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St.Martin Amerindians People

Before Columbus arrived here during his second voyage in 1493, the island had already been inhabited for some one thousand years. The first people to settle here were a tribe of Arawak Indians who left their homeland in the Orinoco basin of South America and kept migrating upwards along the chain of islands in the Caribbean.

They gave it the name "Sualouiga" meaning "Land of Salt" for the salt-pans and the brackish water they found here in great abundance. The few fresh water springs around Paradise Peak, Mount William, Billy Folly, and in the Lowlands could only support a small population, and this is where they mainly tended to congregate.

A number of artifacts from this period are to be found preserved in the St.Martin Museum: On the Trail of the Arawaks. The Arawaks were later supplanted by a more aggressive tribe of Indians, the Caribs, who came down from North America and for whom the entire Caribbean is named.

Columbus never actually set foot on the island, but rather claimed it for Spain as he was passing by. He sighted the island on November 11, 1493, the feast of St.Martin, thus giving the island its name. Aside from asserting title to the place, the Spanish never took much interest in St.Martin, so the Dutch, seeking an outpost halfway between their colonies in Brazil and Nieue Amsterdam (now New York), occupied the island in 1631.

The Dutch West India Company installed Jan Claeszen van Campen as governor, erected their first fort on the site of Fort Amsterdam, and began to mine salt. Before long, however, the Spanish, who wished to maintain their state monopoly in this essential preservative, became aware of the incursion and in 1633 they recaptured the island, expelling all of the Dutch, who then moved on to occupy Curacao.

Over the next fifteen years, a number of abortive attempts were made by the Dutch to reclaim their lost possession, notably an assault led by Peter Stuyvesant in 1644 in which the future governor of Nieue Amsterdam lost his leg.

The Spanish Commander, who was regularly besieged during this period, asked permission after his last victory to abandon the island, and in 1647 this right was finally conceded to him by the King of Spain.

Laborers were brought in from Puerto Rico to dismantle the fortress, and the Spanish set sail, leaving behind, according to legend, a small contingent of French and Dutch who hid on the island and then sent out to neighboring colonies for reinforcements.

Source of this information can be found here