The US Custom House stands on the same ground as Fort Amsterdam, which was occupied by the Dutch in 1626 to secure their control for trade in the increasingly valuable harbor. At that time, the Dutch depended upon the native people - not only for pelts sold throughout Europe, but for their very survival. Native knowledge of the area and the trade routes was indispensable. However, Fort Amsterdam soon became the site of frequent conflict between the Dutch and native people. It was also the site of battles between the Dutch and other Europeans. In 1664, the Dutch lost the island to the English, who renamed it New York.
Since nearby Wall Street was named for a wall built in 1653 by the Dutch settlers to keep out the "northern Indians" (probably Manicans and Munsees), it is ironic that the US Custom House should again become a gathering place and a center for peaceful cultural exchange between the native people of the Americas and the world. Here, near the crowded, shouting financial market of Wall Street, the many living and colorful marketplaces of the native world converge again, this time at the National Museum of the American Indian.