20. Rockaways and Jamaica

Neponsit Hospital

In the Rockaways, the East River Culture created pottery around 1100 A.D., and they are likely the ancestors of the Algonquian-speaking tribes. In the early 1600s, the Recouwacky tribe created villages in the area and built a dome-shaped wigwam. In 1645, the tribe signed a peace treaty with Dutch governor Willem Kieft. Tackapausha was elected sachem of tribes under the Dutch jurisdiction:  the Massapequas, the Merikokes, Canarsees, Secatogues, Rockaways and Mattinicocks. The name Rockaway may derive from “Reckonwacky,” meaning “the place of our own people,” or “Reckanawahaha,” meaning “the place of laughing waters.”

The Old Rockaway Trail corresponds roughly to Jamaica Avenue, passing through the neighborhoods of Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Jamaica, Hollis, and Bellerose. Jamaica probably comes from a word for “place of the beaver,” in reference to the many beavers in waterways north of Jamaica Bay. Native Americans who lived in the Jamaica area may have interacted with the Matinecock of the Kissena Park region, with “Kissena” meaning “cold place.” The nearby Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground also contains the remains of many figures of Native descent.