History of Maalan Aarum
(Walam Olum)

Pictographs and Verses
John Killbuck, Jr.
C. A. Weslager

Unmasking W.O.

Hoax Rebuttal

Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) Pictographs


Paraphrase of Old Norse
Click on verse for decipherment

3.1 Mound Land
When the waves were calm
in the land they left,
the decent people
lived together there
in strong hollow houses
with thick roofs

3.2 Freezing

They lived where it snowed.
They lived where it stormed.
They lived where it was always winter.

3.3 Dream

While still in their cold land
They remembered longingly
the mild weather,
the many deer,
and also foxes


3.4 Split

The poor, lonely, but tough men
became hunters and
left those living
in strong houses.

3.5 Mighty Hunters

Separated from home
like breasts on the same body
the hunters became tougher
extremely good and
they reached for the sky.

3.6 Explored All

The hunters camped
in the north, east,
south and west.


3.7 Mound Man

The man, who ruled
in that old, northern land
that they all left,
was baptized to be pure.

3.8 Soccers
The discouraged people
were worried about
worn out land
they had to abandon.
The priest said,
"We decent people
should go somewhere else."

3.9 Akomen

The common people
in the east stole away
the brothers
abandoned all
with great discouragement
and again discouragement

3.10 Driven


In a short while
the weeping, weak, dirty.
needy (people from)
the burnt land
saved themselves and
rested on the other side

(Land of Haakon's men, where Men = People)
3.11 Free Men
After moving down
from the snowy land
and discreetly leaving
the cousins separated
through out all the land
3.12 Open Water

Where there was little
pack ice in heaped ice
with a lot of snow drifts,
the white geese ruled
and the white bear ruled

3.13 Rich Father
Floating up the streams
in their canoes,
our fathers were rich.
They were in the light
when they were at these Islands.

"Head Beaver and Big Bird
said 'Let us go to Akomen'"

3.15 All Will Go

All say they will go along,
All who are free to go.

3.16North East

Those of the north agreed.
Those of the east agreed.
Over the waters
Over the frozen sea
They went to enjoy it


3.17 Stone hard

On the wonderful slippery water,
On the stone hard water, all went
On the great tidal sea,
Over the [puckered pack ice]

3.18 Big Mob

[I tell you it was a big mob]
In the darkness,
all in one darkness
To Akomen, to the [west],
In the darkness
They walk and walk,
all of them

3.19 men

The men from the north,
the east, the south,
The eagle clan, the beaver clan
the wolf clan,
The best men, the rich men,
the head men
Those with wives,
Those with daughters,
Those with dogs

3.20 They All Come

They all come.
They tarry at the land
Of the spruce pines,
Those from the east
Some with hesitation.
Esteeming highly their
Old home at the mound land


Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum)

The words "Walam Olum" are derived from "Maalan Aarum", which means, "engraved years" (Sherwin, 1940)

The Maalan Aarum is a manuscript of pictographs and verses first published in 1836 by Rafinesque. Rafinesque had earned a reputation of exagerating botanitcal data to enhance his stature with scientific peers. Now, some botanists admit that he was a man "ahead of his peers." They write that many of the botanical concepts that Rafinesque advocated have become standard practice today. The Kentucky region of Rafinesque's time was still an instable frontier. There an academic was often respected for his superior knowledge, but hypotheses that did not affect the daily struggle were often ridiculed.

Rafinesque claimed the original pictographs, on bark, were given to a white doctor by an old Leni Lenape historian. When Rafinesque got the bark pictographs from the doctor in 1821 he was told they were memory devices for verses of a song. (Brinton, 1885)

Rafinesque found another Lenape Historian who could say, in Lenape, the verses for the pictographs. A Monrovian Pastor who could speak Lenape recorded the sounds onto paper. The recorder also translated an English version of the verses. Then, over many years, Rafinesque edited the written Lenape sounds using the English translation and other sources of Lenape words.. (Brinton, 1885) Some of the Lenape accept the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum). Other Delaware tribes are adamant that the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) is a white man's hoax. (Oestreicher, 1994)

The Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) has six chapters. The first chapter is a creation story. The second chapter is a story of a flood. The third chapter is a story of migration across ice. The fourth and fifth chapters are genealogies of the leading chiefs, with an occasional mention of a place or event.

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Many people, including those claiming the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) is a hoax, assume the fourth and fifth chapters represent a serial progression of chiefs. But chapters four and five start at similar times and progress through similar major events in the same order. So people in two different tribes of Lenape may have composed separate pictograms and verses for chapters four and five.

The pictographs for the sixth chapter were retained by other Lenape historians. The sixth chapter chronicals the events of the Lenape from the time of the European arrival until they went through the chaos time in Indiana about 1820. A few writers, who have studied the sixth chapter, have the opinion that the recorded events are authentic. Critics wrote that any school boy, who had history books available, could have created the sixth chapter of the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum)

Still the pictographs and associated verses are difficult to create from imagination alone. One thing is impressive: Based on the pictographs and their accompanying verses, the creator of chapter 3 knew about events in Greenland from 1000 to 1348. In chapter 3, verses 1-6 describe the houses of Greenland and the division of the men into either homebuilders or hunters. Verses 7-10 describe the flight of the Greenland Odin followers from the imposed Christian religion. Verses 11-13 describe the rich land found by the Odin followers and the hunters in Akomen. Verses 14-20 describe a migration across ice.

A more powerful reason to that believe the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) is a history of Greenland, is because the Maalan Aarum is understandable by using Old Norse words and phrases. Greenland was occupied by the Old Norse until 1342 when the Old Norse settlements "vanished."

Reider T. Sherwin's epic eight volumes of The Viking and the Red Man, 1940-1954 has over 15,000 comparisons of Algonquin and Old Norse phrases. In December, 2006 a systematic comparison of the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) words to 19th century Algonquin words and the corresponding Old Norse phrases revealed that every Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) word could be deciphered into Old Norse. Often the Old Norse translation back to English appeared to be more resonable than the original, edited English translation.

Because The Viking and the Red Man can decipher almost every word of the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) into Old Norse, this strong evidence indicates that:

the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) is an authentic historical document.

the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) was created by people who spoke Old Norse, and

the 31 major tribes peaking Algonquin dialects had (have) Old Norse ancestors.

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of The Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum)
How was the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) message converted to English?

The best written record, made in 1898, tells us that an old Lenape man, who knew the words associated with the pictographs, recited the story to a Moravian priest some time after 1821. The priest recorded the sounds he heard into English letters. Then Mr. Rafinesque spent years trying to understand the language before he edited and published the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) in 1836.

Creating a mental picture of these episodes is difficult. The Lenape Historian and the Moravian Recorder must have interacted through out several weeks. Their interaction may have occurred a few years after the chaotic period in the Lenape tribe that resulted in the giving of the pictographs to Dr. Ward. The Historian and Recorder must have had a mutually trustful relationship and circumstances to enable a prolonged verbal exchange.

There must have been some complications. The Historian knew the verses for each pictograph, so he may have learned the verses in his own preparation to be a Historian. The verses he learned must have been passed from mind to mouth to mind through more than 16 generations. He may have spoken most of the words in the language of the 1800's, but some words may have been recited from memory. A Lenape about seventy (70) years later said that he recognized most of the words except for those words spoken in a dialect. So most of the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) words must have been in common use during the 1800s.

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The Historian and the Recorder must have had difficulty transmitting the sounds. In a few verses two words meaning the same thing were spelled differently. A prefix was added to the previous word as a suffix. A simple conjunction sound was split. Over and over Old Norse phrases were written as one Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) word. Yet Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) words having comparable Algonquin words were divided, making their recognition more difficult to a later Algonquin reader.

The meanings of some words must have changed during the generations of memory recitation. Some syllables of the original words slipped away. Some of the ancient words appear to have been memorized with unknown syllables retained. The original Old Norse words contain the unknown syllables, which were not used in Algonquin speech of the 1800s. So far there has not been an occurance where the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) words had more symbols than the Old Norse phrase. Thus, Old Norse appears to be the orininating language.

The Historian may have given words the meaning based on similar concurrent words in his 1800s language. A few of the words may have been explained incorrectly. But the Editor, who did not speak the Algonquin language, may have caused more confusion in the original English translation. The Editior revised the English and may have changed a few Algonquin words to make the Walan Olum conform more to his viewpoint.

The Editor had learned of the Turtle myths of several tribes. He impressed the "turtle" name unto a word meaning, "deserted" or "solitude." In two verses the Editor apparently changed the Algonquin word "west," to "east" so the travels in the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) matched the Editor's very strong belief that the Algonquins migrated from the west to the east. Directions cited in a subsequent verse indicate that the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) people left the North, East, and South to travel to the West.

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A major Editorial substitution was for the word "Akomen." The Editor apparently chose to compare "Ako" with the "askook" word used by some Algonquins to describe snakes. The Old Norse word "skakk" means slanted (compare to modern English "askew"). The Algonquins, speaking Old Norse, often named animals for their behavior. Snakes traveled "askew." So snakes were named "askook," The Editor used the askook association to write, in English, "Snake land" for the Akomen word.

But in the 1700s there were "Accu" place names in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Delaware. Associated with those names were tribes named, by the French, "Nauset" A good hypothesis is that "Akomen" was a valid name for Northeast America. A strait near Scotland was named for King Haakon Haakon IV of Norway when his fleet just sailed ttrough. Northeast America may have been named for King Haakon about 1260 when he was the commander of the best (and largest) navy in the world.

So the Editor translated "turtles and snakes" where there were none and slipped in "to the east" phrases in Algonquin instead of "to the west." These Editorial changes caused disbelief among Lenape who had memories of migrating to the west. Many Lenape readers believed that the English version of their history was really a "white man's creation."

Other translation errors are harder to trace to the recording phase or the editing phase. An English phrase for a Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) "word" was left out. Was the omission an honest mistake or was it edited out because the phrase was not believable to the Editor? There appears to be a morphing of "l," "n," and "a" sounds. Did the morphing occur during the generations of memory transmission or during the recording session when the Moravian priest may not have heard the exact sounds spoken by the Algonquin Historian?

Almost every word of the Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum) can be deciphered by using Reider T. Sherwin's eight volumes of The Viking and the Red Man. During the decipherment the inconsistencies discovered are consistent with a history spoken in Old Norse, transmitted by memory through more than 16 generations, recorded by a Moravian priest listening to an Algonquin Historian and Edited by a man with strong beliefs which were not correct.

This remarkable history deserves recognition in North America.


Probable History of Leni Lenape Historian

Why would a Lenape historian pass his bundle of memory sticks to a white doctor?

Consider the Lenape historian, John Killbuck, Jr. He was called, by Americans, "leader." His Algonquin name meant "The speaker of the people." He had a direct relationship to Sossoonan, the only Lenape historian we know. Because of that direct relationship, there is a good chance that he was carrying the history memory sticks. His close associate during the revolutionary war was the well-respected chief, White-Eyes.

White-Eyes guided the Americans toward Detroit. But his death has been recorded as "murder" rather than "died fighting."

Killbuck Jr., like his father, opposed the Moravians. But he did favor good relations with the Americans even after the "murder" of White Eyes. Most of the other Lenape sided with England. So Killbuck and a few Lenape warriors went to Fort Pitt for their own safety.

Later Killbuck Jr. helped the Americans over run the Lenape town of Coshocton. The Americans burned most of the Lenape villages, except for the Christian Lenape towns. A few months later the white settlers of western Pennsylvania burned the Christian Lenape towns and massacred ninety Christian Lenape. Most of the surviving Lenape hated the Americans and the God that came with them. Unfortunately Killbuck Jr. was with the Americans.

The Americans won the war. Killbuck Jr. was imposed upon the Lenape as one of three chiefs favored by the Americans. But Killbuck Jr. could not regain respect from the Lenape. Later, In 1795, he did not represent the Lenape at a treaty after the Indians lost the battle of Fallen Timbers. The treaty forced the Lenape into yet another move, this time into Indiana. At first they roamed as scattered villages. Then about nine villages came together on the White River in Indiana.

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There "an almost insane belief in witchcraft spread throughout the tribe resulting in the execution of men and women accused of being witches ..." (Weslager. 1978). A leading chief was struck on the head with a tomahawk swung by his own son. The chief was thrown, yet alive, into a roaring fire. Another chief barely escaped because his friends convinced the other Lenape that he was not a witch. Hated Killbuck Jr. must have walked and talked with great care.

In 1817-18 the Americans were once again forcing the Lenape to move, this time west across the Mississippi.

John Killbuck, Jr.'s situation was distressing, He was receiving some treatment from Americans, hated by most Lenape, living in a chaotic community overwhelmed with drunkenness, fearful of being executed as a witch, faced with another disruptive move, and death was coming soon. John Killbuck Jr. might have decided to pass the history memory sticks to the white doctor who would not execute him as a witch and who reduced his pain.

Comment: The Lenape of 1818-1820 were not a receptive audience for the ancient story of their ancestors coming from the Eastern Sea. Killbuck Jr., or someone who lived through a similar ordeal, may have gone to his grave believing the memory sticks were better off in a respected white doctor's hands than in the violent hands of his drunken, insane descendants.

Perhaps they were.

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The Leni Lenape told translators that the words meant, "real men". "Leni" is derived from the Old Norse word, "hreina," which means, "pure or decent." "Ape" is derived from the Old Norse words, "aa byy" which means, "to dwell in a place." So "Lenape" means, "decent place" and "Leni Lenape" means, "pure (men) from a decent place." (Sherwin, 1940)

Comment: The "pure (men) from a decent place" may have come from a real decent place, Hreinsey, in Greenland ("sey" means, island), which was named by the Vikings a millennium ago. There is a very strong possibility that Einarsfjord known in the 1300s may have originally been named "Hrein Fjord." The people who were from "Hrein Fjord" may have said they were people who "Hrein aa-bye."

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Accept Maalan Aarum (Walam Olum)

C. A. Weslager, the author of the book, The Delaware Indians, a History, 1972 wrote on page 85 and following:

"... After having spent many years reconstructing the history of the Delawares after AD 1600, I am much impressed with the content of the twenty additional verses which Rafinesque said were translated by John Burns and which he appended to the Walam Olum text. Brinton did not publish these verses, assuming that they had no historic value, but he was unaware that they included the names of a number of Delaware Sachems, all of whom can now be positively identified, and that they describe incidents for which there is now supporting historical documentation. In my judgement, the information in these twenty verses could only have been obtained from native sources..."

"... the twenty additional verses are patently authentic."

"Another criticism that has been offered is that the Delaware words in the native verses may be found in spelling books, dictionaries, and other works of the Moravians available to Rafinesque and that he composed the verses himself by simply coping the words, with their English translations, and stringing them together. This is so obvious that it immediately occurred to Dr. Brinton, who found examples in Rafinesque's text to convince himself, at least, that this was not the case."

"In an appendix to a monograph published in 1945, after recounting his interviews with the old chief [Montour] he [Dr. Speck] wrote:

'I have no hesitation in affirming the authenticity of the Walam Olum .'"

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