Cockenoe (de Long Island)


Cockeno, Cockenow, or Chachaneu. In the deed to the proprietors of Norwalk, 1652, he is called “Cockenow de Long Island”1, and this seems to identify him with “Chekanoe, an Indian of Meshansick [Shelter] Island.

Other records spell his name Cheekanoo, Chekkannow.2

Cockenoe acted as the interpreter and laid out the bounds of many of the early purchases on Long Island from the Indians.3

img_5743beaf86f8a Cockenoe (de Long Island) Jeremy Dennis On This Site
Cockenoe Island, named after 17th century Native American Cockenoe-de-Long Island



Cockenoe, an eastern Long Island Indian, is taken as a slave from Dorchester, Massachusetts after the Pequot War. He had been captured while visiting Connecticut during the Pequot War and had been allotted to Sergeant Richard Callacot of Dorchester, MA. There, Cockenoe had learned to understand English and there, John Eliot discovered him and taught him to write.4

“He was the first I made use of to teach me words and to be my interpreter.” Elliot wrote, “By his help, I translated the Commandments, the Lords Prayer, and many texts of Scripture; also I compiled both exhortations and prayers by his help.” Eliot speaks of him as “pregnant-witted” and “ingenious.”5

He becomes Rev. John Elliot’s interpreter.  Rev. Eliot’s Indian grammar is published in 1666.  Later, Elliot publishes the famous Indian Bible.


Cockenoe returns to Long Island from Massachusetts.6


Cockenoe accompanied Eliot when he preached to the Indians and helped interpret the questions and answers. By 1648, he had either completed his service (if indentured) or run away to his tribe, bearing the proud name, “he interprets,” as a name and function, he kept through life. His talent was widely used in Connecticut and on the Island; he often acted as Wyandanch‘s agent in marking out boundaries and became his brother-in-law and an important member of the tribe.7


For three to four years, rumors were spread that the Dutch were attempting to incite the Indians against the English prior to the English taking New Amsterdam (now Manhattan) in 1655.8

For what ever reason, the Montaukett and Shinnecock were more distrusted to the English, and they were forbidden without special leave to come into the settlements.9 It was forbidden to furnish them with powder, shot, or rum; as little records show this exchange.


In the confirmation deed for Smithtown, dated April 6, 1660, by Wyancombone, the land is stated to have been laid out by some of the chief men of the tribe; these men are named in Pauquatoun’s testimony.

In the copy recorded in the office of the Secretary of State at Albany, N. Y., Cokenoe is named as a witness in the corrupt form of Achemano.

He united on August 16, 1660, with the rest of his tribe at Montauk, in the first Indian deed to the inhabitants of East Hampton for “all the afore Necke of land called Meantaquit, with all and every part thereof from sea to sea.10


Cockenoe marries “Sunksquaw” of the Shinnecock; the female Sachem, the sister of Nowedonah. In a different source, she is sister of Wyandanch. Quashawam was the female sachem of the Montauk after the death of Wyandanch, it is unclear if this “Sunksquaw” it is the same person.11

Name Translation

This name, Cheekanoo, Cockenoe, Chickino, Chekkonnow, or Cockoo no matter how varied in the records of Long Island and elsewhere, for every Town Clerk or Recorder, with but a limited or no knowledge of the Indian tongue and its true sounds, wrote down the name as it suited him, and seldom twice alike even on the same page, finds its parallel in the Massachusetts of both Eliot and Cotton, in the verb kuhkinneau, or kehkinnoo, “he marks, observes, takes knowledge, instructs, or imitates”; hence, “he interprets,” and therefore indicating, by a free translation, “an interpreter or teacher”; this word in its primitive form occurs in all dialects of the same linguistic family (that is, the Algonkian) in an infinite number of compounds, denoting “a scholar; teacher; a thing signified; I say what he says i.e., repeat after him, etc.” 12

Further Reading

See Cockenoe de Long Island (N. Y., 1896) for a full history.

  1. Hall’s Normalk, p. 35[]
  2. David Martine, Shinnecock History Timeline, pp. 4[]
  3. H.R., vol. i., p.17[]
  4. Gaynell Stone, The History & Archaeology of the Montauk. pp 21[]
  5. Gaynell Stone, The History & Archaeology of the Montauk, 1993, pp. 21[]
  6. David Martine, Shinnecock History Timeline, pp. 2[]
  7. Gaynell Stone, The History & Archaeology of the Montauk, 1993, pp. 21-22[]
  8. East Hampton Records, vol. i. p. 31: “It is ordered now Indian shall Come to the Towne unless it be upon special occasion and none to come armed because that the Dutch hat hired Indians agst the English and we not knowing Indians by face and because the Indians hath cast of their scheme, and if any of the Indians or other by night will come in to the town in despit of eyther watch or wrd upon the third stand to shoote him or if thay rune away to shoote him” (April 26, 1653)[]
  9. Southampton Records, vol. i. p. 90 (April 25, 1653): “At a generall court Liberty is given to any Inhabitatn to sell unto ye Sachem any manner of vituals for the supply of his family for a month’s time from the date hereof, Mr. Odell haveing promised to use his best endeavors to see that the said Sachem buy not for other Indians but for his particular use as aforesaid.” It is probable from the following note that this Sachem was Cockenoe.[]
  10. Gaynell Stone & Nancy Bonvillain, Languages and Lore of the Long Island Indians, pp 185[]
  11. David Martine, Shinnecock Timeline pp. 5[]
  12. Tooker, W. W. (1962). The Indian place-names on Long Island and islands adjacent with their probable significations. Port Washington, NY: I.J. Friedman. pp 44[]