Lorianne R. Schaub

 

 

Unredeemable Captives:

The Untellable “Captivity” Narratives

of Eunice Williams and Mary Jemison

 

By what power does it come to pass that children who have been adopted when young among these people can never be prevailed on to readopt European manners?  Many an anxious parent have I seen last war who at the return of the peace went to the Indian villages where they knew their children had been carried in captivity, when to their inexpressible sorrow they found them so perfectly Indianized that many knew them no longer, and those whose more advanced ages permitted them to recollect their fathers and mothers absolutely refused to follow them and ran to their adoptive parents for protection against the effusions of love their unhappy real parents lavished on them!  Incredible as this may appear, I have heard it asserted in a thousand instances, among persons of credit.     (Crèvecoeur 213)

 

In the last of his Letters from an American Farmer, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur voices one of the common insecurities of eighteenth-century America:  the fear that “savage” Indian ways were more attractive and desirable than “civilized” European ways, particularly to impressionable Euro-American youth.  The fact that white children taken captive by Indians could so quickly be assimilated coupled with the fact that such children so often preferred Indian to white ways ran counter to Euro-American beliefs in the superiority of white “civilized” culture.  For whites to cross from “civilized” to “savage” never to return was the exact opposite of what early American settlers believed was supposed to happen:  as John Demos outlines at the beginning of The Unredeemed Captive:  A Family Story from Early America, most early European settlers believed that their task in the New World was to “help” (i.e. civilize and convert) the Native communities they found there—that Indians didn’t need such help (and that to the contrary they had some things to teach whites) was not what such settlers expected (3-4).[1]

 

The questions that Crèvecoeur raises—how is it that white children can be assimilated to Indian ways so quickly, and why are they often unwilling to return to Euro-American society—are raised in Indian captivity narratives.  Such stories offered the alluring chance of seeing Indian ways from a presumed “inside” perspective.  But the stories of captives who stayed with Native Americans—stories of transculturites[2] such as Eunice Williams and Mary Jemison—were more problematic:  although such women offered the truest “inside” perspective, their stories were also threatening to Euro-American cultural hegemony precisely because they had chosen Indian over white ways.  Captives who lived with Indians but ultimately returned corroborated the belief that Euro-American society was intrinsically better than Native culture; captives who willingly stayed with the Indians threatened these deep-seated convictions.

 

Thus while the story of Mary Rowlandson’s captivity set a comfortable pattern for subsequent narratives to follow—a pattern of capture, captivity, redemption and ultimate return to white society—and enjoyed both immediate and lasting popularity and acclaim, the stories of Eunice Williams and Mary Jemison did not fit this pattern.  Not properly “captivity” narratives since these women ultimately chose to remain and cast their life-long lots with their captors, Williams’ and Jemison’s stories don’t fit the mold of what captivity stories were supposed to narrate:  transgressing white cultural, religious, and social norms, these women were adopted into Indian societies, married and had children, abandoned (at least temporarily) the religious traditions of their biological parents, and in short renounced white for Indian ways.  To tell such subversive stories to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Euro-American audiences without editorial revision or censorship—to give women such as Williams and Jemison the same kind of narrative authority that Rowlandson exhibits in her text—would have been unimaginable.

 

And indeed, narratives of transculturalized captives are largely unimaginable:  because Native cultures relied upon oral rather than written story-telling, and because social monitors such as the clergy didn’t want pre-nineteenth century white audiences to hear stories of whites—particularly white women—who had “gone native,” few narratives of transculturalized white captives exist (Derounian-Stodola and Levernier 73, Vaughan and Clark 16-17).  Many of the stories that do survive are ones that have been told and re-told by others—in the case of Eunice Williams, for example, scholars have pieced together a fragmentary story from the writings of John and Stephen Williams, the diary of Samuel Sewall, Canadian Jesuit mission records, and other scattered historical sources (see Medlicott, Demos).  On the other hand, Mary Jemison, the so-called “White Woman of the Genesee,” was allowed to tell her story to nineteenth-century Euro-American readers; however, this story was circumscribed by James E. Seaver, who recorded and editorialized upon her orally transmitted story.  Even for nineteenth-century audiences hungry for romanticized tales of white maidens embracing comely noble savages, Jemison’s story was too dangerous to be delivered without editing:  Seaver and later editors of Jemison’s narrative tried to “tame” Jemison’s story by insisting  that life with “savages” couldn’t possibly be as desirable as Jemison might make it appear.

 

Indeed, both Williams and Jemison—unlike Rowlandson—are “threatening” to white early American cultural hegemony precisely because they are unredeemable:  not only were they never physically redeemed from “savage” (and, in the case of Williams, Catholic) ways, even their stories refuse to be “redeemed” into the orthodox captivity pattern of capture, captivity, redemption, and return.  Instead of cooperating, as does Rowlandson’s narrative, with patriarchal editorial attempts to contain them within the bounds of orthodoxy, Williams’ and Jemison’s stories refuse such ideological captivation; objects of widespread popular curiosity, these women’s stories exist alongside of—but not contained by—the editorializing, censoring eye of orthodox ideologies that would prefer to keep them untold.

 

First, it is important to note the circumstances that made Mary Rowlandson so different from both Eunice Williams and Mary Jemison—circumstances that together worked to make her story substantially more palatable to early American audiences than either Williams’ or Jemison’s.  First, there is the obvious difference of redemption:  Rowlandson was redeemed and returned to white (and in her case, Puritan) society; both Williams and Jemison, on the other hand, never returned to white, the market for Indian captivity narratives.  The circumstances that brought Rowlandson back to white New England society while both Williams and Jemison were acculturated to Indian ways are significant.  First there is the age at which the captives were taken:  Rowlandson was somewhere around forty years old—a grown woman, wife, and mother—at the time of her capture in 1676, while both Williams and Jemison were taken as children:  Williams was seven years old at the time of her capture in 1704, while Jemison was somewhere around twelve years old at the time of her capture in 1758[3].   Thus, while both Williams and Jemison were near or below 12 years of age, the critical age limit that Norman J. Heard posits for Indian assimilation (131), Rowlandson was well above this age with many compelling ties to white Puritan culture.  In light of Heard’s research into Indian assimilation, therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that both Williams and Jemison grew to recognize Indian culture as their own; on the other hand, as anthropologist A. Irving Hallowell notes, “it would be hard to imagine the captured Mrs. Mary Rowlandson becoming Indianized under any circumstances” (524).

 

The mere fact of Rowlandson’s marital status at the time of her capture—and the fact that she was married to an esteemed New England clergyman—would have made her much more likely to return to white society than either Williams or Jemison, who ultimately took Indian husbands.  That intermarriage was seen by eighteenth and nineteenth century Euro-Americans as denoting a definitive step toward transculturalization is evidenced in the way that so many women captives insisted upon their return to white society that they had not been sexually violated; as Alden T. Vaughan and Edward W. Clark note in their introduction to Puritans among the Indians:  Accounts of Captivity and Redemption, 1676-1724, the necessity to declare their sexual purity made redeemed female captives’ return and re-acclimation to white society much more difficult than that of redeemed males (14).  Consequently, many white women captives who took Indian husbands ultimately refused redemption out of reluctance to face the censure of white society.

 

Thus, while many white male captives could marry Indian women and then claim upon their return to white society that they had “gone native” merely to gain the confidence of their captors and hence increase their chances of escape—a move Gary L. Ebersole calls the “rational ruse” (195)—a white woman captive’s decision to marry an Indian usually cemented her bond to Indian culture:  as June Namias notes, it was often easier for women captives to transgress religious or other social prescriptions against “going native” than to abandon an Indian husband or children (91-2).  Namias sees the impact of interracial marriage as being particularly strong in the case of Eunice Williams, of whom she notes,

 

The sexual bond created by her Indian marriage formalized her acculturation, permanently separating her and transforming her culturally into “them.”  She was no longer fully one of “us.”                                                                   (91)

 

The definitive nature of Eunice Williams’ decision to marry within her Mohawk community is illustrated in the response to her marriage exhibited by the Williams family as well as by their white New England brethren:  Cotton Mather, for example, refers in his diary to Williams’ marriage as a “dark Dispensation of Providence” while Samuel Sewall in his diary compares the marriage to Samson’s marriage to a Philistine (qtd. in Demos 99).  Eunice Williams’ marriage to an Indian—and worse yet, to a Catholic Indian—realized John Williams greatest fears about the Jesuits’ attempts to get English captives “married among them” (“The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion” 197).  As John Demos notes, Eunice’s marriage to an Indian and her re-baptism as a Catholic—her turns to “savagery” and “popery”—meant that the fight of John Williams and his Puritan fellows “had been lost on both fronts” (213).

 

Another important difference between Mary Rowlandson and both Eunice Williams and Mary Jemison is that of language, particularly the way that language is used to express religious affiliation.  In her narrative, Rowlandson recounts with gratitude how she is given a Bible taken on an Indian raid on a white settlement; for Rowlandson, this gift serves as a tangible link  to her linguistic as well as her religious heritage.  Able to read and meditate on Scriptural passages during her captivity, Rowlandson keeps alive the bonds that tie her to her Puritan community as well as to her clergyman husband; these Bible passages, along with other verses and allusions sprinkled generously through her published narrative, also serve to make this narrative more palatable to her readers; as Roy Harvey Pearce notes in his article, “The Significances of the Captivity Narrative,” narratives such as Rowlandson’s spoke powerfully to their contemporary audiences as “simple, direct religious documents” (2).[4]

 

For both Williams and Jemison, on the other hand, maintaining linguistic and religious ties to their birth cultures was much more difficult; one of the most poignant passages in John Williams’ “The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion” is his account of meeting briefly with Eunice approximately eight months after her capture and enjoining her to remember her catechism and Scripture verses:

 

My child was about seven years old; I discoursed with her near an hour; she could read very well and had not forgotten her catechism.  And [she] was very desirous to be redeemed out of the hands of the Macquas[5] and bemoaned her state among them, telling me how they profaned God’s Sabbaths and said she thought that a few days before they had been mocking the devil, and that one of the Jesuits stood and looked on them.

            I told her she must pray to God for His grace every day.  She said she did as she was able and God helped her.  But, says she, “They force me to say some prayers in Latin, but I don’t understand one word of them; I hope it won’t do me any harm.”  I told her she must be careful she did not forget her catechism and the Scriptures she had learned by heart.    (189)

 

In the elder Williams’ eyes, Eunice’s catechism and memorized Bible verses were important links not only to her Puritan faith—a faith besieged by both Catholic Indians and French Jesuits—but also to Puritan culture and the English language used to express it.[6] 

 

As John Demos notes, John Williams probably recognized this stage of Eunice’s adaptation to Indian (and specifically Catholic Indian) life as “the beginning of…what?  Of change, of ‘harm,’ as yet unmeasured.  ‘Latin prayers,’ the ‘French tongue,’ ‘popish religion,’ ‘Indian savagery’:  a chain unwinding far into the future” (37).  Even before meeting with Eunice, the elder Williams had noticed with dismay an English maid taken captive during King William’s War “who was dressed up in Indian apparel, [and] could not speak one word of English, who said she could neither tell her own name or the name of the place from whence she was taken” (“The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion” 185); he also noted several English children taken captive only months before who were “in habit very much like Indians and in manner very much symbolizing with them” (183).  Time proved that the elder Williams’ fears for Eunice were not unfounded:  within two years after her capture, Eunice Williams had forgotten how to speak English (Demos 146).[7]

 

Similarly, in Seaver’s narrative Mary Jemison recounts how her mother urged her to remember her name, the names of her father and mother, her “English tongue,” and the prayers that she had been taught (11-12); although Jemison tells Seaver that she tried to recite these prayers “for a number of the first years that I lived with the Indians…as often as I had an opportunity” (7), she ultimately forgets them.  Unlike Eunice Williams, however, Jemison remembers English into adulthood:  she claims that although her Indian sisters would not allow her to speak English in their hearing, she practiced in secret and ultimately came to live near English settlers with whom she was “almost daily in the habit of conversing” (24). 

 

Thus while in Eunice Williams’ case the connection between linguistic and religious heritage is of one piece—in John Williams’ mind, “Protestant Christian” equals “English speaking”—in Jemison’s case the connection is more complex: while Jemison can speak English and is, like Rowlandson, given a Bible during her tenure with the Indians, she has to rely upon neighbors to read it to her (8).  It is presumably because of this literal religious illiteracy that Jemison is described by Seaver as being a “stranger to” Christian doctrine (xxxi).  The power of language and religion and the consequent importance of retaining religious-linguistic affiliations in order to successfully withstand acculturation is further illustrated in the Reverend John Todd’s claim that Frances Slocum, taken captive by the Delawares in 1778, went native because she was taken captive without a Bible (qtd. in Ebersole 229) as well as in the Indians’ practice of isolating new captives from family and friends to make it more difficult for them to retain such ties (Axtell 76).

 

It is important to understand how Mary Rowlandson described her captivity in her narrative because it set the pattern for captivity narratives:  a pattern of attack and capture, a several-staged forced march or journey (which Rowlandson refers to as “removes”), detention for sale or trade, and ultimate ransom and return to white society (Minter 337).  Taken during the Narragansett attack on Lancaster in 1676 and held for eleven weeks, Rowlandson did not publish her narrative, titled in early editions “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God,” until 1682; this narrative was so popular that the first edition was literally read to pieces, leaving no extant copies.

 

An early Puritan captivity narrative, “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God” falls squarely into the category of spiritual autobiography, relying heavily upon the double meaning of the word “redemption” (Vaughan and Clark 5).  In waiting to be “redeemed” from her captivity by her husband and other white New Englanders (including a nameless Boston gentleman and Mrs. Hezekiah Usher, who supplied the money to purchase her), Rowlandson also “waits” upon God’s saving hand in her life, interpreting her captivity as a trial whereby she knows that she is indeed one of God’s chosen children: 

 

But now I see the Lord had His time to scourge and chasten me.  The portion of some is to have their afflictions by drops, now one drop and then another, but the dregs of the cup, the wine of astonishment, like a sweeping rain that leaveth no food, did the Lord prepare to be my portion.                                                                                                                             (75)

 

Because Rowlandson’s narrative uses the conventional language of the Puritan spiritual autobiography—because Rowlandson like other writers of captivity narratives is able to “place a familiar story (of providential deliverance) in a new setting (the American Indian frontier)” (Minter 337)—her narrative was eagerly received by New England Puritans and their clergymen.

 

As Margaret H. Davis has noted, Mary Rowlandson is able through her narrative to write herself into the patriarchal Puritan power structure by positioning herself as a “goodwife” in her text.  Taken from her home, Rowlandson is an obedient captive, following the dictates of her male captors while refusing to submit to her Indian mistresses; likewise, Rowlandson is able to perform domestic tasks such as sewing for her Indian captors, and ultimately she returns to Puritan society and resumes her “proper” place as a clergyman’s wife (50f).  Following the paradigm of Stephen Greenblatt’s Renaissance Self-Fashioning:  From More to Shakespeare,[8] Davis notes that Rowlandson is able to construct this powerful position for herself only by defining herself in relation to an Indian Other whom Rowlandson describes in savagely diabolical terms (Davis 53).

 

Because she wrote of her personal experience of captivity in a way “approved by public code and ideology” (Minter 346), Rowlandson was accepted by a Puritan society that typically discouraged literary endeavors by females[9]; in fact, Rowlandson’s “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God” ushered in the tradition of captivity narratives largely written by women[10].  In  writing a captivity narrative that claims Indian captivity as a divine judgment wrought upon backsliding Puritans, Rowlandson was able to assume a preaching role normally withheld from women—a role for which Anne Hutchinson was banished from Massachusetts some years before in 1638.  For this reason, scholars such as David Minter refer to Rowlandson’s role as a prophetess (343).  Part of the reason for the overwhelming success of Mary Rowlandson’s narrative was that she wrote within the constraints of what Louis Althusser calls “Ideological State Apparatuses”—that is, institutions (whether public or private) that use ideology to maintain and propagate social conventions and power structures.  Writing within the conventions of both the religious and the family ISA’s, Rowlandson was “rewarded” by the communications ISA—the press and publishing media—by being allowed to write and publish (cf. Althusser 50).

 

However, Mary Rowlandson was not the only voice to “preach” from the text of her experience—published along with “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God” is a sermon by her husband, Joseph Rowlandson, entitled “The possibility of God’s forsaking a people, that have been visibly near and dear to him, together with the misery of a people thus forsaken.”  The Rev. Rowlandson’s sermon serves to bracket his wife’s narrative within an “orthodox” Puritan frame; in case readers (or their clergymen) were hesitant to lend credence to a laywoman’s preaching from her own experience, Joseph Rowlandson’s sermon serves as reassurance that the views presented by Mrs. Rowlandson are echoed by Mr.—more specifically, the Reverend Mr.—Rowlandson.  Joseph Rowlandson’s sermon is a kind of Puritan imprimatur, a stamp that marks Mary Rowlandson’s narrative as being within the bounds of orthodoxy.  That said, it is clear that Mary Rowlandson’s narrative was much more popular than the sermon that followed it—audiences flocked to read “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God” not because it contained a sermon by Joseph Rowlandson but because it contained an exciting narrative of captivity and suffering.[11]  In short, Mary Rowlandson’s narrative was what people wanted to read; Joseph Rowlandson’s sermon assured these people (and their clergymen) that this alluring text was also spiritually desirable.

 

The position Rowlandson writes for herself in “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God” itself is not merely spiritual; she also positions herself in her text as strongly self-reliant, able to survive the deprivations of captivity in an alien culture apart from male protectors such as her husband.  In her text, Rowlandson is creatively adaptive—she is able to adjust to eating (and even stealing) strange foods, to living within unfamiliar social structures, and to using domestic skills such as sewing in exchange for the food and other staples she needs to survive.  Over the course of her captivity, Rowlandson learns that she, unlike her unfortunate sister who is struck and killed by a bullet in the initial Indian raid, needn’t pray for her own demise; instead, Rowlandson discovers that she can survive trial through ingenuity and the help of her all-sufficient God.

 

Neither Eunice Williams nor Mary Jemison, on the other hand, are permitted to fashion themselves in such powerful ways, mainly due to the threat their stories held toward early Euro-American society in general and toward the family and religious ISA’s in particular.  So, for example, although both Williams and Jemison were wives and mothers, they are unable to fashion themselves as “goodwives” in the same way that Rowlandson does simply because they acted within Indian rather than white domestic circles.  Thus, while Rowlandson is given relative freedom to write herself as a strong Godly woman, both Williams and Jemison are contained and circumscribed by male voices who keep their stories from  subverting the supposed superiority of white early American culture.  While Mary Rowlandson’s text can peacefully coexist alongside of—and supersede—the orthodox sermon her husband draws from her experience, Williams’ and Jemison’s stories run counter to the editorializing male voices that would contain them within orthodoxy; like Rowlandson’s narrative, however, Williams’ and Jemison’s stories have a popular appeal that ultimately outstrips the ideological posturing of their orthodox editorializers.

 

Taken captive within sixty years of each other, Williams and Jemison had their stories told in different eras to audiences looking for different things in captivity narratives:  fragments of Eunice Williams’ story appeared in John Williams’ 1707 “The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion,” a propagandistic Puritan captivity narrative, while Mary Jemison’s story appeared over a century later in James E. Seaver’s 1824 as-told-to narrative, A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison.  Although the time that elapsed between John Williams’ and James Seaver’s narratives affects the way that they paint Williams’ and Jemison’s transculturalization, in both narratives a male authorial voice serves as a kind of ISA circumscribing the subversive elements of these women’s stories of “going native.”

 

John Williams’ “The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion” is a case in point.  Published in 1707, Williams’ narrative is more a propagandistic tract than was Rowlandson’s 1682 religious tale:  in fact, the three modes of captivity narratives—the religious tale, the propagandistic tract, and the sensational romance (Minter 335)—are illustrated by Rowlandson’s “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God,” John Williams’ “The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion,” and Seaver’s A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison, respectively.  Considering how Mary Rowlandson’s narrative isn’t complete until she narrates the redemption of her captive children, John Williams’ treatment of Eunice’s continued captivity is surprisingly sparse:  although the elder Williams, like Rowlandson, doesn’t end his narrative with his own redemption, the remaining pages of his text focus not on Eunice individually but instead upon anti-Catholic polemics directed toward the Catholic Mohawks and French Jesuits who threaten the religious integrity of Puritan captives in general.

 

Thus, the elder Williams spends substantially more time in his narrative recounting his son Samuel’s temporary conversion to Catholicism—and his own letters dissuading Samuel from this route—than to Eunice’s continued captivity among Canadian Mohawks; as John Demos notes, Williams spends more than a quarter of his narrative on Samuel’s conversion and subsequent “redemption” back into the Puritan fold (70) while reflecting relatively little on Eunice’s Indian life (167).  Apart from telling of his brief visit with Eunice where he enjoined her to remember her catechism and Scripture verses, the elder Williams makes few specific references to Eunice; although he repeatedly laments the French Jesuits’ attempts to “seduce” young captives to Catholicism, only near  the end of his narrative does John Williams remind his readers, “I have yet a daughter of ten years of age and many neighbors whose case bespeaks your compassion and prayers to God to gather them, being outcasts ready to perish” (225). Williams ends his narrative rejoicing in the redemption of captives such as himself with only minimal mention that others such as Eunice still remain in Canada.

 

Indeed, readers exposed to “The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion” alone would know nothing of Eunice Williams’ marriage into and lifelong loyalty to her Canadian Mohawk community.  Although Eunice’s marriage (as well as her earlier baptism as a Catholic) took place after John Williams’ narrative was published, there is little chance that they could have been included in his narrative even if it had been published later:  the story of Eunice’s double conversion—her conversion to both Mohawk and Catholic ways—would not have fit into the “redeemed captive” paradigm.  In short, how could an esteemed Puritan clergyman accommodate the loss of his daughter within the theme of what Mary Rowlandson called the “Sovereignty and Goodness of God”?  Eunice Williams’ story is simply one that John Williams would prefer not to tell—and that his New England clergy contemporaries would prefer not to have widely published.

 

The fragmentary story of Eunice Williams’ transculturalization that Alexander Medlicott, Jr. outlines in the article “Return to the Land of Light:  A Plea to an Unredeemed Captive” and that John Demos recounts in the book-length narrative history The Unredeemed Captive:  A Family Story from Early America centers around silence—in many ways, history does not and cannot know Eunice Williams’ side of the story:  exactly what she thought or how she felt upon her adoption into her Canadian Mohawk tribe or what led her to convert to Catholicism, marry François Xavier Arosen, a Christian Mohawk, and choose to remain with the Mohawks in Canada.  As Demos notes of Eunice’s later refusals of her brother Stephen’s pleas to move back to New England, “since we cannot hear her reasons directly, we are left to gather impressions” (212).

 

Demos examines, for example, the intriguing possibilities behind Eunice’s response to trader John Schuyler’s attempt to bring her back to the Williams family after her marriage to Arosen; remaining silent for nearly the entire interview and “prov[ing] harder than Steel in her breast” (qtd. in Demos 105), in Schuyler’s account of the encounter Eunice spoke only two Mohawk words in reply to his request that she return with him to New England:  “wch was after long Solicitations (Jaghte oghte) which words being translated into the English Tongue their Signification (is) maybe not but the meaning thereof amongst the Indians is a plaine denyall” (qtd. in Demos 107).  The closest thing to an explanation Schuyler can get for Eunice’s refusal comes not directly from her but from her husband Arosen:  “her husband seeing that I was so much concerned about her replyed had her ffather not Married againe, She would have gone and Seen him long Ere this time But gave no further reason” (qtd. in Demos 108).  In the face of Eunice’s silence, the reason Arosen gives is difficult to decipher:  is Arosen repeating something Eunice had told him previously or is this reason of his own making?

 

Part of the difficulty in deciphering both Eunice’s silence and her terse “jaghte oghte” lies in language:  Schuyler’s interview with Eunice and Arosen was twice translated, from English (Schuyler’s tongue) to French to Mohawk (Eunice’s and Arosen’s tongue) and back again.  How many subtleties of meaning—both linguistic and cultural—were lost in these translations:  when a fully culturalized Mohawk woman said “jaghte oghte,” what did it mean?

 

Demos interprets “jaghte oghte” as an outright “no” (107); in The Indian Captivity Narrative, 1550-1900, on the other hand, Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola and James Arthur Levernier argue that Eunice’s “jaghte oghte” signified a resigned “It cannot be” rather than a willful “no” (160).  According to this latter view, Eunice spoke out of a realization that she could not return and be re-acclimated to white Puritan culture even if she wanted to:  “she had replaced her role as a dutiful daughter in the Williams family with her new role as dutiful Indian wife, and…she had been part of Catholic/Indian culture for longer than she had lived in Puritan New England” (160-61).  If Eunice Williams’ “jaghte oghte” was indeed an expression of the irreversibility of transculturalization, it prefigured Frances Slocum’s refusal when her brothers tried to retrieve her more than fifty years after her capture by Delawares in 1778:  “I cannot.  I cannot.  I am an old tree.  It cannot move about.  I was a sapling when they took me away.  It is all gone past.  I am afraid I should die and never come back.  I am happy here” (qtd. in Derounian-Stodola and Levernier 162).

 

Mary Jemison expressed a similar sentiment to James Seaver, explaining that she did not want to be redeemed back into white society at the end of the Revolutionary War because she could not sever the bonds between herself and her Indian family:

 

…I had got a large family of Indian children, that I must take with me; and that if I should be so fortunate as to find my relatives, they would despise them, if not myself; and treat us as enemies; or, at least, with a degree of cold indifference, which I thought I could not endure.

            Accordingly, after I had duly considered the matter…it was my choice to stay and spend the remainder of my days with my Indian friends, and live with my family as I had heretofore done.                                          (77-78)

 

Although it is Jemison’s choice to stay with her Indian friends and family, it is a choice she almost has to make; the factors compelling her decision have more to do with the inflexibility of Euro-American social conventions, however, than they do with Indian coercion.

 

The only other recorded words we have that might tell Eunice’s side of the story—the words to a letter she sent to her brother Stephen in 1771, years after John Williams death and after several visits Eunice, Arosen, and their children made with the Williams family—are almost equally enigmatic.  That Eunice and Stephen had corresponded sporadically is evident in Eunice’s comment that she is “much Surprised” that Stephen hasn’t written since 1761; Eunice then uses her letter to exchange news of her family:  “My two Daughters are married and well….Doubtless you have herd that my husband is ded” (qtd. in Demos 231-32).  Although Eunice’s affection for her biological brother is apparent in the letter—she says that she hopes to see him in the world to come and signs herself  as his “Loving Sister until death”—once again there are questions of translation:  Eunice did not speak, much less write, English, so her letter must have been dictated and translated.  Indeed, that the letter is signed “Eunice Williams” is apparently the mark of a translator/scribe since Eunice had long before changed her Christian name to Marguerite and had as well two Indian names, A’ongote (“she has been planted as a person”) and Gannenstenhawi” (“she brings in corn”).

 

Despite this paucity of written texts, however, there were other ways that Eunice’s story was “told” to her Puritan New England contemporaries.  Eunice and Arosen, for example, visited Eunice’s brother Stephen in Longmeadow several times—in August 1740, July 1741, and June 1761.  That their presence piqued the curiosity of Williams’ neighbors is evident in the numbers of people who are said to have traveled from surrounding areas to see the “unredeemed captive” and her Indian husband:  Demos cites the testimony of an eyewitness who describes “the attentions and largesses of a crowd of friends and visitants, who flocked from Deerfield, Mansfield, Lebanon, and all the towns in this vicinity” (qtd. 193).  Out of the popular appeal to see what Eunice’s new life was like grew various popular legends about her visit:  that she refused to wear English clothing, for example, and that she and Arosen camped in an orchard rather than staying with her brother Stephen (Demos 193, also Derounian-Stodola and Levernier 161). 

 

Similarly, when Eunice and Arosen attended a church service on August 4, 1741—during the height of New England’s “Great Awakening—in Mansfield, Connecticut (home of Eunice’s brother Eleazer), they were the center of popular attention; significantly, the sermon, delivered by Eunice’s cousin Solomon Williams and later published, looked upon Eunice as its “text.”  Focusing on “The Power and Efficacy of the prayers of the people of God,” Solomon Williams’ sermon made explicit reference to Eunice’s presence:

 

You may well think I have all along had some special Eye to the uncommon Occasion of Prayer at this Time:  that Person…present with us, who has been for a long time in a miserable Captivity with a barbarous and heathen People…

                                                                                                                (qtd. in Demos 203)

 

Given Williams’ tone toward Eunice’s captivity and toward her adoptive kin, it is probably best that neither Eunice nor Arosen could understand English; in any case, however, the crowds of people attracted by Eunice’s presence—so many people that they spilled outside the meeting house, crowding around open windows and doors for a look inside—could understand.  Taking Eunice’s presence as proof that God was answering their fervent prayers—albeit in a manner and according to a timing that was not easy to understand—Williams used the example of her father’s incessant prayers for Eunice as an model of the fervency God desires.

 

Solomon Williams also used Eunice Williams’ physical presence as a reminder—an example, as it were—of a relevant topic deeply cherished during the Great Awakening:  the theme of redemption.  Eunice’s physical captivity, Williams argued, is merely an emblem of the far more grievous “captivity” of the unconverted:  as John Demos paraphrases Williams,

 

How is it, he wondered, that “you now look with great Pity and Compassion on that poor Captive,” without, at the same time, being moved “to inquire into…your own Condition?”  In fact, “is your state…not worse…than hers?” (204)

 

Through his sermon, Williams tried to turn his listeners’ eyes away from Eunice and Arosen and back to their own individual sinful souls—paying attention to “that poor Captive” without paying equal heed to one’s own spiritual state would not prove spiritually helpful. 

 

That Solomon Williams had to voice such an admonition, however—a rhetorical reminder, as it were, to mind one’s own business—hints toward the allure that Eunice and her family had for the congregation that day.  The mere physical presence of Eunice—if we believe the legends, in her exotic Indian dress, her Indian husband and half-Indian children by her side—must have been irresistibly distracting to Williams’ congregation and visitors.  Here is one of “us,” they must have thought, who has become one of “them”—here is someone who has become intimately acquainted with a forbidden people and culture (Indian/French Canadian/Catholic) and who is irresistibly attractive because of that, a person everyone wants to see.  While Eunice and Arosen held the populace’s attention captive that day in the meeting house, Solomon Williams, mouthpiece of Puritan New England religious ideology, tried to compete with a sermon that would draw attention away from Eunice—or at least use the attention given Eunice—in such a way as to emphasis the real business of a church sermon, which is saving souls.  Like Joseph Rowlandson’s sermon accompanying Mary Rowlandson’s narrative, Solomon Williams’ sermon was intended to insure that the curious masses gleaned the “right” meaning from the celebrated example of captivity in their midst.

 

Whether Solomon Williams was successful in drawing his listeners attention away from the spectacle of Eunice and Arosen and back to matters more purely spiritual is debatable; what is more certain, however, is that Mary Jemison’s life was similarly intriguing to the populace at large.  Asked to tell her story near the end of her life in the nineteenth century, Mary Jemison is allowed a much stronger voice than is Eunice Williams; however, even Jemison’s story is contained in ways that Mary Rowlandson’s narrative was not.  Speaking to an audience who had grown increasingly fond of romantic tales of white/Indian attachments, Jemison is able to explain how she grew to love both her Indian husbands and her life as an Iroquois woman.  However, the editorial voice of James E. Seaver, recorder of Jemison’s spoken account, lingers throughout the text, working to temper Jemison’s defense of Indian ways and thereby “remind” Euro-American readers that Indian life isn’t really as appealing as Jemison might have us believe.

 

Jemison’s as-told-to narrative, A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison, was first published in 1824; significantly, this is the same year that Lydia Maria Child published her novel Hobomok:  A Tale of Early Times[12].  A fictional account of a Puritan girl, Mary Conant, who marries an Indian in defiance of her parents’ wishes after she believes her white lover is dead, Hobomok titillates readers with forbidden sexuality—Mary marries Hobomok and bears a child—while maintaining white hegemony in the end:  Mary’s white lover returns, Hobomok nobly vanishes into the woods, and Mary moves to England with a white husband and a half-Indian child who eventually assimilates into English culture.  Child’s Hobomok is one of several early nineteenth-century novels that romanticize this idea of singular white women living among Indians:  both Catherine M. Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie (1827) and N.M. Hentz’s Tadeunkund, the last king of the Lenape (1825) feature such a theme (Hallowell 520).  Such stories were extremely popular—Seaver’s account of Jemison’s life, for example, sold over one hundred thousand copies during its first year of sales—and generally carried the warning “that Indian and white unions are bad business and can come to no good for Anglo-American society, the individual participants, or their mixed-blood children” (Namias 97).

 

Although Jemison herself, a transculturalized member of her Iroquois community, understandably never voices such a warning in her narrative, her recorder/editor James E. Seaver does.  Seaver’s ideological bias is apparent in the first lines of the Narrative’s Preface, where he reveals the cultural work he envisions for his text:

 

That to biographical writings we are indebted for the greatest and best field in which to study mankind, or human nature, is a fact duly appreciated by a well-informed community.  In them we can trace the effects of mental operations to their proper sources; and by comparing our own composition with that of those who have excelled in virtue, or with that of those who have been sunk in the lowest depths of folly and vice, we are enabled to select a plan of life that will at least afford self-satisfaction, and guide us through the world in paths of morality.                                                                                                                                        (xvii)

 

In Seaver’s mind, biography isn’t primarily a factual enterprise, a search for historical truths; instead, biography is a moral endeavor:  we want to know about famous persons so we can either emulate their goodness or scorn their badness.  Biography, Seaver suggests, always has a moral:  a biographical narrative should teach readers how to become better people—or at least how not to become worse—rather than focusing primarily on getting historical facts straight. 

 

That Seaver sees biography as the art of telling a teaching tale—the art of creating stories with morals—is even more apparent later in his Preface:

 

As books of this kind are sought and read with avidity, especially by children, and are well calculated to excite their attention, inform their understanding, and improve them in the art of reading, the greatest care has been observed to render the style easy, the language comprehensive, and the description natural.  Prolixity has been studiously avoided.  The line of distinction between virtue and vice has been rendered distinctly visible; and chastity of expression and sentiment have received due attention.  Strict fidelity has been observed in the composition:  consequently, no circumstance has been intentionally exaggerated by the paintings of fancy, nor by fine flashes of rhetoric:  neither has the picture been rendered more dull than the original.  Without the aid of fiction, what was received as matter of fact, only has been recorded.                                                                                                             (xix-xx)

 

Here Seaver sets for himself an impossible task:  without relying upon the “aid of fiction,” he intends to present Jemison’s narrative as a quaintly educational, easy-to-understand children’s story that clearly teaches right from wrong.  While insisting upon the “[s]trict fidelity” of the narrative, its details never “intentionally exaggerated,” Seaver at the same time promises to make the “line of distinction between virtue and vice…distinctly visible.”  That Seaver must have tinkered with the language of Jemison’s oral narration also seems clear:  although Seaver notes in his Introduction that Jemison speaks English “plainly and distinctly, with a little of the Irish emphasis” (xxvii), it is unlikely that anyone—particularly a woman more familiar with Native American than Euro-American modes of story-telling—could tell a story in a manner consistently faithful to Seaver’s stylistic requirements.

 

That Seaver is appropriating Jemison’s life story as the subject for a moral lesson—a secular sermon, as it were—is even more apparent in his Introduction.  Seaver opens the Introduction with allusions to “Indian hostilities and barbarities,” “stories of Indian cruelties,” and “stories of Indian conquests, and murders”; these tales, he writes, are the “fearful topic of the fireside,” repeated to make settler children’s “flaxen hair nearly stand erect, and almost destroy the power of motion” (xxiii).  Repeated orally to teach white youngsters about Indian savagery, such stories need, in Seaver’s mind, to be written down to teach future generations the same lessons—hence the purpose of Mary Jemison’s narrative:

 

Many gentlemen of respectability, felt anxious that her narrative might be laid before the public, with a view not only to perpetuate the remembrance of the atrocities of the savages in former times, but to preserve some historical facts which they supposed to be intimately connected with her life, and which otherwise must be lost.                                                                (xxv)

 

The reason for publishing Jemison’s narrative, then, isn’t primarily to tell her side of the story; instead, Jemison’s life can be “redeemed” as a proof-text, an exemplum which speaks of Indian cruelties just as effectively as the hair-raising stories repeated by the family hearth.  Of only secondary importance, Seaver implies, are the “historical facts” that her story contains.

 

Tara Fitzpatrick notes that captivity narratives written by Puritan women generally have two narrators, “the redeemed captives themselves and the ministers who propagated the captives’ histories for didactic purposes of their own” (2); although Seaver relates Jemison’s story long after Cotton Mather made religious texts out of the stories of captives such as Hannah Dustan, A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison (like other as-told-to texts) features the kind of double-narration that Fitzpatrick describes.  For just as Mather “converted” Dustan’s life experience into a textual lesson or example—a sermon—intended to teach a faithful popular audience their “proper” relation to Indians (killing rather than befriending), Seaver likewise tries to “convert” Jemison’s story to fit his own ideological ends. 

 

This ideological end is vividly apparent when Seaver talks about Jemison’s second husband, Hiokatoo.  In the same chapter where Jemison laments Hiokatoo’s death and notes that he “uniformly treated me with tenderness, and never offered an insult,” bestowing “all the kindness and attention that was my due as his wife” (89), the narrative switches to a discussion of Hiokatoo’s cruelties in warfare and torture.  That Hiokatoo did indeed commit some of the acts the chapter enumerates is likely; instead of denying all cases of Indian “cruelty,” Jemison in her narrative tries to explain the cultural meaning behind practices such as torture:  “If they receive a prisoner, it is at their option either to satiate their vengeance by taking his life in the most cruel manner they can conceive of; or, to receive and adopt him into the family, in the place of him whom they have lost” (22).  However, details such as Hiokatoo’s alleged butchering of infants—with the stock image of infant heads being dashed upon stones (93)—echo conventional captivity narrative clichés and thus are of questionable historical veracity.  Certainly comments about “innocent, unoffending and defenceless settlers” (94) are from Seaver’s rather than Jemison’s perspective; earlier in her narrative Jemison explains the reasons behind attacks on white settlers, whom she depicts as being less than wholly innocent:  “our Indians, highly incensed at the whites for the treatment they had received, and the suffering which they had consequently endured, determined to obtain some redress by destroying their frontier settlements” (61).

 

Indeed, in the chapter outlining Hiokatoo’s alleged cruelty, Seaver relies upon a source other than Mary Jemison herself, her supposed cousin, Mr. George Jemison.  Presumably, Seaver relies upon an outside source to insure the accuracy of his facts; however, that he later admits in a footnote that Mary Jemison “is now confident that George Jemison is not her cousin” (108) seems to undermine such authenticity.  Instead, it seems that Seaver goes to outside sources—circumvents Mary Jemison’s authority, as it were—at those points in the narrative where she is least likely to say—but where it is most in Seaver’s ideological interests to hear—something incriminating about her Indian life or brethren.  So, although Jemison “was (to appearance) so jealous of her rights, or that she should say something that would be injurious to herself or family” (xxix), Seaver manages to get the juicy details of Hiokatoo’s alleged cruelties merely by questioning someone other than Jemison.  Thus, Seaver’s editorializing upon Jemison’s story—his insistence, for example, that Hiokatoo was much more cruel, violent man than Jemison herself would claim—assures that the account emphasizes what a good captivity narrative should:  “the dangers that threatened those who strayed…beyond the bounds of English settlement…[or] into marriage with an unconverted man” (Taves 19); as June Namias notes in White Captives:  Gender and Ethnicity on the American Frontier, “The intent of this section…is to present a barbaric man from a barbaric society and to contrast him with the white woman with whom he lived” (155).[13]

 

And yet Seaver is not the only voice to editorialize upon Jemison’s story.  In later editions of A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison, other ideological perspectives try to “redeem” Jemison’s story by making it less subversive to white Euro-American values; one way to do this, for example, was by adding details of Jemison’s alleged “re-conversion” to Christianity.  Despite Jemison’s claims in her narrative that attempts to Christianize Native Americans have “constantly made them worse and worse; increased their vices, and robbed them of many of their virtues” (32), later editors such as William Seaver (James Seaver’s brother) emphasized Jemison’s supposed conversion to Christianity in her last years—an emphasis that serves an white-supremacist ideological function by “demonstrat[ing] the ultimate victory of the white woman’s ways over those of the baser world of ‘barbaric’ Indians with whom she lived” (Namias 156).

 

After James Seaver’s death in 1827, William Seaver enlisted the “expert” input of Ebenezer Mix for the 1842, 1844, and 1847 editions of Jemison’s story.  Mix tries to “re-Christianize” Jemison in two ways.  First, he emphasizes her “Christian” (rather than “savage”) character: 

 

She appeared to take pleasure and self-satisfaction in relieving the distress, and supplying the wants of her fellow-creatures, whether white or red; anything she possessed, however much labor it might have cost her, was freely given, when she thought the necessities of others required it.  It would redound much to the honor of the Christian religion, if some of its members would pattern, in some measures, after the pagan woman, in practicing this most exalted of Christian virtues, charity, in feelings as well as in actions.            (qtd. in Seaver, 1925 ed, 194-195)

 

Rather than attributing Jemison’s charitable generosity to Native American communal values, Mix heralds her as an exceptional case, a lone saint in a tribe of sinners.  In such an attempt to Christianize Jemison, Mix followed the pattern set by James Seaver in the original narrative, where he notes with apparent surprise that although Jemison was married to an Indian, she “possessed an uncommon share of hospitality” (xxiv).

 

The second way that Mix tries to “re-Christianize” Jemison is through an account of her alleged re-conversion to Christianity, a claim that is repeated in later revisions of Seaver’s text.  In Mix’s account, Jemison, “in a peaceable and friendly manner, seceded from the pagan party of her nation, and joined the Christian party, having…repudiated paganism, and embraced the Christian religion” (qtd. in Seaver, 1925 ed, 195); upon her death not long afterwards, Jemison is afforded a Christian burial complete with a headstone that commemorates her ultimate conversion to Christianity. 

 

A longer account of Jemison’s “re-conversion” to Christianity appears in the form of a letter from Laura Wright, wife of Christian missionary Rev. Asher Wright, which appears in William Prior Letchworth’s editions of the narrative beginning in 1877.  Wright’s account is largely sentimental in its tone—according to her telling, Jemison lived most of her life “as strong a pagan as any of the Indians, and was strongly prejudiced against the Christian religion” (qtd. in Seaver, 1925 ed, 208) but converts because of her memory of her dying mother’s final instructions to her not to forget her prayers:

 

I then repeated the Lord’s prayer in English.  She listened, with an expression both solemn and tender, till near the close, when suddenly it was evident a chord had been touched which vibrated into the far distant past, and awakened memories both sweet and painful.  She immediately became almost convulsed with weeping, and it was some time before she could speak.  At length she said:  “That is the prayer my mother taught me and which I have forgotten so many years.”

                                                                                                             (qtd. in Seaver, 1925 ed, 211)

 

In Wright’s account, Jemison converts not so much to the religion of Jesus as to the cult of white motherhood; despite the fact that Jemison was never physically redeemed back into white society, Wright’s account offers a happy ending for white, English-speaking Christian readers—and in particular for white, English-speaking Christian women—because Jemison at long last rediscovers her affiliation with and loyalty to the values they hold in common.  As June Namias notes, “Wright’s report of her meeting contributed to Jemison’s Christian legend and linked it to the ‘civilizing’ powers of maternal values so frequently expressed in American ideology in the nineteenth century” (161).[14]

 

Thus both Eunice Williams and Mary Jemison had to go around the Ideological State Apparatuses that would have prevented their stories from being widely publicized to a curious public.  While Mary Rowlandson is afforded relative freedom to tell her story because this story remains within the bounds of what the clergy and other ISA’s of her day thought appropriate, both Williams and Jemison had to rely upon others—in both cases, respected white males—to write their stories for them.  That these stories refused to be contained by the ideological conventions that would have captivated them—in the case of Eunice Williams, Puritan Protestantism; in the case of Mary Jemison, the nineteenth century cult of true (i.e. white) womanhood and sentimental Christianity—speaks to their strong, compelling nature.

 

ã 2001 Lorianne R. Schaub


 


Works Cited

 

Althusser, Louis.  From “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.”  A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader.  Ed. Antony Easthope and Kate McGowan.  Toronto:  U of Toronto P, 1992.  50-58.

 

Axtell, James.  “The White Indians of Colonial America.”  William and Mary Quarterly  32 (1975): 55-88.

 

Crèvecoeur, J. Hector St. John.  Letters from an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America.  Ed. Albert E. Stone.  New York:  Penguin, 1963.

 

Davis, Margaret H.  “Mary White Rowlandson’s Self-Fashioning as Puritan Goodwife.”  Early American Literature  27 (1992): 49-60.

 

Demos, John.  The Unredeemed Captive:  A Family Story from Early America.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

 

Derounian-Stodola, Kathryn Zabelle, and James Arthur Levernier.  The Indian Captivity Narrative, 1550-1900.  New York:  Twayne Publishers, 1993.

 

Ebersole, Gary L.  Captured by Texts:  Puritan to Postmodern Images of Indian Captivity.  Charlottesville:  UP of Virginia, 1995.

 

Fitzpatrick, Tara.  “The Figure of Captivity:  The Cultural Work of the Puritan Captivity Narrative.”  American Literary History  3 (1991): 1-26.

 

Heard, J. Norman.  White into Red:  A Study of the Assimilation of White Persons Captured by Indians.  Metuchen, NJ:  Scarecrow P, 1973.

 

Hallowell, A. Irving.  “American Indians, White and Black:  The Phenomenon of Transculturalization.”  Current Anthropology  4 (1963): 519-31.

 

Medlicott, Alexander, Jr.  “Return to the Land of Light:  A Plea to an Unredeemed Captive.”  New England Quarterly  38 (1965): 202-16. 

 

Minter, David.  “By Dens of Lions:  Notes on Stylization in Early Puritan Captivity Narratives.”  American Literature  45 (1973): 335-47.

 

Namias, June.  White Captives:  Gender and Ethnicity on the American Frontier.  Chapel Hill:  U of North Carolina P, 1993.

 

Pearce, Roy Harvey.  “The Significances of the Captivity Narrative.”  American Literature  19 (1947): 1-20.

 

Rowlandson, Mary.  “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God.”  Puritans among the Indians:  Accounts of Captivity and Redemption, 1676-1724.  Ed. Alden T. Vaughan and Edward W. Clark.  Cambridge, MA:  Belknap-Harvard UP, 1981.  29-75.

 

Seaver, James E.  A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison.  Ed. George Abrams.  Syracuse:  Syracuse UP, 1990.

 

---.  A Narrative of the Life of Mary Jemison, The White Woman of the Genesee. Rev. by Charles Delamater Vail.  New York:  American Scenic & Historic Preservation Society, 1925.

 

Taves, Ann.  “Introduction.”  Religion and Domestic Violence in Early New England:  The Memoirs of Abigail Abbot Bailey.  Ed. Ann Taves.  Bloomington:  Indiana UP, 1989.  1-49.

 

Vaughan, Alden T., and Edward W. Clark, eds.  Puritans among the Indians:  Accounts of Captivity and Redemption, 1976-1724.  Cambridge, MA:  Belknap-Harvard UP, 1981.

 

Williams, John.  “The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion.”  Puritans among the Indians:  Accounts of Captivity and Redemption, 1676-1724.  Ed. Alden T. Vaughan and Edward W. Clark.  Cambridge, MA:  Belknap-Harvard UP, 1981.  165-226.

 

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[1]     Likewise troubling to early white settlers was the relative rarity of Indians becoming “civilized” into Euro-American society:  as Crèvecoeur notes of Native culture,

 

It cannot be, therefore, so bad as we generally conceive it to be; there must be in their social bond something singularly captivating and far superior to anything to be boasted of among us; for thousands of Europeans are Indians, and we have no examples of even one of those aborigines having from choice become Europeans!                                                        (214) 

 

Mary Jemison makes a similar comment in her 1823 interview with James E. Seaver: 

 

I have seen, in a number of instances, the effects of education upon some of our Indians, who were taken when young, from their families, and placed at school before they had had an opportunity to contract many Indian habits, and there kept till they arrived to manhood; but I have never seen one of those but what was an Indian in every respect after he returned.  Indians must and will be Indians, in spite of all the means that can be used for their cultivation in the sciences and arts.

                                                                                                                          (Seaver, 1990 ed, 32)

 

[Unless otherwise noted, parenthetical citations within the text to Seaver’s narrative refer to this 1990 Syracuse University Press edition.]

     For an essay arguing that Indian identities are much more fluid than Jemison suggests, see James A. Clifton’s “Alternative Identities and Cultural Frontiers” in the collection of essays he has edited, Being and Becoming Indian:  Biographical Studies of North American Frontiers (Chicago:  Dorsey P, 1989; 1-37).  Interestingly, this volume also includes an essay by Geoffrey E. Buerger, “Eleazer Williams:  Elitism and Multiple Identity on Two Frontiers,” which focuses on a descendent of Eunice Williams who ultimately tried to pass as the Lost Dauphin, the rightful heir to the French throne (112-136).

     For an article discussing Puritan attempts to “Christianize” Native Americans, see William S. Simmons’ “Conversion from Indian to Puritan”  New England Quarterly 52 (1979): 197-218.

 

[2]     In his article “American Indians, White and Black:  The Phenomenon of Transculturalization,” A. Irving Hallowell coins the term “transculturalization” to refer to “the process whereby individuals under a variety of circumstances are temporarily or permanently detached from one group, enter the web of social relations that constitute another society, and come under the influence of its customs[,] ideas, and values to a greater or lesser degree” (523); in emphasizing the phenomenon of individuals crossing from one culture to another, Irving draws a distinction between “transculturalization” and “transculturation,” which refers to the acculturation of groups of people.  In Hallowell’s article, the term “transculturite” is used to denote individuals who have undergone transculturalization.

 

[3]     There is some disagreement about the age at which Mary Jemison was taken captive.  In The Indian Captivity Narrative, 1550-1900, Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola and James Arthur Levernier list Jemison as being “approximately 12 years old” at the time of her capture (6); in White Captives:  Gender and Ethnicity on the American Frontier, on the other hand, June Namias argues that Jemison was captured “at about age fourteen” (145).  J. Norman Heard gives contradictory facts about Jemison’s age at the time of her capture:  in Chapter 4, “National Origins and Indianization,” of White into Red:  A Study of the Assimilation of White Persons Captured by Indians, Heard claims that Jemison was about 15 at the time of her capture (25-6); in a chart in Chapter 8, “The Critical Age,” however, Heard lists Jemison as having been captured at the age of 12 (132). 

     These contradicting accounts apparently stem from disagreement about the date of Jemison’s capture:  although these sources agree that Jemison was born in either 1742 or 1743, some list her capture as having taken place in 1755 while others place it in 1758.  In Seaver’s A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison, Jemison herself places her capture in the spring of 1755, soon after her ominous encounter with a “sheet” that knocked her senseless as she returned from a neighbor’s house (6-7).  Likewise, Jemison’s description of herself as a “poor little defenseless girl” (13) at the time of her capture would argue for the younger rather than the older age.

 

[4]     For a discussion of Rowlandson’s use of the Bible in her narrative, see David Downing’s  “‘Streams of Scripture Comfort’:  Mary Rowlandson’s Typological Use of the Bible.”  Early American Literature  15 (1981): 252-59.

 

[5]     John Williams, along with many of his contemporaries, referred to Mohawks as “Macquas.”

 

[6]     It is interesting to note that in his letter enjoining his son Samuel to turn back from his conversion to Catholicism during his captivity among the Jesuits, John Williams stresses the importance of Samuel having access to an English Bible (“The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion” 218).

 

[7]     That John Williams saw language—both the language of the Bible and the language of Puritan apologetics—as an effective weapon against “popery” is evident in the fervent language of the letters he sent Samuel after the latter’s temporary conversion to Catholicism (“The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion” 209-19).

 

[8]     Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1980.

 

[9]     Davis notes that during the period between 1639 and 1700, only four women are listed in Charles Evans’ American Bibliography as having published works:  Anne Bradstreet for Several Poems, 1678; Sarah Goodhue for A Valedictory and Monitory Writing, 1681; Mary Rowlandson for her narrative, 1682; and M. Hooper for “Lamentations for Her Sons Poisoned by Eating Mushrooms,” 1694 (Davis 59n).

 

[10]    For a discussion of the captivity narrative as a woman’s genre, see Frances Roe Kestler’s The Indian Captivity Narrative:  A Woman’s View (New York:  Garland Pub, 1990).

 

[11]     Later, more secular versions of Mary Rowlandson’s narrative did not include Joseph Rowlandson’s sermon.

 

[12]    Lydia Maria Child, Hobomok, and Other Writings on Indians, edited and with an introduction by Carolyn L. Karcher (New Brunswick:  Rutgers UP, 1986).

 

[13]    The chapter featuring Hiokatoo’s biography isn’t the only section of Seaver’s text that is driven by such an intent; Seaver’s Appendix to A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison, although seeming to offer unbiased historical as well as ethnographic information about the Seneca and other Native American tribes, opens with an account of the fighting at Devil’s Hole “as a memorial of premeditated cruelties, which, in former times, were practised upon the white people, by the North American Savages” (130).

 

[14]     Interestingly, Jemison’s story eventually was “converted” into a children’s story as James Seaver had originally envisioned:  Lois Lenski’s 1941 children’s book Indian Captive:  The Story of Mary Jemison.  Lenski’s version of Jemison’s story has enjoyed widespread popularity:  by 1969 it had gone through 20 printings (Namias 148).  Although Lenski’s story “retain[s] much of its nineteenth-century romanticism, adventure, and ethnic biases” (Namias 167), it has been praised for the quality of its research as well as its sympathetic depiction of Native Americans; for this it won the prestigious Newberry Honor Book award for being “the most distinguished piece of children’s literature published in 1941” (qtd. in Namias 167).  Thus the same story that was deemed dangerous by nineteenth-century ISA’s is ultimately heralded by twentieth-century ISA’s (in particular, the educational and communications ISA’s) but for different reasons.

 

ã 2001 Lorianne R. Schaub