She served as confidante and interpreter for the great Lenape Chief Oratam. She also 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 because he could not read or write. This was the case 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.
This painting of Sarah Kiersted was created by Howard McCormick in 1936 under the Federal Arts Project. It is located in the Anna C. Scott School in Leonia and depicts Sarah Kiersted translating for Lenape chief Oratam.
Burstyn, Joan N. 1990. “Sarah Kiersted”. Past and Promise, Lives of New Jersey Women. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/54470321
Questions to Explore
How did Kiersted become an interpreter for the great Lenape Chief Oratam?
What are some things Kiersted did to help treaty negotiations between Chief Oratam and the settlers?
What encouraged Kiersteds interest in the Lenape language and people?
“Kiersted Sarah.” 2004. Encyclopedia of New Jersey. https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/rutgersnj/kiersted_sarah/0.