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Excellent Collection of Indian Captivity Narratives
, March 4, 2003
This review is from: Captured By The Indians: 15 Firsthand Accounts, 1750-1870 (Paperback)
This is a short collection of some of the most famous Indian captivity narratives written during the late 18th and 19th centuries when warfare raged between white settlers and the native Indian inhabitants of North America. These narratives are not only interesting and entertaining as drama, but are invaluable to historians and ethnographers as they provide some of the best first-hand accounts of life among the native tribes of the United States at a time when they were being wiped out by white expansion.
These narratives show what life was like as an Indian, including all the blood and horror as well as the genuine kindness and devotion inherent in any human society. You will note that many captivity accounts were in many ways positive experiences for the captives who were adopted into a tribe and treated with the love and respect they would accord any of their own people. Such is the case with men like James Smith who spent five years living with the Ohio Indians along Lake Erie. These tales were popular in their own time for providing an entertaining escape for people who were both fearful yet fascinated by the Indians and their "savage" ways. From these accounts we learn much about Indian lifeways, food, culture, and religion. We also learn of the cruel barbarities that the Indians could inflict on their enemies, as we see in the tale of Dr. John Knight who witnessed the horrific torture and death of Col. William Crawford in 1782, or the daring escape of John Slover, who had spent many years among the Shawnee and Wyandot as a captive and who later escaped and returned to wage war against his former captors, only to be retaken after the Battle of Sandusky. A slow and terrible death awaited any escaped captive who fell back into Indian hands. But what is really interesting is the number of captives who spent many years living, happily in many cases, with the Indians, showing that they were not the totally savage heathens protrayed in many boosk and movies, but a society of human beings who could love and hate as equally as any other.
This is a valuble introduction to a fascinating genere of litereature and is an important part of history that should not be overlooked. To anyone interested in delving deeper into this subject I would also recommend checking out Archibald Loudon's "Indian Narratives" as well as "A History of Jonathan Alder".
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