orange, and changed Hudson’s to the Orange River.  The name would soon change back to the North River, and not become the Hudson River again until the early 1800’s.



[1] . Lossing, Benson J  (1860)  “The Hudson from the wilderness to the Sea”

[2] Warton, under the name Eliz. Whetherell,  wrote “…the Shatemuc rolled down from the north in uninterrupted view… white sails spotted the broad bosom of the Shatemuc and came down with summer gentleness from the upper reaches of the river”  The Hills of the Shatemuc”  (1859)  vol. 2 p60.

[3] The name appears on the Townsend MacCoun map of 1909 for the New York City area.  The Map is available in the NYC Public Library at 42nd Street, map room   

[4] Ibid.

[5]   Cooper, Susan Fennimore (1880) “The Hudson River and its Early Names”. The Magazine of American History. v IV n6  pp 410-418)

[6] Carpenter, William M (1905),  “Shattemuc C.C. of Ossining, NY”.  a clipping kept in William Barlow's scrapbook at the Ossining Historical Society