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‘With A Singular Forbearance’
Captured by the Indians: 15 Firsthand Accounts, 1750-1870, Frederick Drimmer, Editor
Dover, 1961, 378 pages, reading from the introduction by Drimmer, pages 8-21
Thanks to Banjo for the thoughtful gift of this book.
“Bad as the savages are, they never violate the chastity of any women their prisoners.”
-General James Clinton, 1779, on the Iroquois
I will be using 13 of the 15 accounts to flesh-out Paleface, previously White Indians and Yellow Negroes. As an introduction to this source material and to the subject of this book, I would like to sketch and overview of Drimmer’s introduction and extract a few quotes.
Drimmer begins by discussing the normal conduct of an abduction as being part of a slaughter, framed as an act in which the tomahawk was the primary tool of terror, placing the spirit of the narrative in the Eastern Woodlands. In selecting these 15 accounts Drimmer read hundreds and hence his broad generalizations are invaluable and support my observation, having read a mere 80 or so accounts.
-Eastern woodland Indians adopted at a much higher frequency than Trans Mississippi Indians and had tribal ethical standards that paralleled the Gaelic cultures of the British Isles in terms of warrior taboos [0], high respect for woman and self-ownership of her body and kindness to children. Plains Indians had a rape culture more similar to southern European and North African, but were otherwise far kinder to children than Europeans and held to ancient warrior taboos. I theorize that the increased cultural congruence and adoption among Eastern Woodland Indians was based on a much longer low-contact period than the brief spasm of race war west of the Mississippi, with the Plains Indians conquered in a single generation in about 30 years, while the Eastern Woodland Indians terrorized and interbred with Europeans for about 300 years [1513-1814].
-People adopted by Indians generally did not want to return to Christian society. This was most pronounced by children, who were typically beaten on a daily basis in Christian households and women, who as Indians possessed their own body as opposed to the slave marriage of Plantation America, in which the wife was very often purchased and treated as such.
-The Eastern Woodland Indians did not have a racial view of life and were entirely cultural in their outlook, treating adopted persons as immediate full status tribe members, as opposed to their Christian enemies who lived in a stepchild society in which not even the children of a spouse were adopted, but treated as resented wards.
-Most Christian men were slaughtered and few adopted.
-Ironically, the high level of internal kindness and tolerance shown to tribal members of all races had its opposite, with these same peoples relishing the torture of enemies to a degree equal to the cruelties of English law and the ancient Roman Spectacle.
Drimmer sketches a concise history of the scalping tradition, which did originate among numerous tribes but was expanded to many tribes largely under European influence. He goes on to describe the practices of torture and cannibalism among the tribes.
Below is a sample from among Drimmer’s thoughtfully preserved quotations:
“The Shawanese [original spelling] were obliged to bind some of their prisoners and force them along to the camp; and some women, who had been delivered up, afterwards found means to escape [1] and run back to the Indian towns [2]. Some, who could not make their escape [1], clung to their savage acquaintance at parting, and continued many days in bitter lamentations, even refusing sustenance.”
-Colonel Henry Bouquet, 1764, after discussing the unwillingness of children to return to the cruelty and toil of Christian life.
Perhaps the reluctance had more to do with being returned to a life of slavery after having known personal autonomy among loving people.
-0. Quite unlike the gang-raping Comanche, Eastern Woodland Indians held rape as a taboo, the breaking of which will deplete the rapist’s own “medicine” or spiritual power.
-1. Escape indicates bondage, reinforced in the latter context and may well represent among women and children, their previous slave status as servants back in Christian society, also bringing into question the amount of force necessary to abduct these folk. They may well have gone willingly and escaped from bondage with the Indians—many of whom among the Shawnees had previously been Christians—and only claimed to have been abducted by force to avoid extending their bondage according to Plantation Law, with runaways typically forced to serve a week for a day away once returned to their master.
-2. Unlike Plains Indians, Eastern Woodland Indians typically lived in houses, not hide tents. The construction of some types of houses and towns has been suggested to be a result of shipwreck survivors and escaped sailors [most of whom were slaves] having lived among these folk since the 1400s, keeping in mind that sailors were, by necessity, carpenters.
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