A Description of New Netherlands
Adriaen van der Donck - 1649
OF THE MANNERS AND PECULIAR CUSTOMS OF, THE NATIVES OF THE NEW-NETHERLANDS
FIRST: 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
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
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 has probably happened that this people received their national name, because they seemed to be wild and strangers to the Christian religion.
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