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"A Pedigree Partly Indian, Partly Batavian"

    First Americans

A Description of New Netherlands

Adriaen van der Donck - 1649


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.

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