By Tom Momberg
Northern Boulevard now also bears the name of Long Island’s Matinecock Native American Tribe following a street co-naming ceremony in Little Neck Monday.
The Matinecock people were hunters and fishermen who settled the island in the late 1600s, around the same time Europeans began arriving in the area.
The street co-naming was the culmination of an effort by the Bayside Historical Society and the descendants of the tribe, who worked to get recognition for the tribe along with Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), Community Board 11, the Douglaston-Little Neck Community Library and several other community partners.
“Today we honor their legacy as a noble and harmonious people who remain our neighbors,” Vallone said.
The Matinecock are a branch of the Algonquin Indian Nation, and once inhabited villages where Flushing, College Point, Bayside and Douglaston now stand.
“We in this community, we are very proud of our neighborhoods. But it’s important to remember that we are definitely not the first people here,” Braunstein added.
The street corner at Northern Boulevard and Marathon Parkway may also now be referred to as Matinecock Way, marking the site where the people made their last stand. Known as “The Battle of Madnan’s Neck,” it was when the Matinecock were finally evicted from their land.
BHS Member Jason Antos, who originally co-wrote the street co-naming proposal that was ultimately approved by CB11 and the city, said that renaming the historic site would give it a new meaning.
“And now, more than three centuries later, this place will no longer serve only as a painful reminder of their downfall but as an everlasting tribute to their legacy,” Antos said.
The location also marks the site of a Matinecock burial ground, which was dug up when Northern Boulevard was widened by the city in the 1930s. The remains of Matinecock ancestors were removed and placed into a mass grave at the cemetery of the Zion Episcopal Church on the Douglaston Parkway.
Matinecock Tribe Chief Osceola Townsend and Unkechaug Tribe Chief Harry Wallace said the little piece of recognition they are receiving in the street co-naming is just enough to remind future generations that the tribe’s history and influence is still prevalent.
“When we talk about history here — to us, it is a living history. Those people (who) were removed were our grandmothers and grandfathers, and our great grandmothers and great grandfathers,” Wallace said. “So I want you to know, when you tell your children about this history, you can tell them this history is alive and well, and living in the people of the Matinecock. To us, we are not isolated people. We are all bound together by our family, and our family is extended all over this island.”
The Douglaston-Little Neck Community Library regularly hosts lecture series on native Long Island tribes, including the Matinecock.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb