What does the name Nyack mean?

In April,2001, The Nyack Villager printed this letter:

What does the name Nyack mean? Which Native Americans first settled the area? I've searched for hours on the Internet and can't seem to find anything relating to these questions. Can you help?
  -Gayle, Maryland

Well Gayle, we received several letters saying our answer could be found on the bronze plaque placed in 1938 by the Rockland County Society on the north wall of HSBC bank building (formerly Marine Midland and, before that, Nyack National Bank). Its inscription reads,

"The Tappan Indians from time immemorial occupied these lands fronting on the river shore. Here, in summer, they lived upon fishes and oysters which the waters produced in abundance. In the Algonkian dialect spoken by them, they called this locality Nay-ack which being translated means the fishing place."

But in 1929 the same Nyack National Bank published Old Nyack, a commemorative book with an obvious ethnic bias, which says,

"The name of Nyack is of Indian origin and first appeared in colonial records as the designation of the sub tribe whose homelands were in that part of Brooklyn now known as Fort Hamilton.

The Nyacks sold their lands to the Dutch and removed to Staten Island ... in 1670 Staten Island also passed out of Indian possession through the purchase of all the native rights and the Nyacks together with all other Staten Island savages, were compelled to seek fresh camping grounds west of the Hudson River. Perhaps the Nyack braves with their fami-lies found a temporary abiding place on the flat land under the Hook Mountain ... in that way, transferred their tribal appellation from Long Island to Nyack on the Hudson.  This explanation of the origin of the name of Nyack seems highly probable to the writer but, at it is not a matter of record, it must ever remain mere supposition."

A little additional research turned up a book entitled, Now & Then in Rockland County, published in 1941. It had this footnote:

"It has been claimed by some older inhabitants of the county that the Indian name Nyack means kicking with the left foot and others said it meant trail's end ... George Budke gives the meaning as the fishing place.

We feel most confident in the answer we received in a letter Nyack Village Historian Jean Pardo sent us in April.


To the Nyack Villager:

In response to the inquiry in your April 2001 issue about the meaning of Nyack and the identity of the local Native Americans, I would first say that there is no definitive answer, as you had assumed. Among the more or less educated guesses proposed over the last 150 years, I suggest that these are the most likely: the Lenni- Lennapes, a wondering tribe, frequented the Nyack area in summers to feast on oysters and fish from the Hudson river. Their name for the area near Hook Mountain where they fished was Nyack, which indicated "at the corner, or bend".

Certainly the Hudson seems to turn a corner at the Hook. --Jean Pardo

Which goes to show, Gayle, that just because it's cast in bronze or printed in an old book, it's not necessarily true.


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