Captivity Narratives

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Posted by Victoria on November 12, 1997 at 15:52:14:

One of the reasons I find LOTM fascinating is because of my interest in captivity narratives. It helps me visualize some of what it might have been like: the terror, the desperation, being pushed to the edge of survival. Thousands of people were taken captive before during and after the F & I War. We know something of their experiences as told by them or others who witnessed it. This body of literature is fascinating, you can see some on the web or in academic libraries. I have 2 captives in my family and reading these narratives has helped me place their experiences as well as make some speculations about Alice's prospects if she'd gone with Magua.
The captives were the ones to survive the battle/raid and it's aftermath. If noncombattants, they tended to be young, either male or female, and in the Indians eyes able to make the forced march with short rations, and be of some value to them either for ransom, or keeping for some purpose. The captive was the property of the warrior who captured her/him. Women were seldom molested because the warriors went through elaborate purification rituals before and after the battle/raid.
If the captive made it to the village (many were killed along the way, some having "given up"), they might be turned over to the women to decide their fate. Men and boys usually ran the gauntlet, only sometimes were the women required to. If a woman or boy were required to run through it, only the women and children of the village would participate using switches. They could then be sacrificed to assuage the grief over the village's past losses, adopted, taken as a husband or wife, kept as a slave, ransomed, sold to other Indians or to Europeans (William Johnson bought Catherine, a French girl and kept her several years).
Some made it back, others died or were assimilated. If offered a return to "civilzation" many declined or ran away. After Bouquet's 1764 sally to subdue the Ohio Indians, over a hundred captives were returned as part of the deal. Some ran away, some had to be tied up to be brought in. Some of the Indians accompanied their "family members" including one young man who risked his life following his sweetheart into the settlements where people came close to killing him. Some captives ran back immediately when they arrived and others returned later.
What do you think Alice's experiences would have been if she hadn't jumped?

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