I had never known that Swedes had contact with colonial languages until I read The History of Linguistics in the Nordic Countries by Even Hovdhaugen et al. (Helsinki: Societas Scientarum Fennica, 2007) The authors give the following brief account of Swedish missionary efforts among speakers of Delaware (Lenni Lenape).
The first Swedish colonists in America, many of them Finnish immigrants from Värmland, came to Delaware as early as 1538. John [Johannes Jonæ Holmensis] Campanius (1601–1683) stayed and served as a pastor in Delaware from 1643 to 1648. After returning to Sweden, Campanius finished the manuscript of a Delaware catechism in 1656, but by this time a Swedish colony no longer existed in Delaware. Long after his death, Campanius’s grandson, Thomas Campanius Holm, as well as others who planned missionary work among the Delawares, had the Delaware catechism published in 1696, and 600 copies were printed and brought to the Delaware Indians. The article on Campanius in the Swedish Biographical Lexicon (Svenskt Biografiskt lexicon VII:1927 p.262), contains the following informative passage:
The Swedes there, who now knew the language of the Indians as well as their own, read from the catechism to the Indians, and “a number of them observed carefully what was written”. They even asked a Swede, Karl Springer, to teach their children.
This is especially interesting in the light of Holmer’s analysis of Campanius’s Catechism (1946b), in which he convincingly shows that Campanius only had a very rudimentary knowledge of Delaware and furthermore that he had no understanding of the very complicated morphology of this Algonquian language. For instance, he never used plural forms, and he adopted very unidiomatic independent pronouns instead of pronominal suffixes, which he had not observed. Accordingly, he used nux ‘my-father’ (cf. n- ‘my’, ux ‘father’) as the word for ‘father’ and when he wanted to express the sentence ‘honor thy father’, he wrote the equivalent of ‘honor thy my-father’ which may have been unintelligible for the natives. Similarly he used mpa ‘I come’ (cf. m- ‘I’, pa ‘come’) also for ‘thou come(st)’, which is kpa (cf. k- ‘thou’) in Delaware. The syntax was worse. Sometimes Campanius even resorted to desperate devices like introducing the Swedish genitive -s into Delaware.
Holmer is right when he stated that this translation was unintelligible to a native speaker of Delaware. But actually it was not Delaware at all, but a kind of Delaware-based pidgin that had already developed through contact with Europeans (mainly Dutch colonists) before the Swedes arrived. In this respect, Campanius’s catechism may be a very valuable document for linguistics, since it would be the only record of this language.
Campanius’s grandson published an account of the Swedish colony in Delaware (T. Campanius Holm 1702), which was influential and widely read in Sweden. The book contained extensive material, word lists and short phrases as well as a dialogue, mainly based on his grandfather’s work. He also tried to prove the hypothesis going back to Governor William Penn that the Delaware Indians are one of the ten lost tribes of Israel and accordingly that their language is related to Hebrew. To prove this Holm provided about twenty etymologies of very questionable quality (T. Campanius Holm 1702:115-120).