photo credits: Wikimedia Commons
Adriaen van der Donck
lawyer and landowner in New Netherlandwd:Q368007
country of citizenship:
educated at: Leiden University
occupation: jurist, politician, lawyer, colonialist
Adriaen Cornelissen van der Donck (c.1618 – 1655) was a lawyer and landowner in New Netherland after whose honorific Jonkheer the city of Yonkers, New York, is named. In addition to being the first lawyer in the Dutch colony, he was a leader in the political life of New Amsterdam (modern New York City), and an activist for Dutch-style republican government in the Dutch West India Company-run trading post.Enchanted by his new homeland of New Netherland, van der Donck made detailed accounts of the land, vegetation, animals, waterways, topography, and climate. Van der Donck used this knowledge to actively promote immigration to the colony, publishing several tracts, including his influential Description of New Netherland. Charles Gehring, Director of the New Netherland Institute, has called it "the fullest account of the province, its geography, the Indians who inhabited it, and its prospects … It has been said that had it not been written in Dutch, it would have gone down as one of the great works of American colonial literature."Newly translated records from the colony suggest that van der Donck was a significant figure in the early development of what would later become the United States, neglected by history because of the eventual English conquest of New Netherland. Today, he is also recognized as a sympathetic early Native American ethnographer, having learned the languages and observed many of the customs of the Mahicans and Mohawks. His descriptions of their practices are cited in many modern works, such as the 2005 book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.
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