Published on September 6, 2010 by John
The western part of New York had been settled by the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy for at least 500 years before the first Europeans came. The Iroquois used controlled burns to maintain the area between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes as a grassland prairie, which abounded in wild game, including grazing American Bison herds. In colonial times, the Iroquois prospered growing corn, vegetables and orchards, using crop rotation to keep their fields fertile. They also kept cows and hogs; they took advantage of abundant fish in the lakes and rivers.
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The far-southern area around what is now New York City was long inhabited by the Lenape; Lenape in canoes met Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first European explorer to enter New York Harbor, in 1524. Giovanni de Verrazzano named this place Nouvelle AngoulÃªme (New AngoulÃªme), in honor of the French king FranÃ§ois I. A French explorer and mapper, Samuel de Champlain, described his explorations through New York in 1608.