Original Document
Original Document
A Delaware Creation Story, circa 1679.

A native of the Netherlands, Jasper Danckaerts traveled through the Hudson and Delaware valleys in the late seventeenth century. In his journal, he recorded an encounter with a Delaware Indian who told him the following creation story.

"We [Danckaerts and his companion] asked him, where he believed he came from? He answered from his father. "And where did your father come from?" we said, "and your grandfather and great-grandfather, and so on to the first of the race?" He was silent for a little while, either as if unable to climb up at once so high with his thoughts, or to express them without help, and then took a piece of coal out of the fire where we sat, and began to write upon the floor. He first drew a circle, a little oval, to which he made four paws or feet, a head and a tail. "This," said he, "is a tortoise, lying in the water around it," and he moved his hand round the figure, continuing, "This was or is all water, and so at first was the world or the earth, when the tortoise gradually raised its round back up high, and the water ran off it, and thus the earth became dry." He then took a little straw and placed it on end in the middle of the figure, and proceeded, "The earth was now dry, and there grew a tree in the middle of the earth, and the root of this tree sent forth a sprout beside it and there grew upon it a man, who was the first male. This man was then alone, and would have remained alone; but the tree bent over until its top touched the earth, and there shot therein another root, from which came forth another sprout, and there grew upon it the woman, and from these two are all men produced."

Credit: Journal of Jasper Danckaerts, 1679-1680, edited by Bartlett Burleigh James and J. Franklin Jameson (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1913), 76-77.
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