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Dutch claim on 5 eastern states renewed after 3 centuries!

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A new initiative is underway in the U.S. to commemorate the reach and influence of a small but enterprising country - the Netherlands. Over 380 years ago, most of the now densely populated northeast corridor of the United States was the territory of the Netherlands. Other countries made claims to the land before the colonists fought for and won their independence, but there remain few reminders of the first Europeans to live on this soil.

For centuries, there has been a paucity of information about the 17th century colony of 'New Netherland', which from 1609 to 1664 stretched from the Connecticut River in the north to the Delaware River in the south. However, two Dutchmen based in the modern-day capital of the U.S. hope to help change this lack of awareness. Coen Blaauw, a lobbyist who in the past contributed to the founding of the annual Dutch-American Heritage Day celebrated November 16th, and Steven Moazed of the Netherlands Embassy, have taken up the initiative of establishing commemorative markers along the entire border of 'New Netherland', which included part or all of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. The first marker will ceremoniously be unveiled on November 16, in Lewes, Delaware, the site of 'Swanendael', the first Dutch settlement in the U.S. The organizers expect that dignitaries from the Netherlands and the U.S. will do the honors.

Says Senator William Roth of Delaware, 'The commemorative marker to be placed in Lewes will be a fine reminder of Delaware's Dutch heritage. We in Delaware have special pride in our state's distinctive place in history, especially relating to our Dutch ancestry. Commemorating the first settlement there at 'Swanendael' will be a fitting tribute.'

According to Blaauw, marking the boundaries of the original 'New Netherland' area, the first European settlement in the U.S., will be initiated in order to revive awareness of the historical boundaries. The plan will unfold in two stages: first, 200 commemorative markers will be placed wherever a road crosses into the 'New Netherlands' area. Each marker will be numbered and will give the name of the site and the date of installation and will read 'You are now entering the territory that was known as ''New Netherland'' between 1609 and 1664. Its boundaries stretched from the Connecticut River in the north to the Delaware River in the south.

In the second stage, when public awareness about the existence of 'New Netherland' has grown, efforts will be made to add 'New Netherland' to all road signs where such a designation would be appropriate. 'We will urge State Transportation Departments to add ''New Netherland'' to the green road signs that hang over the freeways, the same way ''New England'' appears along I-95 in New York,' Blaauw explains.

The initiative has met with great enthusiasm from many Americans of Dutch extraction or descent. Charles Gehring, the Director of the New Netherland Project in Albany, New York, says, 'The idea of creating boundary markers for New Netherland is long overdue. I agree that before one can begin to appreciate the history of the Dutch colony and its impact on the development of America one needs to have a physical conception of its extent from the Delaware Bay to the Connecticut river.'

To encourage participation in the project, interested private parties can contribute toward the cost of placing the markers in New Netherland. Donors will have the opportunity to have their name or business imprinted on the marker. Contributions are tax-deductible; prices and further information can be obtained by writing to the Dutch American Heritage Council, 540 7th Street SouthEast, Washington, D.C. 20003. Any profits will go to the 'Friends of New Netherland Project' fund, Albany, New York.