Monday, December 5, 2011

Leif Erikson and the Possibility of Christianity in America circa 1000 A.D.

This statue of Lief Erikson is located near the state capitol building in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Thanks to my recent posts about the Walum Olum, Algonkian Church History has a new set of readers. If I understand their views correctly, it appears they claim that the Lenape Indians became Christians during one of the voyages of Leif Erikson (or possibly during a visit from other Norse Greenlanders). Although the Walum Olum supports such a belief, the Walum Olum wasn't written before the 1700's so we'll have to look at other sources.

Two primary sources tell us about Lief Erikson: The Saga of Erik the Red and The Saga of the Greenlanders.

According to chapter 5 of The Saga of Erik the Red (see this English translation) Leif Erikson was sent by Norway's King Olaf to take Christianity to Greenland. Later, in chapter 11, the Greenlanders come upon people paddling "hide-canoes." It strikes me that these people are much more likely to have been Inuit [Eskimos] than Lenape. And nowhere is it claimed that issues of religion were discussed.

I wasn't able to find a translation of The Saga of the Greenlanders on the web. According to various sources, this saga includes some description not only of Leif Erikson's voyages, but also those of his two brothers, his sister, and a man named Thorfinn Karlsefni. I have not found any discussion of The Saga of the Greenlanders which claims that any of the voyages were used to bring Christianity to the Native Americans, instead I'll wait for my readers to contribute that evidence.

It seems so far that the evidence for Christianity on Turtle Island in "pre-Columbian" times is rather flimsy. Using the two sagas as their guides, scholars have tried their best to identify the location of the Viking settlement known as Vinland, but, according to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography,

It must be said that both sagas are too vague, too confused, and too brief in their accounts of the course followed by the Icelanders to Vinland, of the geographical and topographical features, of the flora and fauna, and so on, to enable positive identification. Even the passage in the Saga of the Greenlanders on the length of day in Vinland, which at first sight would seem very helpful, has proved a broken reed. Its interpretation involves highly technical definitions and astronomical calculations, leading to such great diversity of opinion that, on the basis of the passage, Vinland has been located as far north as 58°26´N and as far south as 31°N, or even Florida. Each scholar has had to juggle the narratives, assume copyists’ errors, supply missing details, and so on, in order to make his favourite locality fit the meagre details the sagas provide. By such means Vinland has been located as far south as Florida, as far north as Hudson Bay (where the climate is assumed without evidence to have been much warmer in the year 1000 than at present) and as far inland as the Great Lakes. Helge Ingstad has even suggested that there existed a North and South Vinland, the latter on the New England coast and the former in Newfoundland.
So without knowing where Vinland was, I think it would be difficult to claim that a particular tribe or Native nation was brought to the Christian religion by Norwegian explorers.


Myron said...

You wrote "…so we'll have to look at other sources."

The largest collection of "other sources" is found when you Google "Lenape Epic" then click on "Lenape Epic Lenape Migration," Select "Topics" from the right column and then scroll down to click on "Selected Bibliography".

There are 185 selected books listed as sources.

You will notice that the Walam Olum name appears only once. I started out trying to figure out where the 4,000 Norse people went when they "vanished." Years later I found the Walam Olum. Then I found:

1994 “Unmasking the Walam Olum,” Bulletin of The Archaeological Society of New Jersey, No 49 & 50, The Archaeological Society of New Jersey, South Orange, New Jersey.

David proclaimed the Walam Olum a hoax, like most other quick study writers. David, apparently, started his research to "prove" the Walam Olum was a hoax.

He collected much good evidence, which strongly supported my suspicions that the Norse speaking people from Greenland walked "out." They walked over the ice of Davis Strait to get to James Bay, CA in one winter! They had to--to survive.

David concluded the evidence supported his goal and published before his thesis committee met. His degree, which he had to sue to get, was delayed 10 years. The unsung hero in all of this is the Rutger's advisor, who understood what academic scholarship really is and who acted on his understanding.

It appears that you and I started on oppose ends of the "snake." I am pleased to have found your end.

Jeff Siemers said...

Thanks for your comment Myron.

So the belief of your small group is that the Lenape are descendents of the Norse Greenlanders. Is that correct?

Myron said...


The Maalan Aarun (Engraved Years, a.k.a Walam Olum) is the Lenape Genesis and history of the Lenape Migration.

The Lenape Genesis was created in James Bay, Canada, 500 years before Genesis in the King James Bible, by Roman Catholic Bishop Eric Gnuppson, who spoke a Language he called Lenape and we call Oldf Norse.

Bishop Gnuppson used a pictograph and stanza medium for communication media. The pictograph and stanza medium may have been developed during the copper trade era 4200 to 3200 years ago. The medium enables communication to a receiver across long distances and over a long time span. (We qualify.)

The media is self validating. The media enables the receiver to verify and, if necessary, correct every syllable. The key element in the media is the rigid requirement that the Stanza maker include an aliteration and a rhyme (Drottkvaett) within every six (or seven) syllables.

But the the sender and receiver must speak the same language and know each other's idioms because repeated paraphrasing is allowed. (i.e. a "black bird" may might be understood to mean those "warriors slain on a battlefield.")

The first Lenape historian (c1350), who may have carried his paper Latin notes across the ice from Greenland, may have chosen the Drottkvaett medium because he wisely decided the pictograph and stanza medium would outlast his dwindling paper supply.

Steve Comer said...

Dear Sir,

I have just read your remarks concerning the coming of Christian-ity to the Lenape Indians by Vikings, circa 1000 AD, and i find it very interesting.

You make some broad statements on this subject but without specific references to confirm them.

As a Mohican Indian with Lenape blood and graduate level work on Mohican Studies, i find myself sceptical of your conclusions.

There is no evidence of a European genesis of Christianity before the early 16th century. No one walks over hundreds of miles of glaciers: by observing one it can be seen that their surfaces would be far too difficult to navigate and there would be nothing to eat, no wood for shelter and fire, and no place to rest.

The Siberian route to the New World is only viable because there was at one time an ice-free corridor to allow it. It's true that there is evidence for Viking occupation of what is now Canada, but there are no references to the spread of Christianity by those settlers.

The Lenape people are documented by archeology and linguistics to have originated somewhere on the eastern shores of Georgian Bay, Canada. You repudiate Oestreich-er's evidence without explaining how it is false, yet you do not give evidence for your own theories.

All the evidence that can be documented says that all Native people, including the nonIndian Aleut and Inuit, originated from what is today Siberia.

I wish you a happy holiday,

Steve Comer

Myron said...

Hi, Steve,

Envision that we are sitting on a log in a forest. We have just met after coming to this place by different paths. My hope is that our conversion were entice us to walk on down the trail together.

You wrote "You make some broad statements on this subject but without specific references to confirm them."

I started on my "path" over a decade ago. My "back pack" has grown much too full to lay out in someone else's blog. Along the way I wrote two books [Frozen Trail to Merica: Talerman and Walking to Merica to illustrate that walking over the ice from Greenland to America was not only humanly possible, it was the only way the Norse speaking people, who called themselves Lenape, [abide with the pure] could save themselves.

I presented papers at five out of six Conferences on Ancient America. Most of them are on the internet. I have three papers in the Diffusion and Migration collection in Vienna, Austria. They can be downloaded from the site. I have presented this topic during three consecutive Norway Day events in San Francisco.

I have maintained a web site [Frozen Trail to Merica] since 2006, I am now paying thousands of dollars to have a professional web master revise the site. I show the deciphering details of 12 stanza's there. I have started my own blog [Lenape Epic, Lenape Migration.] The blog has my full biography and a bibliography referring to 185 selected references. The blog also has a compilation of the evidence I collected during my research.

I would prefer to converse about Jeff's Blog.

You wrote: "There is no evidence of a European genesis of Christianity before the early 16th century."

I have a lot of evidence in the back pack, but the key evidence is the Norwegian history books telling of Roman Catholic Bishop Eric Gnuppson coming to America in 1121.

Bishop Gnuppson created the first two chapters of the Maalan Aarum (Engraved years, a.k.a. Walam Olum). Those two chapters are similar to the first eight chapters of the King James Bible, which came 500 years later. There is evidence in the back pack that the Americans of that time used a transcontinental waterway from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.

I have the paradigm that the Leanpe had more than one set of the Maalan Aarum the young men went on their quests by canoe all over the area beaten the Mississippi and the Atlantic Coast. Their gifts to their hosts might have been a set of pictographs and the stanzas to go with them.

I believe the people of America knew and followed Christ's ethics centuries before the Roman Catholic priest could quell their "Barbarians" [their written words] in England.

Have a Merry Christmas


Anonymous said...

As far as I know, the Delaware were first exposed to Christianity by the 17th century Swedish settlers in what is now New Jersey and Delaware and Pennsylvania. I have never heard of Walam Olum.

Jeff Siemers said...

Hi Anonymous.

What you just said is the conventional wisdom.

People like Steve and I are going a little beyond that and saying that there is some evidence that a few pre-Columbian whites made it to Turtle Island and may have brought about very small changes in Algonkian culture when they did.

On the other hand, Myron and his group and making an argument - based entirely on the Walum Olum - that the Delaware/Lenape Indians have been faithful Christians since about 1100.

If you read my earlier post, you know that the Walum Olum wasn't written until the 1700's, so it could not possibly prove Myron's point. I have avoided saying that plainly until now, but I realize that it needed to be clarified.


Myron said...

I never heard of the Walam Olum myself until about ten years ago, when I was 67 years old. I had been reading history for 57 years. I was stunned that the Walam Olum had existed for nearly two centuries and I had not heard of it.

The “Swedes” you mention were people from Finn Mark. We call them “Laplanders” now. They have at least 19 artifacts and social traditions similar to the Lenape in America. When the Finn Mark men landed in America, they could speak the language. American girls liked what they saw. Marriage and social interaction quickly followed.

When the English took control they, the English, could tell the people in England that the Christianity came from the “Swedes.” The Lenape may have been the bible school teachers.

The English wanted to suppress the knowledge that the Lenape were Christians because the English in America were scamming the English in England. The English investors had advertised that they were sailing to America to “trade and convert.” The English in England at that time were eager to support religious missions and to make a pounds (of silver) by trading.

When the English in America, realized that the Lenape were not only Christians but were sitting on the ground the English wanted, they solved the problem by 1) suppressing the knowledge of Lenape Christianity back in England and 2) enslaving the Lenape to grow the crop (tobacco) which earned the pounds for the English investors. In other woods the English in America took by force the land and the freedom of the Christian people who had lived on the land.

A high percentage the English had Norse heritage. So the name “Lenape” may have been understood by some English people in America to mean “abide with the pure.” Enslaving people who "abide with the pure" may have created some qualms.

The suppressors tried to solve that unease by calling all Lenape “Delaware.” “Delaware” were the bastard children of the English men working for Lord de la Warr III. These men waged a three-year war of extermination from 1610 to1613. They killed or drove off the Lenape men. They enslaved the women. Twenty years later the Delaware name was useful to imply that all the Lenape were Delaware pagans, who were, naturally, filled with unrelenting hatred.

In fact the English in America made laws that the Lenape were heathen and could not be converted. These laws made it easier to drive off Lenape or to shoot the Lenape men and rape the Lenape women if they did not leave.

By this time the persistent malaria, brought to America by the English, had devastated the Lenape in the south so bad that they were not useful as slaves. Driving the Lenape away so the English could gain the land was all that the English wanted.

The reason why you may not have heard any, or none, of this information is because from 1610 to 1775 the English historians in America suppressed the information to convince the people in England that the “Trade and Convert” missions were on track—except the “savages,” which the English in America had created, were too hard to convert.

Myron said...


What an interesting conversation!

We should discuss a statements from your last comment.

You wrote:
“based entirely on the Walum Olum.”

At least you did not quote me out of context. I never said that.

At Wilmington, Ohio at the Ancient American Conference, Oct. 5-7 2007, I presented a paper entitled DECIPHERMENT OF WALAM OLUM.

My conclusions were:
1. The WALAM OLUM has a GREENLAND chapter
2. WALAM OLUM was created by people who spoke OLD NORSE
3. The ALGONQUIN languages are dialects of OLD NORSE
4. NORSE artifacts are in context within ALGONQUIN territory

Conclusion 3 was based on my use of Reider T. Sherwin’s eight volumes, 1940-56. These volumes contain over 30,000 Lenape, words with meanings and over 15,000 modern Old Norse words with modern meanings. I used Sherwin’s comparisons to decipher 100 phrases of the Walam Olum sounds, in order, to show that it could be done.

You may Google Frozen Trail to Merica > Historical > Maalan Aarum icon to see the twelve deciphered stanzas and click on them to see the decipherment process.

My ability to do the decipherment of each phrase in order is very strong evidence that Sherwin was correct in writing that the “Algonquin (Lenape) is Old Norse” (conclusion 3). Sherwin wrote that statement in the foreword of volume 4 of the Viking and the Red Man. Also decipherment indicated that the Walam Olum was created by people who spoke Old North. (Conclusion 2)

In the decipherment there are 100 references to Old Norse words found in Sherwin’s volumes.

My use of Sherwin as a main reference source and your statement “based entirely on the Walum Olum” are not compatible.

Unless you can provide evidence that those 100 Sherwin references do not exist, I suggest that you should apologize to Anomalous for your lapse in scholarship procedure.

[For what it is worth, I admire your scholarship procedure most of the time.]

Jeff Siemers said...

OK Myron,
I'll retract my statement about how you're basing your argunment entirely on the Walum Olum. However, you do seem to lean on it quite a bit and I also question your expertise in linguistics which you seem to put an awful lot of weight on. Anyway, thanks for your contributions.

Myron said...


Now let us talk about the other statement in your recent comment, “…the Walum Olum wasn't written until the 1700's,”

I cannot argue about the “written” word because I have not researched where possible scraps of paper were, or when in pre-history America.

My statement is: the Maalan Aarum was prepared using a standard ORAL medium called the Drottkvaett format today. The beginning of the Maalan Aarum was “CREATED” as ORAL stanzas 880 years ago by a stanza maker, who used the Drottkvaett format. The stanza maker keyed his stanza to a pictograph drawn on small sticks.

The ability of the stanza ORAL medium with pictograph keys to retain accurate memory of past events over long distances and through long time spans could be a topic for a Ph. D. thesis. The Maalan Aarum has already passed through nearly 900 years, and over 4,000 miles. But we have know the language, which is Lenape/Old Norse. That is why Reider T. Sherwin is so valuable. He did the “heavy lifting” a half century ago.

The Maalan Aarum is an account of Genesis composted sometime after 1121 and then the events of the Lenape past during 235 years, from leaving Greenland until the last stanza maker died in 1585 during the Second English voyage to America.

The Maalan Aarum stanzas describe in the proper sequence in the known time line and the proper order of geographical locations the past events. Other authors have written many descriptions of those past events.

I had written a long list of pre-history and historical events that are known without the Maalan Aarum required. The confirmation of those events within the Maalan Aarum record makes the accuracy of the Maalan Aarum valuable for events not accepted in Europe. i.e. the report by J. Kr. Tornoe that Pining-Pothorst (Norwegians) sailed along the American coast for two years in 1472-73. The Maalan Aarum has a stanza for that event.

But the list looked too boring to me. You can find most of it by looking at Lenape Epic, Lenape Migration. If you really want to see the list, send me your email address and I will reply with the information.

The past events of the Maalan Aarum can best be explained by the paradigm that the designated stanza maker on site created another ORAL stanza soon after an event occurred. Because many of the events occurred before the crossing of the Mississippi in c1445, the ORAL CREATION of the stanza must have occurred long ago; 880 years ago for Genesis and 660 years ago for the start of the migration.