The Dutch East India Company commissioned Henry Hudson to identify a northwest passage to the Indies. As a part of that effort, Hudson entered New York Bay on September 11, 1609 in his vessel The Half Moon and sailed up the river that now bears his name. Over the next 15 years, the area was surveyed by company representatives while temporary trading outposts were established.
For the Dutch to establish permanent territorial claim in the area, they needed not only to discover and chart the area, but settle it as well. In part to achieve this, a party of Dutch settlers wintered on Governors Island in 1624, which they termed Nooten Eylamdt. The area's inhabitants at the time of the Dutch arrival were the Lenape Indians, one of the oldest of the Algonquian tribes. Nooten Eylandt is thought to be the Dutch translation of the Lenape name "Pagganack" or "Nut Island."
After approximately one year on Governors Island, many Dutch relocated to Manhattan while others used the island as a jumping off point to settle outposts north along the Hudson River. The Dutch built a sawmill on Governors Island to mill the valuable nut trees into lumber for some of Manhattan's first buildings. An archeological study has identified possible signs of this sawmill in the area where you stand. Unlike the well known water powered European windmills of the period, this was most likely a wind powered mill of unique Durch design.
In 1637, Wouter van Twiller, the governor of the New Amsterdam colony, is thought to have traded nominal trinkets with the Lenape for Governors Island. Van Twiller anticipated using the Island for his personal use. The trade was undertaken in the same manner as Peter Minuit when he traded trinkets for Manhattan Island in 1626. The concept of property sale of this sort was not known in Lenape culture and they were not likely to have considered the arrangement permanent. Upon van Twiller's removal from the governor position, the Island reverted to the public domain. Through the Treaty of Westminster in 1674 the Dutch ceded the Island to the British.