Thirty Coats

Thirty coats

On Lewis’ family tree, there is a small notation under her ancestor William Clark which states “One of 28 people who bought land from Indians for 30 coats. d. 7/22/1681.” Following this clue, Díaz Lewis discovered that Clark was among the first English settlers sent by the Connecticut Colonial Legislature to purchase land from the Wangunk Tribe at the place the English called “Land of Thirty Mile Island” in 1662. In exchange for roughly 104 square miles of land, two Wangunk Sachems (Queens) and two Wangunk Chiefs received 30 coats. The land traded with the deed dated May 20, 1662 is known today as Haddam, Connecticut.

The artist duo embarked upon a project to re-create 17th Century doublets believed to best represent the coats traded by the English settlers for the land. The lint used to create these sculptures was collected from various laundries near Haddam, CT and surrounding east coast communities. Within each coat, skin cells, hair, dust and textile fibers from diverse sources blend together in a singular object. The colors that the lint fibers retained come from the clothes that were washed and dried in the laundry rooms by the people who today live in these areas of land which in the past belonged to the native tribes of the Wangunk.


The last piece of Wangunk reservation land was sold somewhere between 1772 and 1784. It appears that Wangunk community remained active throughout this period, with one report putting the number of Wangunks in Portland at 28 in 1777. Some Wangunks are identified as residing in Portland into the 19th century. One of these people is Bette Nepash, or Old Betty, a Wangunk who held yearly tribal gatherings until the 1810s. After Nepash's death, Jonathan Palmer was named the last Indian in Middletown when he died in 1813.