Thomas Jefferson Papers

Peter S. Du Ponceau to Thomas Jefferson, 12 September 1820

From Peter S. Du Ponceau

Philada 12th Sepr 1820

Dear Sir

The Vocabulary of the Nottoway language which you have had the goodness to send to me, has only encreased my thirst for more. There are, you Say, yet in Virginia remnants of the Mattaponey & Pamunkey Tribes—If vocabularies of those could be obtained, it might lead to interesting results. The Nottoways, I have no doubt, were the ancient Tuscaroras, who the two others were, remains to be discovered. The principal Indian population must have been Delaware or Algonkin—Yet there were other Savage nations, particularly the Hurons or Wyandots. For in Burkes History of Virginia, we find mention made of an Indian Idol called Oki; now Oki in Wyandot means a “Spirit,” & the word is found in no other Indian language that I know of.

It appears to me that the Algonkins or Delawares inhabited all the Country between Canada & Carolina, the Iroquois had their Chief Settlements on the great Lakes, yet, like the Modern New Englanders, they were found every where; their alliance with the English gave them a Superiority & ascendancy over the rest, to which their numbers did not entitle them. If thr[o]’ some of your inquisitive Country men, other Vocabularies of the Virginia Indian languages could be obtained, I think it might lead to interesting Conclusions.

I regret that Professor Wilson did not ask for the true national name of your Nottaways, for Nottaway, it seems, or Naudowassie, is a Name which the Algonkins gave to other Nations differing from themselves, much as the Turks call all the Europeans Franks & as we call all the Mahometans Turks—The name of the Nottaways in Nottaway, Seems yet to be known.

Mr Pickering, of Salem, has made a Communication to the American Academy of Boston, in which he proposes an uniform Orthography for Indian Words. I have the honor of enclosing a Copy of it for your Acceptance.

I have the honor to be With the highest Veneration & respect Sir Your most obedient humble servant

Peter S, Du Ponceau

RC (DLC); edge chipped; at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson, Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Sept. 1820 and so recorded in SJL. FC (PPAmP: APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends Historical and Literary Committee Letterbook). Enclosure: John Pickering, An Essay on a Uniform Orthography for the Indian Languages of North America, as published in the Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Cambridge, Mass., 1820), or an earlier printing of this work.

Index Entries

  • Algonquian Indians search
  • An Essay on a Uniform Orthography for the Indian Languages of North America (J. Pickering) search
  • books; on history search
  • books; on spelling search
  • Burk, John Daly; The History of Virginia search
  • Delaware Indians search
  • Du Ponceau, Peter Stephen; and Indians search
  • Du Ponceau, Peter Stephen; letters from search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; and J. D. Burk’sHistory of Virginia search
  • Huron Indians search
  • Indians, American; Algonquian search
  • Indians, American; Delaware search
  • Indians, American; Huron search
  • Indians, American; in Va. search
  • Indians, American; Iroquois search
  • Indians, American; languages search
  • Indians, American; Mattaponi search
  • Indians, American; Nottoway search
  • Indians, American; Pamunkey search
  • Indians, American; Tuscarora search
  • Indians, American; Wyandot search
  • Iroquois Indians search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; sends manuscripts search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jones, Skelton; and J. D. Burk’sHistory of Virginia search
  • language; Indian (American) search
  • Mattaponi Indians search
  • Nottoway Indians search
  • Pamunkey Indians search
  • Pickering, John (1777–1846); An Essay on a Uniform Orthography for the Indian Languages of North America search
  • The History of Virginia (J. D. Burk, S. Jones, and L. H. Girardin); and Indians search
  • Tuscarora Indians search
  • Virginia; Indians in search
  • Wilson, Peter; linguistic studies of search
  • Wyandot Indians search