Lenni-Lenape Tradition          

The Wallum Olum 




 One of the traditions of the Lenni- Lenape is the story of how their ancestors had come from a far off land and traveled with much hardship to find a quiet and peaceful home by the ocean. There is a documented (well painted) account of this story, called the Wallum Olum. It is controversial as a scholarly article, but I think it gives a genuine feel for the oral tradition, if not a historical account. The poetic translation was done in the 1830's by Constantine Samuel Rafinesque. It was reexamined in the 1980's  by David McCutchen with a less poetical style and "approved" as an accurate retelling of the story of the original people.

 Follow this link to a site with more information:.


The Rafinesque translation is in the romantic language of the 19th century, but it has a rhythm that sounds like a legend.

At first in that place, at all times, above the earth,
On the earth, was an extended fog,
And there the great Manitio was.
At first, forever, lost in space, everywhere,
The great Manito was.
He made the extended land in the sky,
He made the sun, the moon, the stars.
He made them all to move evenly.
Then the wind blew violently, and it cleared,
And the water flowed off far and strong,
And groups of islands grew newly, and there remained.

It was a rugged journey toward the sunrise and the edge of the sea. Prophetically, the Walum Olum ended with:

Watcher was chief; he looked toward the sea,
At this time, from north and south, the whites came,
They are peaceful; they have great things.
Who are they?

Excerted from New Jersey - America's Main Road by John T. Cunningham - New York, 1966

Note: There is some serious doubt as to the truth behind "The Walum Olum", but I find it a fascinating story and an excellent example of Creation Myth.

Follow this link to a discussion of the history of the story and some good links, regarding it. The Cedar Mesa Project

Follow the link below to the new research presented that shows it to be untrue:

"The Walum Olum was carefully studied by David Oestreicher and shown to be a made-up fiction by Rafinesque."

 Is it true or not?