Dutch efforts to establish the colony of New Netherland brought significant population change to the area we today call Brooklyn. When the Dutch arrived in the early 1600s, the area was inhabited by the Canarsie, one of thirteen Algonquin tribes. The Canarsie had resided here for thousands of years and called the area where Jan Martense Schenck settled Keskateuw.
Between the 1630s and the1680s, conflict and disease decimated the local Canarsie population, and after trading their land to the Dutch, only a few remained. By the time Jan Martense Schenck built his house, the area that is now Brooklyn was populated mostly by Europeans, the majority of whom were Dutch, with significant numbers of English and smaller numbers of people of other European backgrounds, including Italians. The Dutch had also begun importing enslaved Africans to New Netherland in the 1620s, and by 1698 approximately fifteen percent of the population of what is now Brooklyn was of African descent, nearly all of them enslaved.