Darwin-L Message Log 6:59 (February 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

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<6:59>From sally@pogo.isp.pitt.edu  Fri Feb 11 14:34:29 1994

To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: Rafinesque
Date: Fri, 11 Feb 94 15:34:28 -0500
From: Sally Thomason <sally@pogo.isp.pitt.edu>

   Rafinesque played a/the major role in one of the most
interesting linguistic mysteries of his century, too: my
memory is a bit rusty, but from what I recall of my
readings some years ago, he was the discoverer of the famous
Walam Olum, the "Red Score", purported to be a history of the
Lenape (Delaware) people, recorded on wampum (?) via mnemonics
like a man sitting on a turtle (the "Turtle Island", part of
a creation myth).  Rafinesque presented the document -- I
forget what the exact material was -- and had a story about
how he had gotten it; the story was considered fishy by some
people, and a controversy arose that lasted for more than a
century and may be still going on, for all I know (I'm not
an Algonquianist).  The story includes a long-distance migration,
and one interpretation was/is that it was about the Algonquians'
eastward migration from the Great Plains or thereabouts (where
there are still Algonquian tribes).  Rafinesque really was a
polymath; but he was so colorful that a lot of people tended to
require independent confirmation before believing all his
stories.  When I was reading about Rafinesque, I got some
background from my Univ. of Pittsburgh colleague Bill Stanton,
a historian who specializes in 19th-century science and who knows a
lot about the man and his milieu.

  Here are a couple of standard references:

  Eli Lilly (ed.?), Walam Olum; or Red Score; The migration legend
of the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians.  1954.

  Daniel G. Brinton.  The Lenape and their legends; with the complete
text and symbols of the WALAM OLUM, a new translation, and an inquiry
into its authenticity.  1969 (1884).  New York: AMS Press.

   Sally Thomason

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