David Oestreicher

Independent Scholar

Dr. David M. Oestreicher is recognized as a leading authority on the Lenape (Delaware), our region's first inhabitants, having conducted linguistic and ethnographic research among the last tribal traditionalists for over 30 years. The late renowned elder and traditionalist Touching Leaves Woman (Nora Thompson Dean, 1907-1984) called him her "Key in the East," and she and other elders relied upon him to help preserve and disseminate knowledge of her people.

Oestreicher is curator of the award-winning traveling exhibition, In Search of the Lenape: The Delaware Indians, Past and Present, which critic William Zimmer in the New York Times described as "an extended reverie," capturing "the vitality and poignancy of the Lenape saga." Oestreicher's writings have appeared in leading scholarly journals and books, and he completed the final portion of the late Herbert C. Kraft's The Lenape-Delaware Indian Heritage: 10,000 B.C. - 2000 A.D. -- a tome subsequently hailed by scholars as the seminal work on the Lenape. Oestreicher's monograph, "The Munsee and Northern Unami Today" in The Archeology and Ethnohistory of the Lower Hudson Valley and Neighboring Regions (1991), marked the first ethnographic account of the Hudson River Lenape (now the Canadian Delaware) since the work of anthropologists M. R. Harrington (1908, 1913, 1921) and Frank G. Speck (1945). In 1995 Oestreicher attracted international attention when he provided the first conclusive evidence that the Walam Olum, long believed by many to be an authentic Lenape epic, is in fact a 19th-century hoax perpetrated by the well-known scholar and charlatan, Constantine Samuel Rafinesque. Consequently, the Archaeological Society of New Jersey received the outstanding Award for Excellence (an annual award granted for the best piece of historical writing in New Jersey) from the League of Historical Societies of New Jersey for publishing Oestreicher's "Unmasking the Walam Olum: a 19th Century Hoax." Following the publication of Oestreicher's research, the Delaware tribe of northeastern Oklahoma officially withdrew its former endorsement of the alleged ancient epic.

Oestreicher holds a master's degree in Hebraic Studies from New York University (1985), and a master's degree and doctorate in anthropology from Rutgers University (1991, 1995). He has worked as a lecturer, consultant, curator, and independent scholar.

Telephone: (914) 632-1928
Address: 235 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY  10605
Email this speaker:

This contact information is not to be used for commercial purposes.