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Date Posted: 16:17:01 04/21/06 Fri
Author: Syl
Subject: The Unredeemed Captive


This good one was sent in by Aramathea. Thanks, lass! Paralells with Ian Murray here!



TITLE: The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from
Early America

AUTHOR: John Demos

GENRE: Narrative Analysis, Mostly Non-Fiction


Those of us who have read Diana Gabaldon's later works
are no doubt curious to know more about Young Ian's
life with the Natives which he keeps so much to
himself. When the Reverend John Williams wrote in the
1700s of his family's captivity by the Mohawk, his
purpose was to share "what had passed over me and what
was to be expected." Yet there is one glaring
difference: Ian's captivity was voluntary, while the
Williams harboured the typical Colonial, and Puritan,
fear of their "heathen" neighbours.

"The Unredeemed Captive" is an examination of the
relationship between the Mohawk and the settlers of
New England, with a focus on the Kahnawake tribe and
the Williams family of Deerfield, Massachusetts.
Historian John Demos takes his inspiration from the
Reverend Williams' original autobiographical account,
first published in 1707 and entitled "The Redeemed
Captive Returning to Zion."

Because of Demos' habit of interspersing facts with mediocre passages of
fiction, we would almost wish we had the original account on hand. Yet to
our benefit he focuses primarily on Williams' daughter Eunice, who is more
of a parallel to Ian Murray than the rest of her family.

Seven-year-old Eunice was one of the youngest
among those captured when a roaming tribe of Mohawk
ransacked the small Puritan outpost of Deerfield.
Like many English children in such circumstances, she
was adopted by a family of the tribe. For some native
groups of North America it was traditional for
captives of war to take the place of recently deceased
family members through adoption, either symbolically
by torture and death or literally through ritual
adoption. Young children were the best candidates for
assimilation. By 1712, Eunice was the only Williams
remaining in captivity. Of the other children taken
from Deerfield, five of twelve remained voluntarily
within the Native village, marrying into the tribe and
becoming "fully integrated and Indianized." What made
Eunice such an interesting and unique subject for
Demos' research was her obstinate refusal to meet with
her natural family for most of her life.

Her father and siblings were anxious for Eunice's return and
numerous attempts were made to negotiate her release.
Quoting the memoirs of trader and trapper John
Schuyler, the first to encounter Eunice in her new
surroundings, we can get a true sense of the shock
which a Colonial American would have felt when faced
with the utter transformation of one of his own kind.
She was presented to him "looking very poor in body,
bashfull in the face, but proved harder than Steel in
her breast...."

It is important to stress Eunice's complete
assimilation into the Mohawk culture, and throughout
the book Demos makes reference to her appearance,
personality, and refusal to speak the English
language. While Demos chooses not to explore the
possible reasons for Eunice's unwillingness to return
to Deerfield, we can guess that she may have found
comfort in her new family, a love and acceptance based
not on her gender or religion but on who she was as a
person, the same freedoms that Young Ian felt living
amongst them.

As years stretched into decades, the
Williams family ceased to pray for their sister and
daughter's redemption. She had a new life and was
content to remain with the Mohawk, while her father
the Reverend died unreconciled. Who, we may ask, was
the true unredeemed captive?

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Replies:

[> looks interesting. dh grew up near Deerfield--there is an old kids book called Boy Captive of Old Deefield that follows a captive boy on his travels up to Quebec and finally his redemption.. -- FloraMac, 16:35:47 04/23/06 Sun

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[> I read this one a few years ago and recommended my library get it. It is an excellent personal history award-winning book. -- Valerie L., 07:14:48 04/24/06 Mon

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[> You're kidding! I remember doing a book report on this book when I was taking AP History my junior year of high school! I haven't thought about it in years. But I it was a very interesting story. I wonder if my local library still has it. -- Lynn H., 07:40:14 04/24/06 Mon

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[> I read a fictional account of this sort of occurence, where again the daughter refuses to to back to the settler's life. The love, freedom and acceptance found among her adopted tribe so overwhelmed her colorless, emotionless dreary "female" strictly proscribed religious life that she wouldn't countenance a return "home." It must have been the same in your book. -- beccabee, 11:57:53 04/29/06 Sat

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[> [> There are a number of tales of girls staying with the tribes that adopted them and refusing to return to their white families. Frances Slocum's story was made into a novel, "The Red Heart" by James Alexander Thom and I remember reading a children's book called "Indian Captive" about Mary Jemison. -- Lynn H., 10:12:31 05/01/06 Mon

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