Native Americans occupied this area for thousands of years before it was settled by the English. The Dutch, under the leadership of Adrian Block (Block Island) sailed up the Quinnipiac River in the early 1600’s to explore and seek out trade opportunities. They did not settle the area. When the English arrived the Quinnipiac were the group of indigenous Native Americans who occupied the area we now know as North Haven. These Native Americans were named Quinnipiac by the Europeans because they observed that the native dwellers traveled the Quinnipiac River like we would travel a highway. The name Quinnipiac means ‘long tidal river’ or ‘long water land’.
North Haven acted as the winter encampment site for the Quinnipiac. During the colder months, they would live here and further north. In the warmer months they set up camp nearer the shore of Long Island Sound. Here they harvested oysters and clams, and grew crops. The most common plants grown were known as the ‘three sisters’: Corn, beans, and squash. The English settlers who first moved into the area that became North Haven were farmers. As they turned their fields for their own crops, they found much evidence of the Quinnipiac encampments. Among the many artifacts were stone tools, projectile points (arrowheads), and shards of cooking pots.
By the mid-nineteenth century there had been no more Quinnipiac present in North Haven for a century (another long story) but artifacts from them were still being found. People started reminiscing about the Native Americans who used to live here, stories developed, and their presence was romanticized in local stories, street names, and places. That is why we have Montowese and Quinnipiac Avenues, Montowese School, and other references to the Native Americans in our surroundings.