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