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The Greatest Gift: The Return of Papscanee Island (2022)

'The greatest gift is to have our land back.' — Bonney Hartley, Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Community

ALBANY, NY (June 7, 2022)—For thousands of years, the Mohican people inhabited a swath of land along what is now known as the Hudson River. Today, almost four centuries after their ancestors’ painful removal from the region, this hallowed place has been returned to the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Community following a land donation by OSI.

It was a deeply satisfying conclusion for OSI, which acquired the Papscanee property outside Albany a quarter-century ago and, with local partners, tended the land as a nature preserve. “Twenty-five years ago, when Papscanee was threatened by imminent development as an oil refinery, OSI stepped in to protect this important cultural resource,” said Kim Elliman, OSI president and CEO.

“Today, our return of Papscanee Island Preserve is an acknowledgment of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community’s historical and sacred connection to this property,” he continued. “But it is also a recognition of the terrible and bitter history of land dispossession that removed the Stockbridge-Munsee Community’s ancestors from their homeland.”

For centuries, the land was stewarded by a people who called themselves the Muhheconneok, meaning “People of the Waters That Are Never Still.” In time, the island came to be known as “Papsickene Island” after a revered sachem, or chief, who presided over the tribe when the Dutch first encountered them. In 1637, the Dutch presented a deed to the heirs of Sachem Papsickene for control of the land, forcing their removal from the land they had inhabited for generations.

“Because of our traditional views of shared landownership, our ancestors thought they were participating in a gift exchange and being hospitable to neighbors asking for use of Papscanee Island,” said Bonney Hartley, historic preservation manager of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Community. “They thought they could always return to the land.

'The Long Journey Home'

Learn more about the history of Papscanee Island and the Mohican Nation’s forced removal from the region in OSI’s Long Journey Home Story Map.

Visit the Story Map

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