Description of the New Netherlands/Part 3
Of their bodily form and appearance, and why we named them (Wilden) Wild Men
Having briefly remarked on the situation and advantages of the country, we deem it worth our attention to treat concerning the nature of the original native inhabitants of the land; that after the Christians have multiplied and the natives have disappeared and melted away, a memorial of them may be preserved.
Their appearance and bodily form, as well of the men as of the women, are well proportioned, and equal in height to the Netherlanders, varying little from the common size. Their limbs are properly formed, and they are sprightly and active. -They can run very fast for a long time, and they can carry heavy packs. To all bodily exertions they are very competent, as far as their dispositions extend; but to heavy slavish labour the men have a particular aversion, and they manage their affairs accordingly, so that they need not labour much. Misshapen or ill-formed persons are very rare amongst them. During the whole time of my residence in the country, I have not seen more than one who was born deformed. Cripples, hunch-backed, or other bodily infirmities, are so rare, that we may say that there are none amongst them; and when we see or hear of one who is crippled or lame, we on inquiry find the same to have originated by accident or in war. They are all properly formed and well proportioned persons. None are gross or uncommonly heavy. Although nature has not given them abundant wisdom, still they exercise their talents with discretion. No lunatics or fools are found amongst them, nor any mad or raving persons of either sex. The men and women commonly have broad shoulders and slender waists. Their hair, before old age, is jet black, sleek and uncurled, and nearly as coarse as a horse's tail. Hair of any other colour they dislike and despise. On the skin, the breast, under the arms, and on other parts of the body, they have little or no hair, and if any appear on their chins they pluck it out by the roots, and it seldom sprouts again. Their old men sometimes have a little stubble on their chins. The men and women all have fine brown eyes, and snow white teeth. Purblind, or cross-eyed persons are rare objects, and I have never heard of a native who was born blind, and they seldom lose their sight by accident. One I have seen who had lost his eye-sight by the small pox; and when they become old, their sight does not fail so early in life as ours. The colour of their skin is not so white as ours; still we see some of them who have a fine skin, and they are mostly born with good complexions; otherwise they have a yellowish colour like the Tartars, or heathen who are seen in Holland, or like the Outlanders who keep in the fields and go uncovered as they do- Their yellowness is no fault of nature,, but it is caused by the heat of the scorching sun, which is hotter and more powerful in that country than in Holland, which from generation to generation has been shining on that people, and exhibits its effects stronger. Although this yellowness of the skin appears more or less on all this race, still we find very comely men and women amongst them. It is true that they appear singular and strange to our nation, because their complexion, speech and dress are so different, but this, on acquaintance, is disregarded. Their women are well favoured and fascinating. Several of our Netherlanders were connected with them before our women came over, and remain firm in their attachments. Their faces and countenances are as various as they are in Holland, seldom very handsome, and rarely very ugly, and if they were instructed as our women are, there then would be little or no difference in their qualifications.
The original natives of the country, (for now there are native born Christians also,) although they are composed of different tribes, and speak different tongues, all pass by the appellation of (Wilden) wild men; and this name was given them, as far as we can learn, at the first discovery of the country, which for various reasons seems very appropriate. First, on account of their religion, of which they have very little, and that is very strange; and secondly, on account of their marriages, wherein they differ from civilized societies; thirdly, on account of their laws, which are so singular as to deserve the name of wild regulations. And the Christians hold different names necessary to distinguish different nations, such as Turks, Mamelukes, and Barbarians; and as the name of Heathen is very little used in foreign lands, therefore they would not distinguish the native Americans by either of these names; and as they trade in foreign countries with dark and fair coloured people, and with those who resemble ourselves, in distinction from negroes, and as the American tribes are bordering on an olive colour, the name of wild men suits them best. Thus without deliberation, and as it were by chance at the first word, (as we suppose,), they were called Wild Men. And as unlearned persons never reflect much but speak their first thoughts, in this manner it has probably happened that this people received their national name, because they seemed to be wild and strangers to the Christian religion.
Of the Food and Subsistence of the Indians
In eating and drinking the Indians are not excessive, even in their feast-days. They are cheerful and well satisfied when they have a sufficiency to support nature, and to satisfy hunger and thirst. It is not with them as it is here in Holland, where the greatest, noblest, and richest live more luxuriously than a Calis, or a common man; but with them meat and drink are sufficient and the same for all. Their common drink is water from a living spring or well, when it can be had, wherein they seldom fail, as in days of old. Sometimes in the season of grapes, and when they have fresh meat or fish, and are well pleased, they will press out the juice of the grapes and drink it new. They never make wine or beer. Brandy or strong drink is unknown to them, except to those who frequent our settlements, and have learned that beer and wine taste better than water.
In the Indian languages, which are rich and expressive, they have no word to express drunkenness. Drunken men they call fools. When they associate much with our people, and can obtain liquor, they will drink to excess, when they become insolent and troublesome, and are malicious. To prevent this, the government has forbidden the sale of spirituous liquors to the Indians. Most of them however will not taste liquor. Before they are accustomed to spirituous liquor, they are easily made drunk, for which a small glass or two is sufficient; but in time they become accustomed to it, and bear it as well as our own people do. The rheumatic gout, red and pimpled noses, are snares unknown to them; nor have they any diseases or infirmities which are caused by drunkenness.
Their common food is meat, and fish of every kind, according to the seasons, and the advantages of the places where they reside. They have no pride, or particular methods in preparing their food. Their fish or meat they usually boil in water, without salt, or smout, and nothing more than the articles yield. They know of no stewing, fricasseeing, baking, frying, or the like methods of cooking, and seldom do they warm up or boil any food, unless it be small pieces of meat or fish, when they travel or are hunting, and have no other opportunity to prepare their food.
For bread they use maize, or Turkey corn, which the women pound fine into meal, (as the Hebrews did their manna in the wilderness,) of which they bake cakes, for they know nothing of mills. They also use pounded maize, as we do rice, and samp, with their boiled meat. Their common food, and for which their meal is generally used, is pap, or mush, which in the New-Netherlands is named sapaen. This is so common among the Indians, that they seldom pass a day without it, unless they are on a journey or hunting. We seldom visit an Indian lodge at any time of the day, without seeing their sapaen preparing, or seeing them eating the same. It is the common food of all; young and old eat it; and they are so well accustomed to it, and fond of it, that when they visit our people, or each other, they consider themselves neglected unless they are treated with sapaen. Without sapaen they do not eat a satisfactory meal. And when they have an opportunity, they frequently boil fish or meat with it; but seldom when the meat or fish is fresh, but when they have the articles dried hard, and pounded fine. This food they usually prepare at the close of the winter and in the spring, when the hunting season is- past, and their stock of provisions is nearly exhausted. They also use many dry beans, which they consider dainties. Those they boil sow with fresh meat. They use for their subsistence every kind of fish and flesh that is fit for food, which the country and the places of their settlements afford, and that they can obtain. They observe no stated times for their meals, as our people do, but they suppose it best to eat when they are hungry. They can control their appetites, bodies and stomachs in a wonderful manner; for with very little or no food, they can pass two, three, or four days, and when afterwards they again have it plenty, they will make up for the arrears lost without overcharging their stomachs, or becoming sick; and although they eat freely, they have no excessive eaters or gluttons among them.
Ceremonies of high or low seats, or of beginning to eat their meals first or last, or to be waited upon, I have never seen among them. Seldom will they invite each other to eat with them, except at great feasts, but every person who is with them at meal time, without exception, can partake of their fare without pay or compensation. It is not customary with them to receive compensation for their hospitality. On extraordinary occasions, when they wish to entertain any person, then they prepare beavers' tails, bass heads, with parched corn meal, or very fat meat stewed with shelled chestnuts bruised.
When they intend to go a great distance on a hunting excursion, or to war, where they expect to find no food, then they provide themselves severally with a small bag of parched corn meal, which is so nutritious that they can subsist on the same many days. A quarter of a pound of the meal is sufficient for a day's subsistence; for as it shrinks much in the drying, it also swells out again with moisture. When they are hungry, they eat a small handful of the meal, after which they take a drink of water, and then they are so well fed, that they can travel a day. When they can obtain fish or meat to eat, then their meal serves them as well as fine bread would, because it needs no baking.
Of the Clothing and Ornaments worn by the Men and Women
Their clothing usually is of one fashion, and they are not proud of their dress, except some of their young persons, who forget it when they become old. Their women are more inclined to dress, and to wear ornamental trinkets than the men are; but they are not so proud as they are in Holland. The males until they are twelve or thirteen years old, run nearly naked in summer. The females when they are able to run about, wear a little covering. They are all accustomed to wear a leathern girdle, which is usually ornamented with pieces of whales' fins, whale-bones, or wampum (zewant). When the men can procure duffels cloth, then they wear a piece of the same half an ell wide, and nine quarters long, which they gird around their waists, and draw up a fold to cover their nakedness, with a flap of each end hanging down in front and rear. This dress does not appear uncomely, and it is light and airy in summer; and they frequently go without any other covering. It hides their nakedness, and bears the name of a breech-cloth. Before they could obtain duffels cloth, and when it is not to be had, they wear a dressed skin cut in a proper form, and prepared for the purpose, which we commonly call a (cloot-sap) breech-cloth, which word in Holland may appear impolite; but as words are intended to convey ideas, and to express the things intended, the term therefore has a common signification in that country, and will not offend the ear of a lady, or the delicacy of a maiden's taste.
The women also wear a cloth around their bodies, fastened by a girdle which extends down below their knees, and is as much as an under-coat; but next to the body, under this coat, they wear a dressed deer-skin coat, girt around the waist. The lower border of this skirt they ornament with great art, and nestle the same with strips, which are tastefully decorated with wampum. The wampum with which one of those skirts is ornamented, is frequently worth from one to three hundred guilders. The men and women usually wear a plaid of duffels cloth of full breadth, and three ells long. This is worn over the right shoulder, drawn in the form of a knot about the body, with the ends extending down below the knees. This plaid serves them for a covering by day, and for a blanket by night. Stockings and shoes (moccasins) made of deer and buffalo skins, are worn by both sexes; some of those they ornament curiously with wampum, &c.; but those articles are bad to wear. They also make shoes out of corn husks, which are not durable. Some of them purchase shoes and stockings from us, which they find to be most comfortable.
The men usually go bare-headed, and the women with their hair bound behind, in a club of about a hand long, in the form of a beaver's tail; over which they draw a square cap, which is frequently ornamented with wampum. When they desire to appear fine, they draw a head-band around the forehead, which is also ornamented with wampum, &c. This band confines the hair smooth, and is fastened behind over the club, in a beau's knot. Many believe these head-bands are like those worn by the ancient women. Their head-dress forms a handsome and lively appearance. Around their necks they wear various ornaments, which are also decorated with wampum. Those they esteem as highly as our ladies do their pearl necklaces. They also wear hand-bands, or bracelets, curiously wrought, and interwoven with wampum. Their breasts appear about half covered with an elegantly wrought dress. They wear beautiful girdles, ornamented with their favourite wampum, and costly ornaments in their ears. Their young women and their courtiers, when they desire to appear superfine, also paint a few black stripes on their faces. They usually appear sedate, as if they possessed no amorous feelings; they however only thus disguise nature. The men paint themselves uniformly, particularly their faces, with various colours, by which they can so effectually disguise themselves as to deceive an acquaintance. In their parade time they appear very deceitful, and they will scarcely turn their heads to notice an object. Some of them wear a band about their heads, manufactured and braided of scarlet deer-hair, interwoven with soft shining red hair. With this head-dress, they appear like the delineations and paintings of the Catholic saints. When a young Indian is dressed in this manner, he would not say plum, for a bushel of plums. They however seldom decorate themselves in this manner, unless they have a young female in view. Otherwise they naturally are filthy and negligent in their dress. In winter, when the weather is cold, the women and children do not go abroad much, and when they do, they cover themselves with duffils and other articles. The men, to defend themselves against the cold, grease themselves with bear and racoon fat. They also wear clothing made of weasel, bear, deer, and buffalo skins, &c. With such dresses they can withstand the cold easily. At a word, they have all necessary raiment to defend themselves against the inclemency of the weather. In their best apparel, they know not how to appear proud and foppish. To white linen they formerly were strangers, but now many begin to wear shirts, which they buy from our people, and those they frequently wear without washing until the same are worn out.
Of their Houses, Castles, Villages, and Towns
Their houses are usually constructed in the same manner, without any particular costliness or curiosity in or to the same. Sometimes they build their houses above a hundred feet long; but never more than twenty feet wide. When they build a house, they place long slender hickory saplings in the ground, having the bark stripped off, in a straight line of two rows, as far asunder as they intend the breadth of the house to be, and continuing the rows as far as it is intended the length shall be. Those sapling poles are bent over towards each other in the form of an arch, and secured together, having the appearance of a garden arbour. The sapling poles are then crossed with split poles in the form of lathing, which are well fastened to the upright work. The lathings are heaviest near the ground. A space of about a foot wide is left open in the crown of the arch. For covering they use the bark of ash, chestnut, and other trees, which they peel off in pieces of about six feet long, and as broad as they can. They cover their houses, laying the smooth side inwards, leaving an open space of about a foot wide in the crown, to let out the smoke. They lap the side edges and ends over each other, having regard to the shrinking of the bark, securing the covering with withes to the lathings. A crack or rent they shut up, and in this manner they make their houses proof against wind and rain. They have one door in the centre of the house. When the bark of the ash and chestnut trees is not loose, they have recourse to the timber trees, which grow along the brooks, the bark of which can be taken off during the whole summer season. Durability is a primary object in their houses. In short, their houses are tight and tolerably warm, but they know nothing of chambers, halls, and closetings. They kindle and keep their fires in the middle of their houses, from one end to the other, and the opening in the crown of the roof lets out the Smoke. From sixteen to eighteen families frequently dwell in one house, according to its size. The fire being kept in the middle, the people lay on either side thereof, and each family has its own place. If they have a place for a pot or kettle, with a few small articles, and a place to sleep, then they have room enough; and in this manner, a hundred, and frequently many more, dwell together in one house. Such is the construction of an Indian dwelling in every place, unless they are out on fishing and hunting excursions, and then they erect temporary huts or shanties.
In their villages and their castles they always build strong, firm works, adapted to the places. For the erection of these castles, or strong holds, they usually select a situation on the side of a steep high hill, near a stream or river, which is difficult of access, except from the water, and inaccessible on every other side, with a level plain on the crown of the hill, which they enclose with a strong stockade work in a singular manner. First, they lay along on the ground large logs of wood, and frequently smaller logs upon the lower logs, which serve for the foundation of the work. Then they place strong oak palisades in the ground on both sides of the foundation, the upper ends of which cross each other, and are joined together. In the upper cross of the palisades they then place the bodies of trees, which makes the work strong and firm. Thus they secure themselves against the sudden invasion of their enemies. But they have no knowledge of adding flankings and curtains to their fortifications. Those belong not to their system. Near their plantations they also frequently erect small works, to secure their wives and children against the sudden irruption of the small marauding parties of their enemies. When their castles and forts are constructed according to their rude custom, they consider the same very safe and secure places. But in a war with the Christians, those afford them no security; on the contrary, they do them more injury than good. In their castles, they frequently have twenty or thirty houses. We have measured their houses, and found some of them to be a hundred and eighty yards long, and as narrow as before stated. In those places, they crowd an astonishing number of persons, and it is surprising to see them out in open day. Besides their strong holds, they have villages and towns which are enclosed. Those usually have woodland on the one side, and corn lands on the other sides. They also frequently have villages near the water sides, at fishing places, where they plant some vegetables; but they leave those places every year on the approach of winter, and retire to their strong places, or into the thick woods, where they are protected from the winds, and where fuel is plenty, and where there is game and venison. Thus they subsist by hunting and fishing throughout the year.
Their castles and large towns they seldom leave altogether. From other situations they remove frequently, and they seldom remain long at other places. In the summer, and in the fishing seasons, many come to the water sides and rivers. In the fall and winter, when venison is best, they retire to the woods and hunting grounds. Sometimes towards the spring of the year, they come in multitudes to the sea shores and bays, to take oysters, clams, and every kind of shell-fish, which they know how to dry, and preserve good a long time.
Of their Marriages, Accouchements, Children, &c
Having treated of the manners of the natives, of their appearance, of their clothing, of their ornaments, of their subsistence, and of their dwellings; we will continue the description, and treat of their customs in their marriages and connections, without which they could not be. Marriages, and the fruits of marriage connections between males and females, keep up the succession of every living species in the world; and there has been no nation discovered or known, so barbarous as not to be benefited by marriage connections, and who have not upheld and supported the same. With the natives of the New-Netherlands, (for the Christian usages are the same as in Holland,) we can still observe the old and ancient customs in their marriage ceremonies. But to illustrate the subject properly, it will be necessary to notice their distinguishing names of man and woman, father and mother, sister and brother, uncle and aunt, niece and nephew, husband and wife, married and unmarried, which are all known and distinguished among the natives by different and appropriate names, and give strong evidence of their attachment to their relatives, and of their preference to marriage connections. The natives generally marry but one wife, and no more, unless it be chief, who is great and powerful; such frequently have two, three, or four wives, of the neatest and handsomest women; and it is extraordinary, that the people can, by the light of nature, so effectually control their women, that no feuds or jealousies do arise and exist between them; for on inquiry, we have never discovered that any strife, hatred, or discord existed in an Indian family between the women about their family affairs, their children, or of the preference of their husband, whom they all esteem and implicitly obey. Concerning their marriages, they do not use as many ceremonies as the people of fashion do in Holland; but they act more like common citizens on such occasions. With the natives there is no established time of marriageable years, but they judge their apparent fitness from their appearance, about which they are not very particular even to experimental proof. When the parties are young and related, the marriage usually takes place upon the counsel and advice of their relatives, having regard to their families and character. "When the parties are widows or widowers, whether by death or otherwise, of whom there are many, then also it lakes place sometimes upon the advice of friends; but it is not common for relatives to interfere in such marriages. The men, according to their condition, must always present their intended and betrothed bride, with a marriage gift, as a confirmation of their agreement, and of his intention, being similar to the marriage pledge of the ancients. When the parties are a widow or widower, who unite without the advice of friends, and the parties afterwards do not agree, for good cause or otherwise, then the husband frequently takes the gifts from his wife, forbids her his bed, and if she does not leave him, he turns her out of doors Marriages with them are not so binding but that either party may altogether dissolve the union, which they frequently do. I have known an Indian who changed his wife every year, although he had little or no reason for it. We have also noticed that the dissolution of their marriages for unchastity, arises more from the improper conduct of men, than of the women. - In their marriage dissolutions, the children follow their mother, which is also usual in many other nations, who calculate their descent and genealogies from the mother's side. The longer a marriage exists among the natives, the more the parties are esteemed and honoured. To be unchaste during wedlock, is held to be very disgraceful among them. Many of their women would prefer death, rather than submit to be dishonoured. Prostitution is considered baser by day than by night, and in the open fields than elsewhere, as it may be seen, or shined upon by the sun, which they say beholds the deed. No Indian will keep his wife, however much he loved her, when he knows she is unchaste. When their women are young, free, and unmarried, they act as they please, but they are always mercenary in their conduct, and deem it disgraceful to be otherwise; neither is the fruit of illicit connexions despised, but the same are disregarded in a marriage connexion. Few females will associate with men in a state of concubinage when they will not marry. Those women are proud of such conduct, and when they become old they will frequently boast of their connexion with many of their chiefs and great men. This I have heard from several aged women, who deemed themselves honoured for having been esteemed, and gloried of their "quasi bene gesta," in their speeches. When one of their young women is rijp, (for that is the native term,) and wishes to be married, it is customary on such occasions that they veil their faces completely, and sit covered as an indication of their desire; whereupon propositions are made to such persons, and the practice is common with young women who have suitors, whereby they give publicity of their inclination. The men seldom make the first overtures, unless success is certain and they hope to improve their condition in life. Whenever a native female is pregnant, in wedlock or otherwise, they take care that they do no act that would injure the offspring. During pregnancy they are generally healthy, and they experience little or no sickness or painful days, and when the time of their delivery is near, (which they calculate closely,) and they fear a severe accouchement, or if it be their first time, then they prepare a drink made of a decoction of roots that grow in the woods, which are known by them, and they depart alone to a secluded place near a brook, or stream of water, where they can be protected from the winds, and prepare a shelter for themselves with mats and covering, where, provided with provisions necessary for them, they await their delivery without the company or aid of any person. After their children are born, and if they are males, although the weather be ever so cold and freezing, they immerse them some time in the water, which, they say, makes them strong brave men, and hardy hunters. After the immersion they wrap their children in warm clothing and pay them great attention from fear of accidents, and after they have remained several days in their secluded places, again return to their homes and friends. They rarely are sick from child-birth, suffer no inconveniences from the same, nor do any of them die on such occasions. Upon this subject some persons assign, as a reason and cause for their extraordinary deliveries, that the knowledge of good and evil is not given to them, as unto us; that therefore they do not suffer the pains of sin in bringing forth their children; that such pains are really not natural, but the punishment which follows the knowledge of sin, as committed by our first mother, and is attached to those only; others ascribe the cause of the difference to the salubrity of the climate, their well-formed bodies, and their manner of living.
Of the Suckling of their Children, and the associations of the Men and Women
The native Indian women of every grade always nurse their own children, nor do we know of any who have trusted that parental duty to others. About New-Amsterdam, and for many miles and days' journey into the interior, I have never heard of but a few instances of native women, who did not take good care of their children, or who trusted them to the nursing and care of others; when they suckle or are pregnant, they in those cases practise the strictest abstinence, because, as they say, it is beneficial to their offspring, and to nursing children. In the meantime, their women are not precise or offended, if their husbands have foreign associations, but they observe the former custom so religiously, that they hold it to be disgraceful for a woman to recede from it before her child is weaned, which they usually do when their children are a year old, and those who wean their children before that period are despised. During a certain season, their women seclude themselves, and do not appear abroad, or permit themselves to be seen of men; if they are at one of their great feasts or public assemblies, and the fountain springs, they retire immediately if possible, and do not appear abroad again until the season is over. Otherwise when all is well, and they are not betrothed, they frequently are light of behaviour, as well the women as the men, and yield to temptation without shame; but foul and impertinent language, which is common with the lower class with us, is despised with them. All romping, caressing and wanton behaviour they speak of with contempt, and say that they are indirect allurements to unchastity. If they observe such behaviour among the Netherlanders, they reprove the parties, and bid them seek retirement. What better reproof can be given to such levity? Some of their chiefs and great men have two or three wives, who will readily accommodate a visiting friend with one of his women for a night; but if it takes place without his consent, the act is deemed a disgrace, and the woman is chastised and sent away.
Manner of burying their Dead. Lamentations and Mourning
Whenever an Indian departs this life, all the residents of the place assemble at the funeral. To a distant stranger, who has not a friend or relative in the place, they pay the like respect. They are equally careful to commit the body to the earth, without neglecting any of the usual ceremonies, according to the standing of the deceased. In deadly diseases, they are faithful to sustain and take care of each other. Whenever a soul has departed, the nearest relatives extend the limbs and close the eyes of the dead; and after the body has been watched and wept over several days and nights, they bring it to the grave, wherein they do not lay it down, but place it in a sitting posture upon a stone or a block of wood, as if the body were sitting upon a stool; then they place a pot, kettle, platter, spoon, with some provision and money, near the body in the grave; this they say is necessary for the journey to the other world. Then they place as much wood around the body as will keep the earth from it. Above the grave they place a large pile of wood, stone or earth, and around and above the same they place palisades resembling a small dwelling. All their burial places are secluded and preserved with religious veneration and care, and they consider it wicked and infamous to disturb or injure their burial places. The nearest relatives of the deceased, particularly the women, (the men seldom exhibit much excitement,) have their periods of lamentations, when they make dreadful and wonderful wailing, naming the dead, smiting upon their breasts, scratching and disfiguring their faces, and showing all possible signs of grief. But where a mother has lost a child, her expressions of grief exceed all bounds, for she calls and wails whole nights over her infant, as if she really were in a state of madness. If the deceased are young persons, or persons slain in war, then their lamentations are of a particular kind, and the women shave off their hair, which they keep the customary time, and then they burn the hair upon the graves of the deceased or slain, in the presence of the relations. In short they possess strong passions, and exhibit the same with much feeling when mourning over their dead relatives and friends. For the purpose of removing the existing causes of grief, and not to excite sorrow in the mind of the bereaved, and as far as possible to promote forgetfulness of the friends lost, the name of the deceased is never mentioned in the presence of the relations; or when the name is mentioned, it is received as if designed to produce mortification, and as an act of unkindness. The use of tokens of mourning is common, which usually are black signs upon their bodies; when a woman loses her husband, she shaves off her hair, and paints her whole countenance black as pitch, and men do the same when their wives die, and they also wear a buckskin vest next to their skin, and mourn a whole year, even if they have not been long married, or if the connection had not been happy still they observe the ceremonies religiously, without marrying again until the season of mourning is over.
Of their Feast Days and Particular Assemblies
Feasts and great assemblages are not common among the Indians, yet they occur sometimes, and on special occasions, as on the subjects of peace, war, alliances, treaties and devotions; or to counsel the devil on some approaching event, or in relation to the fruitfulness of the seasons, or to celebrate some successful occurrence by frolicking and dancing, as at the conclusion of peace, or to make war with some neighbouring people. They do not resolve and decide hastily and by a small number, but on all important matters, all the chiefs and persons of any distinction in the nation assemble in their councils, when each of them express their opinions freely on the subject before the council, as briefly or as extendedly as they please without any molestation. If the speaker even digresses from the matter in hand, or opposes others, he is heard with attention; if they approve of what has been said, at the conclusion they shout and cheer the orator. Their councils assemble in the morning while the sun is ascending, and if the business is not done before noon they adjourn until the next morning. When they wish to hunt or drive the devil (as they do by spooking and deception), then they assemble in the afternoon towards evening, and then some of them do, most singularly indeed, endeavour to enchant and charm the devil and carry on witchcraft, wherein the common people believe. They begin with jumping, crying, and grinning, as if they were possessed and mad. They kindle large fires, and dance around and over the same, lengthwise and across; they roll, tumble overhead, and bend themselves, and continue their violent exercises until the sweat pours out and streams down to their feet. By their distortions and hideous acts, they appear like devils themselves; their awful conduct will astonish those who are not accustomed to see them. During those operations, all their devil-drivers join in the rolling and howling, when they altogether appear to be crazy. When their charming has continued some time, then the devil, as they say, appears to them in the form of a beast. If the beast be a ravenous animal, it is a bad omen; if it be a harmless creature, the sign is better; the animal gives them strange answers to their inquiries, but seldom so clear and distinct that they can comprehend or interpret the same, which, however, they strike at, as a blind man does at an egg. If they interpret the answers incorrectly, the fault is theirs sometimes they utter things beyond the devil's texts. If there be any Christians present on those occasions, who observe all their doings, then their devil will not appear. Their devil-drivers sometimes bewitch some of their common people, and cause them to appear possessed or besotted, which otherwise is not seen, when they cast themselves into glowing fires without feeling it. When the person who has been afflicted for some time, and one of the charmers whisper in his ear, he again becomes as gentle as a lamb. When they assemble to rejoice or dance, they meet at mid-day. On those occasions, an orator first delivers an address on the occasion and cause of their meeting, after which they entertain themselves by eating and feasting; this they also do sometimes at their councils. They eat lustily on such occasions, and every one devours as much food as would serve each of them for three days, as nothing may be left at their frolics; what is not eaten by them or by their dogs must be carried back. When they have stuffed themselves like cattle and can scarcely move, then the old and middle-aged conclude with smoking, and the young with a kintecaw, singing and dancing, which frequently is continued until morning.
How Men and Animals came on the American Continent
There are various opinions on this subject, and many persons have endeavoured to show how those, whom we name Indians, first came to this part of the world, which is separated from the other parts by the great seas, and which appears always to have been thus separated. Some are of the opinion that they were planted as a colony; others ask, by whom? and how lions, bears, wolves, foxes, serpents, with poisonous reptiles, and other ravenous beasts came on the continent, because such are never carried or transported in ships. When we speak to the natives of the creation, we can never satisfy them on the subject, or receive from them any affirmation that they believe in the doctrine. Many remark that an unknown chronicle writer has observed, that in former days, when, according to some Rationes Gentium, people were accustomed to adventures, some persons well equipped and provided, sailed from a part of Norway or Sweden in search of a better country, under the command of a certain chief named Sachema, and that they had never been heard from after they sailed; and as all the native chiefs of the New-Netherlands who reside along the rivers and the sea-shore are called sachems, they conclude that the country was peopled by those adventurers. We, however, do not concur in this opinion, although the subject seems mysterious. Others go much farther, and inquire whether the natives of the new world have descended from Adam, and whether there has hot been a separate creation of men and creatures for the same. This theory they endeavour to support by various reasons. They assert that there has been no deluge over America, and speak of the same as a separate and entire new world, being entirely different in formation and condition from the old world, and by connecting other matters in support of their proposition, they render their subject plausible. They also doubt whether the new world will be judged at the judgment day with the old world. In support of their doctrine they affirm that the period is not long since sinners came there; that the natives were innocent; that the land had not been cursed on their account; and that no righteous punishment can be inflicted on them with the other inhabitants of the old world. A more probable opinion is advanced by others, who affirm that many years ago the sea between Cape de Verds and America was as narrow or of less breadth than the strait between Calais and Dover, and that by the help of the adjacent and intervening islands) people and animals could pass and re-pass from Africa to America. If the communication was not there, (which is not to be credited,) it must have been elsewhere; and as memorials of Chinese origin are found at the Brazils, it is evident that the Chinese have formerly been there, and that they came to the country along the broken coast of the strait of Magellan, or overland from the shore of the Pacific ocean; or that that they had driven a trade in the country. It is necessary that we support the planting of a colony, and the removal of people from the old world, and not a separate creation, as by the latter the doctrines of the Holy Scriptures would be subverted and ruined. Those who hold other opinions, ask, if at any time people could see across from Cape de Verds to America, whether, in such a case, Columbus or Americus can have found a country which was never lost? It is not our intention to follow those disputations, but we will leave every person to the enjoyment of his own opinion on the subject, and proceed in our work.
Of the different Nations and Languages
The nations, tribes and languages are as different in America as they are in Europe. All those who are of one tribe or nation, form one separate society, and usually keep together; every tribe or nation has its own chief, and is a separate government, subject to its own laws and regulations. They however all appear to have descended from one parent-stock, but they seldom marry out of their own tribes. They always are jealous of each other as it respects their national power; and every tribe endeavours to increase its own strength. As they have chiefs over their nations, tribes, and settlements, so also every family has its head, who is regarded as the most eminent and famous by descent, from which their rank in the tribe is usually settled. Their languages and dialects are very different, as unlike each other as the Dutch, French, Greek and Latin are. Their declensions and conjugations have an affinity with the Greek and accord to it. Their declensions, augmentations, cases and adverbs, are like the Greek; but to reduce their language to any of ours, would be impossible, for there is no resemblance between the same. Before we have acquired a knowledge of any of their languages or dialects, we know no more of what they say than if a dog had barked. In some of their languages the letter r, is not sounded, and in others scarcely a syllable is spoken without it; otherwise they are not very different, and the tribes usually can understand their dialects. Their various tongues may be classed into four distinct languages, namely, Manhattan, Minquas, Savanoos, and Wappanoos. With the Manhattans, we include those who live in the neighbouring places along the North river, on Long Island, and at the Neversink. With the Minquas we include the Senecas, the Maquaas, and other inland tribes. The Savanoos are the southern nations, and the Wappanoos are the eastern nations. Their languages are seldom learned perfectly by any of our people, and those who by long and continued intercourse and conversation with the Indians learn to speak their language,, are not men of education ,and are unable to compose grammatical rules for the same, and of course are unable to instruct others.
Of their Money or Circulating Medium
That there should be no miserly desire for the costly metals among the natives, few will believe; still it is true, the use of gold and silver or any metallic coin is unknown among them. The currency which they use in their places to which they resort is called wampum, the making and preparing of which is free to all persons. The species are black and white, but the black is worth more by one half than the white. The black wampum, is made from conck shells, which are to be taken from the sea, or which are cast ashore from the sea twice a year. They strike off the thin parts of those shells and preserve the pillars or standards, which they grind smooth and even and reduce the same according to their thickness, and drill a hole through every piece and string the same on strings, and afterwards sell their strings of wampum in that manner. This is the only article of moneyed medium among the natives, with which any traffic can be driven; and it is also common with us in purchasing necessaries and carrying on our trade; many thousand strings are exchanged every year for peltries near the sea shores where the wampum is only made, and where the peltries are brought for sale. Among the Netherlanders gold and silver begin to increase and are current, but still the amount differs much from that of the Netherlands.
Of the Nature and Diversions of the Indians
The Indians are naturally (with few exceptions) of taciturn, steady and pensive dispositions and tempers, and of few words, which are well considered, uttered slowly, and long remembered; they say no more than is necessary to the subject in hand. When they want to buy or to sell any article, they say no more than is necessary to the bargain. On the other occasions, they talk of no subjects except hunting, fishing, and war. Their young men frequently entertain each other on their gallantry with young female connections. They despise lying, and still they are not very precise in the performance of their engagements. Swearing and scolding are not heard among them, unless it be among those who have learned those habits from us. They do not possess great wisdom or extensive knowledge, but reasonable understanding, resulting from practical experience, which they certainly possess without any desire for further instruction; they are naturally civil and well disposed, and quick enough to distinguish between good and evil, but after they have associated amongst us, they become cunning and deceitful. They are slovenly, careless, and dirty of their persons, and are troubled with the evils which attend filthiness. They are very revengeful and obstinate even unto death, and when in trouble they disregard and despise all pain and torture that can be done to them, and: will sing with proud contempt until death terminates their sufferings. They are all stingy and inclined to beggary, and cannot be trusted too far because they also are thievish; denying them, the least trifle does not offend them. They are all free by nature, and will not bear any domineering or lording over them; they will not bear any insult, unless they have done wrong, and they will bear chastisement without resentment. Delicious food or drink they disregard; they fear no accidents, and can endure heat, cold, hunger, and thirst, in a wonderful manner, and they can all swim like ducks from their childhood. When abroad they spend their time in hunting, fishing or war; at home they smoke tobacco, and play a game with pieces of reeds, resembling our card playing. The old men knit nets, and make wooden bowls and ladles. Labour among the young men is uncommon, and nearly all the necessary labour is done by the females.
Of their Sustenance and Medicines
Famine they do not fear, nor do they regard medicines and purgatives much. When they are unwell, they fast; if that will not remove the complaint, they then hare recourse to sweating and drinks; but the latter they take very sparingly. Their sweating places are made of clay, and enclosed tight in the earth, with a small entrance to admit the patients within the apartments. Where the place is needed there many stones are heated, and placed around and within the same; and then the patient enters and sits down, naked and singing, wherein he remains as long as it is possible to endure the heat, and on leaving the stewing apartment, they usually lay down in cold spring water. By those means they say that they gain relief, and cure most diseases. They can heal fresh wounds and dangerous bruises in a most wonderful manner. They also have remedies for old sores and ulcers, and they also cure venereal affections so readily, that many an Italian master who saw it, would be ashamed of his profession. All their cures are made with herbs, roots and leaves, (with the powers of which they are acquainted,) without making any compounds. Still it must be admitted that nature assists them greatly, for they indulge in no excesses of eating or drinking, otherwise they could not accomplish so much with such simple and small means. When any of them are very sick, and they apprehend the disease to be of a deadly character; then, they all, or at least the nearest relatives of the sick persons, have recourse to devil-hunting or driving, and make noise enough to frighten a person in extremity to death; which they say they do to learn from the devil whether the patient will live or die, and when hope of recovery is given, what remedies are to be used for the restoration of the sick. They seldom however receive any positive answers, but directions to use remedies, and when their hope for the recovery of the sick, then food is presented to the person, who is persuaded to eat heartily, whether the food is relished or not.
Of their Agriculture, Planting, and Gardening
All their agriculture is performed by their women. The men give themselves very little trouble about the same, except those who were old. They, with the young children will do some labor under the direction of the women. They cultivate no wheat, oats, barley or rye, and know nothing of ploughing, spading and spitting up the soil, and are not neat and cleanly in their fields. The grain which they raise for bread, and mush or sapaen, is maize or turkey-corn, and they raise various kinds of beans as before remarked. They also plant tobacco for their own use, which is not as good as ours, and of a different kind, that does not require as much labour and attendance. Of garden vegetables, they raise none, except pumpkins and squashes, as before observed. They usually leave their fields and garden spots open, unenclosed, and unprotected by fencing, and take very little care of the same, though they raise an abundance of corn and beans, of which we obtain whole cargoes in sloops and galleys in trade.
Of manuring and proper tillage they know nothing. All their tillage is done by the hand and with small adzes, which they purchase from us. Although little can be said in favour of their husbandry, still they prefer their practice to ours, because our methods require too much labour and care to please them, with which they are not well satisfied.
A Relation of their Hunting and Fishing
To hunting and fishing the Indians are all extravagantly inclined, and they have their particular seasons for these engagements. In the spring and part of the summer, they practise fishing. When the wild herbage begins to grow up in the woods, the first hunting season begins, and then many of their young men leave the fisheries for the purpose of hunting.; but the old and thoughtful men remain at the fisheries until the second and principal hunting season, which they also attend, but with snares only. Their fishing is carried on in the inland waters, and by those who dwell near the sea, or the sea-islands. The latter have particular advantages. Their fishing is done with seines, set-nets, small fikes, wears, and laying hooks. They do not know how to salt fish, or how to cure fish properly. They sometimes dry fish to preserve the same, but those are half tainted, which they pound to meal to be used in chowder in winter. Their young and active men are much engaged in hunting bears, wolves, fishers, otters, and beavers. Near the sea-shores and rivers where the Christians mostly reside, they hunt deer, where many are killed. Those are mostly caught in snares, they also shoot them with arrows and guns. The Indians sometimes unite in companies of from one to two hundred, when they have rare sport. On those occasions, they drive over a large district of land and kill much game. They also make extensive fikes with palisades, which are narrow at their terminating angles, wherein they drive multitudes of animals and take great numbers. At a word, they are expert hunters for every kind of game, and know to practise the best methods to insure success. The beavers are mostly taken far inland, there being few of them near the settlements - particularly by the black Minquas, who are thus named because they wear a black badge on their breast, and not because they are really black, by the Senecas, by the Maquas, and by the Rondaxes or French Indians, who are also called Euyrons (Hurons). For beaver hunting the Indians go in large parties, and remain out from one to two months, during which time they subsist by hunting and on a little corn meal which they carry out with them, and they frequently return home with from forty to eighty beaver skins, and with some otter, fishers and other skins also, even more than can be correctly stated. We estimate that eighty thousand beavers are annually killed in this quarter of the country, besides elks, bears, otters, deer and other animals. There are some persons who imagine that the animals of the country will be destroyed in time, but this is unnecessary anxiety. It has already continued many years, and the numbers brought in do not diminish. The country is full of lakes, seas, rivers, streams and creeks, and extends very far, even to the great south sea; hence we infer, that there will not be an end to the wild animals, and also because there are large districts where the animals will remain unmolested.
Of their Orders and Distinctions, by birth or otherwise
Distinctions are supported and observed among all the Indian nations, but not as much as amongst us. They remark, that they do not know why one man should be so much higher than another as we represent them to be. Ands till they have those among them whom they hold as nobles, who seldom marry below their rank, and they also have their commonality. No chief among them has the power to confer rank. Rank descends in families, and continues as long as any one in the family is fit to rule, and regents frequently govern in the name of a minor. The oldest and first of a household or family, represent the same with or unto the chief of the nation. Military distinction is not observed, except in war; and then it is conferred by merit, without regard to families or birth. The lowest among them may become a chief, but the rank dies with the person, unless his posterity follow in the footsteps of the parent; and then, the rank of the parent and his situation will descend in the family. It may well be supposed that such is the origin of the rank and distinction which prevails among them. Their chiefs feel proud of their stations, but not as much as ours do. Still their commonality do not regard them much, unless they are distinguished for understanding, activity and bravery; and then they honour them greatly. Such persons, for their artfulness and activity, they compare with the devil, the master of evil arts, and name them, Manitto or Ottico.
Of their Wars and Weapons
The principal command and authority among the Indians is developed in war, and in their councils on war. In times of war they do not organize armies, troops or regiments. In their best postures they are without regular order. They are artful in their measures, furious in their attacks, and unmerciful victors. When their plans are hazardous, then they are conducted covertly and privately by night. They always practise hinderances, deceptions, and ambuscades against their enemies. Face to face, in the open field or on water, they are not soldiers. They usually run away in time, if they can; but when they are surrounded and cannot escape, then they fight obstinately, and as long as they can stand, to the last man. The victors accept of no ransom, nor are the captives certain of their lives, until they are given over to persons who have previously lost connections by blood in war. They seldom destroy women and children, unless it be in their first fury, but never afterwards. If it be in their power, they carry them all with them to their own abode. The women they treat as they do their own, and the children they bring up as their own, to strengthen their nation. They all serve as volunteers in war, and they receive no pay to retain them in service. They cannot subsist long in a body together, nor can they conduct sieges. Their men will not readily divulge any of their secret designs, unless it be to their own women, and they usually do not know enough to withold a secret from the Christians, particularly when they expect to derive any advantages from the development.
When they intend to carry on any offensive measures, and when they fear approaching danger; in those cases, the women and children are removed to places of safety, where they hope to secure them from danger until their purposes are executed, or until the apprehended dangers are past.
Their weapons formerly were bows and arrows, with a war-club hung to the arm, and a square shield which covered the body up to the shoulders; their faces they disfigure in such a manner that it is difficult to recognize one known before; they bind bands or snake-skins round the head, and place a fox's or wolf's tail perpendicularly upon the head, and walk as proud as peacocks. At present many of them use fire-arms, which they prize highly and learn to use dexterously. They spare no pains in procuring guns and ammunition, for which they trade with the Christians at a dear rate. At present they also use small axes (tomahawks) instead of their war-clubs, and thus they march onwards.
Of their Laws and Punishments
The common rules of order in the administration of justice are not observed among this people, and are not exercised to protect the innocent or to punish the guilty. There is so little order observed among them that the Netherlander, who reside there and traffic with them, are astonished to find that such societies can remain united, where there is no regard paid to the administration of justice. All minor offences, such as stealing, adultery, lying, cheating, and the like wrongs against civil order, pass unpunished among them. I have known that an unmarried woman murdered her own child, and although the fact was well known, still she went unpunished; and also that an Indian, on several occasions, violated several women whom he found alone in the woods and in lonely places, who also passed unpunished. With those exceptions, during a residence of nine years in the country, I have not heard of any capital offences. Stealing is quite common among them, but not of articles of great value. It may be a knife, an axe, a pair of shoes, a pair of stockings, or such like articles. When we detect them with the goods, we may retake the same and chastise them freely; and when the thief is not known and the matter is represented to the chief, the property is usually restored. On those occasions the thief is reprimanded by the chief for his conduct, and although reproof is the highest punishment suffered by the culprit, yet it will not readily show how much they fear such treatment, and how uncommon crimes are among them. With us a watchful police is supported, and crimes are more frequent than among them.
Murder, or personal injuries are not attended to by the chief, or friends, except for the purpose of reconciling the parties, for which they use all possible means, and give liberally to effect their object when the offender, is deficient in means, which is usually the case. A murder among them is never atoned for without heavy payment. The nearest relative by blood always is the avenger, and if he finds the murderer within twenty-four hours after the act, he is slain instantly, but if the murderer can save himself until one day is past, and the avenger slays him afterwards, then he is liable to be pursued and slain in like manner. A murderer seldom is killed after the first twenty-four hours are past, but he must flee and remain concealed; when the friends endeavour to reconcile the parties, which is frequently agreed to, on condition that the nearest relatives of the murderer, be they men, women, or children, on meeting the relatives of the person murdered, must give way to them.
Persons are very seldom doomed to death among them, except captives taken in war, whom they consider to have forfeited the rights of man. Such they condemn to be burned. This they usually do slowly, beginning with their hands and feet. The torture sometimes lasts three, days before the victim expires, who continues to sing and dance until life is extinct, reproaching his tormentors, deriding their conduct, and extolling the bravery of his own nation.
Of their Religion, and whether they can be brought over to the Christian Faith
The natives are all heathen and without any religious devotions. Idols are neither known nor worshipped among them. When they take an oath they swear by the sun, which, they say, sees all things. They think much of the moon, and believe it has great influence over vegetation. Although they know all the planets from the other stars, by appropriate names, still they pay no idolatrous worship to the same, yet by the planets and other signs they are somewhat weatherwise. The offering up of prayers, or the making of any distinction between days, or any matter of the kind, is unknown among them. They neither know or say any thing of God; but they possess great fear of the devil, who they believe causes diseases, and does them much injury. When they go on a hunting or fishing excursion they usually cast a part of what is first taken into the fire, without using any ceremony on the occasion, then saying, "stay thou devil, eat thou that." They love to hear us speak of God and of our religion, and are very attentive and still during divine service and prayers, and apparently are inclined to devotion; but in truth they know nothing about it, and live without any religion, or without any inward or outward godly fear, nor do they know of any superstition or idolatry; they only follow the instilled laws of nature, therefore some suppose they can easily be brought to the knowledge and fear of God. Among some nations the word Sunday is known by the name of Kintowen. The oldest among them say that in former times the knowledge and fear of God had been known among them, and they remark, that since they can neither read nor write, in process of time the Sunday will be forgotten, and all knowledge of the same lost. Their old men, when we reason earnestly with them on the matter, seem to feel pensive or sorrowful, but manifest no-other emotions or agitations when we reprove them for bad conduct and reason with them on its impropriety, and say that there is a God in heaven above whom they offend, their common answer is – 'We do not know that God, we have never seen him, we know not who he is - if you know him and fear him, as you say you do, how does it then happen that so many thieves, drunkards, and evil-doers are found among you. Certainly that God will punish you severely, because he has warned you to beware of those deeds, which he has never done to us. We know nothing about it, and therefore we do not deserve such punishment.' Very seldom do they adopt our religion, nor have there been any political measures taken for their conversion. When their children are young some of them are frequently taken into our families for assistants, who are, according to opportunity, instructed in our religion, but as soon as they are grown up, and turn lovers and associate again with the Indians, they forget their religious impressions and adopt the Indian customs. The Jesuits have taken great pains and trouble in Canada to convert the Indians to the Roman Church, and outwardly many profess that religion; but inasmuch as they are not well instructed in its fundamental principles, they fall off lightly and make sport of the subject and its doctrine.
In the year 1639, when a certain merchant, who is still living with us, went into that country to trade with an Indian chief who spoke good French, after he had drank two or three glasses of wine, they began to converse on the subject of religion. The chief said that he had been instructed so far that he often said mass among the Indians, and that on a certain occasion the place where the altar stood caught fire by accident, and our people made preparations to put out the fire, which he forbade them to do, saying that God, who stands there, is almighty, and he will put out the fire himself; and we waited with great attention, but the fire continued till all was burned up, with your almighty God himself and with all the fine things about him. Since that time I have never held to that religion, but regard the sun and moon much more, as being better than all your Gods are; for they warm the earth and cause the fruits to grow, when your lovely Gods cannot preserve themselves from the fire. In the whole country I know no more than one Indian who is firm in his religious profession, nor can any change be expected among them, as long as matters are permitted to remain as heretofore. If they are to be brought over to the Christian faith, then the public hand must be extended to them and continued; we must establish good schools at convenient places among them, for the instruction of their children; let them learn to write our catechism, and let them be thoroughly instructed in the fundamental principles of our religion, so that in process of time they may be enabled to instruct each other and become attached thereto. It certainly would be attended with some trouble and expense to the government, still, without such means and measures, it will be difficult to do any good among them. Our negligence on those matters is very reprehensible, for the Indians themselves say that they are very desirous to have their children instructed in our language and religion.
Of their hope after this present life
It is a wonderful truth which affords strong evidence against unbelievers and free-thinking spirits, that this barbarous wild race of people of whom we have treated, should know that there is a distinction between the body and the soul, and believe, as they actually do, that the one is perishable and the other immortal. The soul, they say, is that spirit which directs all the actions of the body, and is the producing cause of all good and evil conduct, which, when the body dies, separates from it and removes to a place towards the south, where the climate is so fine that no covering against the cold will be necessary, and where the heat will never be troublesome. To this place the souls of all those who have been good and valuable in this life will go, where they will be satisfied and have an abundance of good things, without any trouble or labour for the same, forever; and they who have been bad in this life, after death will go to another place, where their condition will be directly contrary to the first; where they will never enjoy peace and contentment, as the good will do. But I have never been able rightly to discover whether they believe the soul will be hereafter united to the body. I have, however, spoken with Christians who remark, that they have heard them state such to be their belief. But they do not affirm to this fact. When they hear voices or noises in the woods at night, which frequently happens, and which, we believe, usually proceed from wild animals, but which they declare, with fear and astonishment, are made by the wicked, the souls of whom are thus doomed to wander at night in the woods and solitary places for punishment in unhappy situations. The Indians, because they fear those subjects, do not travel by night unless it be necessary, and then go in parties or companies; when they go alone they always carry a fire-brand with them, with which they believe they can keep off those evil spirits and prevent them from doing them any injury, which, they say, are always disposed to frighten them and do them wrong. They acknowledge also that the soul proceeds from God, and that the same is his gift. This we sometimes learn from their old men of understanding, when an opportunity presents itself in conversation, and we probably would discover more of them in relation to this matter, if we did perfectly understand their languages. Among their common or young people we do not hear those spoken of. In this we still see the providence of God, who, by the common light of nature, has given to this people the knowledge that there is, after this life, a reward for the just, and a punishment for the unjust, which all mankind may expect.
Of their knowledge of God, and their fear of the devils
Although the original inhabitants of the New-Netherlands be heathen and are unbelievers, they however believe and acknowledge that there is a God in heaven from all eternity, who is almighty. But they say God is good, kind, and compassionate, who will not punish or do any injury to any person, and therefore takes no concern himself in the common affairs of the world, nor does he meddle with the same, except that he has ordered the devil to take care of those matters. For they say that all which happens to persons, on the earth, is ordered and directed by the devil as he pleases. God, the chief of all, who dwells in heaven, is much greater and higher than the devil, over whom he has power, but he will not meddle in, or trouble himself with, those concerns.
When, on those subjects, we answer them conclusively, that the devil is deceitful and wicked; they acknowledge it to be true, and that he to the extent of his power, directs such matters in the most wicked and injurious ways (wherein he takes pleasure). They say that all accidents, infirmities and diseases, are sent and forced upon them by the devil, to whom they ascribe it by the common name, saying that the devil is in them, and is the cause of all their misfortunes and ailments. For instance, if they have any inward complaint, they say there is a devil in me; if they have a defect in arm or leg, foot, or hand; shoulder or in the head; they devote the part, and say there is a devil in the same. And because he is so unkind to them, they must, whether they be willing or not, fear him, and preserve his friendship, and sometimes (as before related) cast a piece to him into the fire. Where we refute those follies, by saying that God knows all things, and is almighty, and has a perfect knowledge of the devil, and observes his conduct, and will not permit him to rule over man, who is created in the image of God, and is the noblest part of the creation; nor will the devil be permitted to tyrannize over man, provided they will rightly confide and trust in God, and not withdraw from his commandments to do evil; then they repay us, with strange and fabulous replies, saying - "You lazy Dutchmen say so, and when we observe the matter outwardly it would appear to be true what you say; but in fact you do not understand the matter. That God, who is the highest good, almighty and gracious, and Lord of heaven and earth, in whom all power is, exists in heaven, but not alone, and without pastime; for he has there with him a goddess, a female person, the most beautiful ever known and beheld. With this goddess or beautiful person, he is so much engrossed, that the time is passed away and forgotten. Meantime the devil plays the tyrant and does what he pleases."
This belief and feeling is deeply impressed in them, and when we with stronger reasons sift the subject and drive them from their positions, they fall into more abominable absurdities, and like the dogs return to their vomit, and say they must serve the devil because he has the power to do them injuries.
Their Opinions of the Creation, &c
From the young Indians who frequent our settlements, and continue somewhat wild, we cannot derive any certain information of their belief on these matters; but we must have recourse to their aged men of understanding, when we desire to know their belief on those important subjects.
It sometimes happens when we enter into a curious discourse with them, that they ask us our opinions on the origin of man, and how they came to this country; and when we inform them in broken language of the creation of Adam, they cannot believe, or will not understand relative to their people and the negroes, on account of their great difference and the inequality of colour. According to their opinion the world was not created as described in the first and second chapters of the book of Genesis; but they say the world was before all mountains, men and animals; that God then was with that beautiful woman, who now is with him, without knowing when or from whence they came, then was all water or the water covered all; and they add that if there had been any eyes in being, there was nothing but water to be seen, and nothing else visible in every direction.
It happened at this period, they say, that the before mentioned beautiful woman or goddess, gradually descended from heaven, even into the water, gross or corpulent like a woman, who apparently would bring forth more than one child. Having gradually settled into the water, she did not go under it; but immediately at the place where she descended, some land appeared under her, whereon she remained sitting. This land increased, and in time became greater and dry around the place where she sat; like one who is placed on a bar, whereon the water is three or four feet deep, which by the ebbing of the tide becomes dry land.
Thus they say and mean to be understood, it occurred with this descended goddess. And that the land became of greater extent around her, until its extent was unbounded to the sight, when vegetation appeared; and in time fruitful and unfruitful trees began to grow throughout the world as it now appears. Whether the world of which you speak originated at this time, we cannot say.
At this period of time, when those things had taken place and were accomplished, this great person was overtaken in labour, and brought forth three distinct and different creatures. The first was like a deer as those now are, the second like a bear, and the third like a wolf in every respect. The woman suckled those animals to maturity, and remained a considerable time upon the earth, cohabiting with those several animals, and bringing forth at every birth more than one of a different species and appearance; from which have originated and proceeded all the human beings, animals and creatures, of every description and species, as the same now are and appear; being propagated according to nature, each in their peculiar order, as the same are in succession continued.
When all those subjects were brought to a state of perfection, and could continue, this common mother rejoiced greatly, and ascended up to heaven, where she will continue to remain and dwell, enjoying pleasure, and subsist in goodness and love, which her upper Lord will afford her, for which she is particularly desirous, and God also loves her supremely above all things.
Here on the earth, in the meanwhile, the human species, and the animals after their kind, have multiplied and produced so many different creatures, and increased exceedingly: which every other thing that was created also does, as the same at present is seen. Therefore it is at this time, that all mankind, wherever they be, are always born with the nature of one or the other of the aforesaid animals. They are timid and innocent like the deer; they are brave, revengeful, and just of hand, like the bear; or they are deceitful and blood-thirsty like the wolves. Although their dispositions are apparently somewhat changed, this they attribute to the subtlety of men, who know how to conceal their wicked propensities.
This, they say, is all they have learned from their fathers on the subject of the Creation; which has been handed down to them, and which they believe to be true. And they add if they had been able to write as you are, they would have transmitted and left us all the particulars on these matters, which they could not do, because they know not the art of writing.
Here, esteemed reader, you have all, both general and particular, that was worth writing, concerning the manners, opinions, and acts of the Indians in the New-Netherlands, which I could discover, and also which any of our Christians from the discovery of the country, could ascertain from them; and although much is fabulous and contrary to truth, I have nevertheless committed the same to writing. The more discerning (and I have heard some of them philosophize on the matter) take a more extensive view, and have high speculations, and know, as we say, with Virgil, how to extract gold from the filth of Euvius.
- The sexes are admirably distinguished in the Dutch language, in the case of the Indians, Wilt is male; Wilden is female. The terms are much softer than the English, of Indian and squaw. - Trans.
- A sort of oil. - Ed.
- It is now well ascertained that this continent was visited by the Northmen, (from Norway, Sweden, &c.) about A. D. 1000. - Ed.
- The offering here said to be made to the devil is certainly a gross act of superstition. - Trans.
- Probably a misprint for Ennius. But Virgil does not mention his indebtedness to Ennius, whom another Roman poet describes as ingenio maximus, arte rudis. - Ed.