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 Orders and Distinctions, by birth or otherwise.
Distinctions axe supported and observed among all the Indian nations, but not as much as amongst us. They remark, that they do not know why one man should be so much higher than another as we represent them to be. And till they have those among them whom they hold as nobles, who seldom marry below their rank, and they also have their commonality. No chief among them has the power to confer rank.
Rank descends in families, and continues as long as any one in the family is fit to rule, and regents frequently long govern in the name of a minor. The oldest and first of a household or family, represent the same with or unto the chief of the nation. Military distinction is not observed, except in war; and then it is conferred by merit, without regard to families or birth. The lowest among them may become a chief, but the rank dies with the person, unless his posterity follow in the footsteps of the parent; and then, the rank of the parent and his situation will descend in the family.
It may well be supposed that such is the origin of the rank and distinction
which prevails among them. Their chiefs feel proud of their stations, but not
as much as ours do. Still their commonality do not regard them much, unless
they are distinguished for understanding, activity and bravery; and then they
honour them greatly. Such persons, for their artfulness and activity, they compare
with the devil, the master of evil arts, and name them, Manitto or Ottico.
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