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"A Pedigree Partly Indian, Partly Batavian"

    First Americans

A Description of New Netherlands

Adriaen van der Donck - 1649


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.


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