Walam Olum (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: The creation story and pre-contact history of the Lenni Lenape nation is told in this set of verses
The Walam Olum is a long set of verses keyed to mnemonic drawings and preserved as the creation myth and traditional history of the Lenni Lenape, or Delaware, people, who formerly lived on the East Coast in the present state of Delaware. The poem begins with the creation of the world by the great creator, Manitou; it is a peaceful paradise in which men and animals live harmoniously. An evil snake threatens this paradise, but the world is saved through the efforts of Nanabush the trickster/creator, who shapes the present world on the back of a great turtle. Following these events is an account of migration from a land of wind and snow to a land with milder climate where technology emerges. The remaining verses recite clan origins and the list of chiefs up to the first encounter with Europeans.
The present text of the Walam Olum derives from a manuscript written down in the early part of the nineteenth century by an unknown scribe who was apparently not fluent in Delaware; it was first printed by Daniel Brinton in The Lenape and Their Legends (1885). Delaware is an Algonquian language, and themes and characters such as the earth-supporting turtle and the character of Nanabush are familiar from other Algonquian traditions.
(The entire section is 231 words.)
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