A Description of New Netherlands
Adriaen van der Donck - 1649
OF THE MANNERS AND PECULIAR CUSTOMS OF, THE NATIVES OF THE NEW-NETHERLANDS
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.
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