Sara Kiersted – Interpreter for Lenape Chief

Sara Kiersted (dates unknown)

Jersey gem: Interpreted for Jersey-based tribe

A seventeenth-century Dutch woman from New Netherland, Sara Kiersted, served as confidante and interpreter for the great Lenape Chief Oratam. She played an instrumental role in the adjudication of disputes and treaty negotiations that occurred during the years of the Dutch invasion and settlement in areas around present-day Manhattan. Little information has been recorded of Kiersted’s desire to learn the Lenape language and the circumstances that led her to assist Lenape Chief Oratam.

The Chief depended on Kiersted’s knowledge and integrity for he could neither read nor write, which was true for most American Indians at the time. Although it is unclear how many years Kiersted devoted to helping Oratam and the Lenapes, she did receive 2,260 acres of land in 1666 from the Chief as a token of his gratitude.

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