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Captured By The Indians: 15 Firsthand…

Captured By The Indians: 15 Firsthand Accounts, 1750-1870 (1961)

by Frederick Drimmer

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What can I say about the "firsthand accounts" aside from they were captivating! The tales ranged from a few, short pages to one recount which was approximately forty.

I primarily found this book thought-provoking. Juxtaposing a contemporary, politically correct view of indigenous peoples to the reality of their myriad cultures through the ages actually takes away the humanity of Indians.

Modern apologists for "paleface" atrocities of yore have selectively picked and chosen favorable characteristics of various nations or peoples to paint all natives with a broad brush. A few tribes allegedly led by women have been used to illustrate all North American Indians as being more enlightened than misogynistic Euro-centric cultures. However, no stories in the book indicate a matriarchal tribe and document defined gender-specific roles and responsibilities, including what would be considered domestic violence today.

An overarching lesson I learned from the whole of the book is that Native Americans were not concerned with things of stored value... like money. So, when modern day admonishments talk about stealing by virtue of trading land for beads (I am not speaking of breaking contractual obligations via treaties), I am sure the Indians found beads, blankets, arms and rum as more lucrative than specie. Almost every account denotes a hand-to-mouth existence, likely one cause of their nomadism. Numerous mentions were made of "starving times" or stretches of days where no game was harvested and the whole community suffered from hunger.

One item held in esteem, holding intrinsic value, were carried about in preparation for battle: scalps. These were removed from enemies, both red and white. The horrendous treatment of enemies in battle and after captivity are painted by present day as a natural reaction to interaction with European-Americans. As if docile, peaceful land cultivators and animal lovers only turning savage in self-defense once white land grabbers encroached, removes the humanity and preexisting cultures of Native Americans. In disregard for their humanity, the modern politically correct actually, in my estimation, make out Natives as little more than reacting to stimuli and shedding their culture as it was previous to 1492.

Many today likely will disbelieve the torturous actions of the Indians or write them off as frenzied reaction to sod farmers written about in Captured by the Indians. Some of the executions (burned at the stake or sliced and eviscerated over hours) were done in sacrifice while others were done in retribution for loss in battles. Furthermore, to dispel the docile persona attributed to the Indians by modern "historians" was the described enslavement and savage treatment of whites. Often, conquered and captured enemies were treated as spoils of war. Being how slave owning is now assigned a white race affliction, despite every peoples throughout history practiced it as well as being subjected to its bondage, these various Indian tribes maltreated captives; ultimately either a prisoner was adopted, tribal elders received word from The Great Spirit that said captive was to be sacrificed, or used as a laborer and even traded for goods and offered as dowry enhancements.

In nearly all the stories, when alcohol was obtained, the captives were sequestered away from the revelry of intoxication. This was done for their own safety and, like designated driver's of today, selected tribe members were to remain sober and "protect" the imprisoned whites. Just as often as these instances were described, rogue intoxicants were stopped from harassing and murdering their prisoners-of-war. Further illustrating how there was some intrinsic value in the captives.

Unknown to me prior to reading this book was the various reasons captives were taken by Indians. Some, as mentioned above, were for murderous reasons but others were for more humanly calculated reasons. A couple of stories showed captives were held for ransom; the last account showed how ransom was only subterfuge as the female captive was to be a Trojan Horse to get Indian warriors into an army fort. In another story, a British armorer, traveling aboard the ship Boston, was let live by Pacific Northwest Indians for his skill at fabrication. Several others captives were kidnapped to be "replacements" for dead offspring. One story of a boy, abducted at eight-years-old actually returned to the native life after finding white civilization unfamiliar in his twenties.

One account mentioned suicide. The captive author, welcomed into the tribe as a member was allowed to try; but only with forehand experience, wise Indians removed any capability for the despondent author to complete his task.

Another account mentions agokwa, to the best of my understanding is a cross-dresser. He/she is not shunned but becomes a wife in the memoir and makes the author uncomfortable.

And for the animal rights advocates who elevate Native cultures as superior to white customs, Comanches were mentioned as having a special feast of their beloved companions. They apparently felt the highest honor to dogs was to sacrifice them at certain times and consume their meat.

In my view, what the Politically Correct, two centuries later, have done is select the most virtuous characteristics of indigenous culture and highlight these as their complete way of life. If modern apologists are challenged with negative aspects of native culture, these are couched in the aspect of being self-defense or the avenue of last resort - never something of ingrained cultural heritage. This in itself is stealing Indian history and changing their culture; dissecting its totality and isolating the great in an effort to promote contemporary ideals of benevolence.

In short, the stories found in Captured by the Indians may be drafted by former captives but overwhelming animosity was not conveyed. Obviously, when a family is slain or acquaintances are fatally tormented in the most horrendous manner, some emotion will seep into personal accounts. However, nearly all stories in this collection treat these encounters as matter-of-fact. ( )
  HistReader | Jan 10, 2013 |
This is an unforgettable book. The first-hand stories of captivity and escape are harrowing. It brought to life the struggle between European civilization and primitive people. ( )
  prepper | Jul 11, 2007 |
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For Andrew and Amelia
May these true tails
of adventure with the Indians
amaze and enthrall you
as they did so many readers
who came before you
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Book description
Astounding eyewitness accounts of Indian captivity by people who lived to tell the tale. Fifteen true adventures recount suffering and torture, bloody massacres, relentless pursuits, miraculous escapes, and adoption into Indian tribes. Fascinating historical record and revealing picture of Indian culture and frontier life. Introduction. Notes.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486249018, Paperback)

Astounding eyewitness accounts of Indian captivity by people who lived to tell the tale. Fifteen true adventures recount suffering and torture, bloody massacres, relentless pursuits, miraculous escapes, and adoption into Indian tribes. Fascinating historical record and revealing picture of Indian culture and frontier life. Introduction. Notes.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:32 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Pioneers describe their experiences as captives of the Indians and portray Indian society and culture.

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