August 22, 1675
Tomorrow my memory will be erased like words etched in the sand and washed away by a wave. My mind will be emptied of who I am. But at least for today I can tell you that my name is Lukas Pietersen. I’m eighteen years old and I am writing this journal for future reference. Once I imbibe the ceremonial substance, called Moon Flower, my memories will vanish.
Why would I do this? After what happened to my father, I cannot imagine living any other life than that of a warrior. The Pequawkets have offered me a chance to begin this journey and it starts with seeds from the ceremonial plant, Moon Flower.
This magical brew, administered by the Shaman, has the ability to release me into another realm, a place in the spirit world where a connection to the Great Spirit is possible. All the Pequawket warriors have taken this path.
The Shaman has warned me that most likely my memories will be lost. The effect is temporary, although there is a chance it could result in permanent memory loss.
With that in mind, the Shaman has provided a quill and paper to document what I remember about my life, while I still can. I have three days to write, before all is lost.
I wonder what my words will say to me without my recollection of the experiences behind them. Will they be just empty words? But not all memories are born from personal experiences. Some memories are shared with others, and yet still have meaning for the recipients, like the stories my father told me of his journey many years ago to the new world.
My father was a Jew. His name was Solomon Pietersen and he was born in the small town of Vilna in a faraway country called Poland. The years approaching father’s twentieth birthday saw an uprising by a military group calling themselves Cossacks, aligned with the Russian tsar. Their intention was to take power away from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This resulted in the destruction of many Jewish communities. The survivors who returned to their homes after the uprising found themselves destitute and unable to earn a living because of the government’s policies against them.
Amid these rising tensions against the Jewish people, he and his friend Asser and his cousin Jakob decided to leave their place of birth and travel to a place called The Netherlands, a country they heard was tolerant to Jews. They had no idea if they would find work, but anything would have been better than their continual oppression.
After arriving, they spent a few months trying to figure out what to do with their lives. Then destiny showed itself in a new book authored by a young Dutch attorney-turned-explorer, named Adriaen Van der Donck. Van der Donck’s book, A Description of New Netherlands, became a sensation in the Netherlands.
It was about his first-hand experiences in the New World. Wherever he explored, he documented practically every observable detail. He wrote about the various types of fish that swam in the rivers, and described the amazing and unusual wild animals, as well as the unique flowers and bountiful fruit trees.
Of great interest to these three young readers was a section describing the manners and peculiar customs of the native peoples in the New Netherlands, in particular the Algonquin speaking tribes, who were exceptionally clever at trapping a creature called a beaver.
Van der Donck wrote: “This furry animal has teeth so sharp it fells giant trees as if cut with an ax. But beware of the beaver, because if provoked they are known to bite.”
The Algonquin natives claimed that trapping the beaver offered unusual remedies. One was of taking the oil of the beaver and mixing it with honey, then rubbing it on one’s eyes to restore poor eyesight. Another useful application was administering beaver water as an antidote for poisoning. Or, for those suffering from gout, just wearing slippers made of beaver skins provided a cure.
But what was of particular interest to father and his friends was that the beaver had under its long glossy coat of fur, another layer of short, tightly packed hairs. This layer could be processed into a rainproof felt that happened to be perfect for men’s hats. Father said that the native trappers and the white man had traded thousands of beaver pelts for years. Apparently, the beaver pelt trade was a good business and to these twenty-year-old men, looking for a direction with their lives, it seemed an excellent reason to emigrate to the New World.
On April 12th, 1654, my father Solomon Pietersen, his first cousin Jakob Barsimon and their childhood friend Asser Levy, set sail on the Peereboom from the Port of Amsterdam to the New World, known as New Amsterdam.
Their journey took them through the stormy waters of the North Sea and out into the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. Father told me about the mighty sails that towered into the sky.
“There was nothing more magnificent, when the first breath of wind engaged the limp canvas sails. The ship was transformed from a slow wood-like cradle bobbing like a toy boat in a bathing tub, into an immense sea creature, skimming across the ocean’s surface at speeds even the birds had trouble keeping up with,” he marveled.
The Dutch West India Company, a semiprivate corporation somehow connected with the Dutch government, operated the Peereboom, as well as a fleet of other ships full of men seeking their fortunes. They transported various goods: slaves from Africa, sugar from Brazil, salt from the Caribbean and furs from the New Netherlands across the great ocean. It was known as the Colombian Exchange, named after the great explorer Christopher Columbus who had discovered the New World more than 175 years earlier.
After nearly a month at sea, the Peereboom entered New Amsterdam harbor. Father naïvely thought that the campfires illuminating the docks were there to celebrate their arrival; instead they were lit to celebrate the ending of the Anglo-Dutch War. But that didn’t matter. These were prosperous times for the Dutch and exciting times for Father and his friends.
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