New York State Historical Association Announces the Winners of the Legacy of New Netherland Essay Contest

Press Release Contact: 

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y.— Students from schools in New York State delved deeper into the Dutch roots of New York by entering the Legacy of New Netherland: A New York State Quadricentennial Essay Contest. Keenan Kossman of East Moriches Elementary School (East Moriches, NY), Callie Kanim of Good Counsel Academy (White Plains, NY), and Eva Fu-Yun Fan of Townsend High School (New York City, NY) were announced as the winners at this year’s New York State History Day ceremony. As winners, each student received a $500 cash prize and a set of books on the Dutch colony of the New Netherland for his or her school library.

As the Netherlands and the United States celebrate 400 years of friendship with NY400 , the Royal Netherlands Embassy and the New York State Historical Association partnered to organize the Legacy of New Netherland essay contest.  Public, private, parochial and home school students from the 4th though 12th grades conducted research and wrote essays on religious tolerance, freedom of speech and New York as the center of world trade.

The students wrote in-depth essays on the Dutch influence in historical and present day New York.   Fourth grader Keenan Kossman's essay, One of the First True Americans, focused on Dutch colonist Adrian Van Der Donck, who played an important role in the 1645 peace treaty with the native peoples of Manhattan. Van Der Donck was active in the colonial government, and wrote two books about the colony.  Callie Kanirn, an eighth grader, wrote The Dutch Influence on New York, in which she provided detailed examples of the Dutch influence on American free speech, religious tolerance, and New York City as a center for world trade.  Eva Fu-Yun Fan, an eleventh grader, researched and wrote The Fight for Religious Freedom, which discussed how the Flushing Remonstrance established religious tolerance as a basic freedom for all people in the New Netherland colony. Click here to see the list of winners and read their essays .

“I commend these students for their interest and initiative in writing about Dutch-American history. It is heart-warming for me to see young people understand the importance of these legacies.  These bright, young students will have a role in shaping the future.  I hope this experience will spark a desire in them to become Dutch legacy ambassadors to their communities and to continue this friendship which spans four centuries,” said Ambassador Renée Jones-Bos.

Four hundred years ago, a Dutch ship named the Half Moon sailed into what is now present day New York City with Captain Henry Hudson at the helm.  Hudson’s voyage and the Dutch men and women who followed him led to the establishment of New Amsterdam and the New Netherland colony.  These Dutch-American settlers brought with them values of tolerance, freedom, openness and entrepreneurship. From 1609 to the present, the indelible footprint by the early Dutch settlers continues to shape the New York City of today.

Students in grades 4-12 were invited to explore New Netherland and learn how the Dutch have had a lasting impact on America’s culture and heritage, particularly in regard to the Dutch roots of three American cultural traditions: religious tolerance, freedom of speech, and New York as a center of world trade.  One hundred and eighty students submitted essays.

The competition was divided into three divisions:
•    Elementary – Grades 4-5
•    Junior – Grades 6-8
•    Senior – Grades 9-12

Elementary Division students were asked to choose a person from the colony of New Netherland and describe how and why his or her actions have helped make our country a better place today.

Junior Division students were asked to discuss why early settlements in New Netherland were a success, and how they contributed to our current way of life.

Senior Division students were asked to choose one of the three Dutch traditions – religious tolerance, freedom of speech, or New York as a center of world trade – and discuss how it has impacted our American society from colonial times to the present.  They were encouraged to pay particular attention to the tradition’s change over the last four centuries and how it has been adapted to fit the fabric of our nation today.

“The New York State Historical Association is pleased to be involved with the Royal Netherlands Embassy. The essay contest offers us a great opportunity to rediscover our Dutch colonial roots here in central New York,” said NYSHA's Vice President of Education, Garet Livermore.
  National History Day is a nationally acclaimed, yearlong history education program that annually challenges over half a million students and thousands of teachers to ask questions that uncover life-changing answers. On April 11, 1974, National History Day was launched when 129 students from the Cleveland, Ohio area attended a history competition on the campus of Case Western Reserve University.

The revolutionary program was designed to reform and invigorate the teaching and learning of history at the elementary and secondary levels. With initial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, National History Day soon became a staple of history education in classrooms throughout the United States. Today, National History Day serves as the model for history and civics education reform. For more information on National History Day, please visit www.nationalhistoryday

The New York State Historical Association is committed to engaging and connecting a broad public audience to New York State’s unique cultural heritage through exhibitions, extensive library collections, statewide educational programs, and publications that provoke, delight, and inspire. Founded in 1899, NYSHA is a private, non-profit, membership-based, educational and cultural institution dedicated to preserving, collecting, and interpreting art and historical artifacts significant to New York State’s rich history and American culture. The Association’s remarkable collections, showcased in the Fenimore Art Museum, comprise some of the best examples of American landscape, history, and genre paintings including seminal works by Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Cole, William Sidney Mount and Benjamin West; the renown Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art, a masterpiece collection of more than 800 art objects, representing a broad scope of North American cultures; and one of the nation’s most comprehensive and significant folk art collections. NYSHA’s Research Library holdings include over 90,000 volumes on American, New York State, and local history.

New York 400 is a yearlong celebration of the enduring friendship between the Netherlands and New York.  Events are planned in New York and the Netherlands to highlight the bonds between the United States and the Netherlands. For more information on NY400, log onto


For more information or images, please contact:
Todd Kenyon, Public Relations
New York State Historical Association
Fenimore Art Museum/The Farmers’ Museum
Phone: (607) 547-1472 / E-mail:


Carla Bundy, Royal Netherlands Embassy, 202-274-2632 E-mail:

Press Release Category: 
Recent Announcements
Publication Date: 
May 2009