The weary travel over the seas proved to be a tiring feat for Pieter Santomee. He was originally acquired by the Spanish, then stolen from them only to fall into the hands of the Dutch. Wherever he ended, he knew that he would never return to his place of origin. Of this thought, he felt neither fortunate nor unfortunate. He was not considered to be in a great position before falling into the hands of the Spanish and could at least take solace in the fact that he had been and would be in the company of the same group of men and women that were stolen along with him. They had all became great acquaintances. No, it had to be more than just than a simple acquaintance, that’s just too formal of a word. Maybe he should consider them something like friends. No, like family. That was it. He knew that no matter where he landed, he would be amongst his family so he took solace in that.
The crew aboard the West Indian Company ship mentioned something about them going to their new land. The crew’s eyes gleamed as they imagined the abundance of opportunity and land that awaited them on the other end of their journey. The navy aboard was still excited about their new capture. Not having to pay for their captives proved to be a very profitable endeavor. Pieter didn’t understand it all, but their gleam gave him and his new family a gleam, as they fantasized about opportunities of their own.
Once landing on what was called New Netherland, Peiter and his family were sent to sign contracts for their new employer, The West Indian Company. They understood that they would work for a little over a decade without pay in exchange for living expenses and a small parcel of land. After their successful service had been complete, they would be granted more land and would offer no more free labor to the company. After all, forcing people to work without being able to take care of their family was almost unheard of.
“I can do that.” Pieter thought.
He worked daily alongside men from other countries such as Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden. He even met servants from Germany, France and England. Each man had a different story about his life back home, but all shared the same interest with their new lives in New Netherland. No indentured servant came from a life of abundance. If that was the case, he would never agree to leave home. At home, each knew their destiny. What would be better than gambling your life for the chance of opportunity. Although the officers of the West Indian Company may have embellished the New Netherland opportunity, it was still a much better future than the one they had in their land of origin.
It was now the year of 1638 and Pieter and his family started to notice a few differences between themselves and the other indentured servants. Their tenure had not yet expired as it had with the Scottish and the Swedish. Actually, with all of the other indentured servants. The coworkers they started working with had finished their servitude and moved on. Pieter and his family members had brought this up several times with the West Indian Company but to no avail. This was beginning to add tension to the lives of Pieter and his family. Pleading with their employer to release them from servitude was a regular occurrence.
One day, Pieter’s friend, Anthony was on his way home from a long day of work. Before even nearing the door he heard noise and commotion. His exhausted creep led into a hurried jog. The sound of squeals and growls grew so loud that it began to alert the neighbors. Anthony followed the sound into the landscape at the back of his house. He was horrified at the scene. His wife was frantically yelling, but was afraid to interfere. The closest handle he could reach was of the backhoe. He snatched it and struck the dog, all with one motion. The dog did not relent.
“Get off my hog you old mutt!” He yelled, still swiping the backhoe across the dogs back. Finally the dog let up. The dog faced Anthony with a mean grimace and a loud bark. His growl was deeper than a bass clef, while his snout rose only enough to reveal razor sharp teeth. Anthony did not back down. Working as an indentured servant was a slow ride to wealth and this dog just took a slice out of his investment. The dog’s injury got the best of him. He cowered out and whimpered away, seemingly from whence he came.
Pieter was told of Anthony’s incident the next day while working on the town’s new bridge.
“How do you know it was Mr. Jansen’s dog?” Peter asked.
“Because I have warned him about his dog eyeing my hog before.” Anthony looked down and shook his head. “There is nothing I can do with that hog now.”
Pieter had an idea. He was well versed in Dutch law because he leisurely studied it. “Let’s take him to court,” he told Anthony. And court is where they went.
After helping Anthony win his court case and later helping his other friend, Manuel win his case against his employer, Pieter felt confident that he and the other overdue indentured servants had a case against the West Indian Company. They gathered their forces right into court. They eventually won their case in 1644 and became regular wage employees, rather than indentured field hands. The work of course didn’t change, but they gained the land and income necessary to secure their future and the future for their generations to come.
Pieter and his family didn’t know about the Americas that were to come. They didn’t know that the taste of racism they were given was only a fly to the giant that was to come. That in 1712, his land, later called New York would pass a law prohibiting the transfer of land to his descendants, simply because of their skin tone. That men would no longer be identified by their country or city of origin, but by the color of their skin. There were no longer Scottish, British and Irish, but only white. There was no more African, Carribean, Fon, or Asante, but only slave.
The age of the new world, the land of opportunity, shifted quickly in the face of greed and destroying a long line of descendants would ensue, simply because it was easier and more lucrative for the newly coined, white man.
Solar Calendar Stories are short stories about real historical characters in real historical events. Learn more, have fun!