The book The Unredeemed Captive is a story about the French-Indian raid on the small town of Deerfield Massachusetts. The raid is not a total surprise to the people of Deerfield, they find out a few days prior to the incident. They hear of towns east of them being attacked. The town of Deerfield did not feel that they were to be affected by the Indians. These few extra days to prepare for the “Savages”, did not help out, in protecting the town. The Indians came, and wreaked havoc on the small country town. They basically came in, and did as they pleased. They attacked many homes, killing family members who did not want to cooperate with them. The ones who did cooperate, were taken with the Indian’s, on their journey to Canada. One of the family’s, that were taken, was the Williams’s. “The Williamses know they are destined for a march into a strange land” (19). John Williams was the minister in Deerfield, and was a very well respected man.
The journey was very long and treacherous, and many died. The weak, or the lame were taken and killed, so they would not slow down the pack. The ones who did survive, were usually the teenagers, because they were young, and could take the harsh climate. Once the Indians reached Canada, they released many of their captives, such as the Williams family. I should say all but two of the Williams’s were returned to Deerfield. Williams’s wife was killed during the long journey, and John’s daughter Eunice. John never did find out why his daughter never returned to him, and this hurt him very deeply. “Eunice still remained captivated in Canada” (54).
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It was very disturbing to John, and the town, that his daughter, either did not want to return to her hometown or was not allowed to return. Eunice never did return to her family again. She had a good life back in Deerfield, before the raid. Or maybe so they all thought. When Eunice was exposed to the Native American heritage, something in her changed. We have to keep in mind though, that she was only a young child when she was taken, and couldn’t have realized what was going on. She was very vulnerable, and the Indians (who were supposed to be the enemy figures), were the ones who took care of her and essentially raised her. When Eunice arrived at Kahawake, she was given an Indian name and was basically recognized as one of their tribe. She went through a ritual naming ceremony, which symbolized the crossing of cultural boundaries, and the changing to the Kahnawake way of life. This was true to many of the people who lived in and around the tribe. According to one of the French priests “The Indians treated me as they would have himself because I had entered into all his rights” (141). Once a person was taken into the Kahnawake culture, there were no differences between the “natives”, and the whites. They were treated with much respect as if they were one of their own.
One of the main reasons why Eunice probably did not return to Deerfield was because of the memories she had. When Deerfield was attacked Eunice was only a child and wasn’t old enough to realize the reason for all the horror. She probably thought of Deerfield, and it reminded her of death and dying. She pictured all of her friends, and relatives being murdered and had no desire to return, for the chance it could all happen again.
Although Eunice did witness her mother’s death, by one of the Indians. “In passing through the abovesaid river, she fell down and was plunged over her ears in water; after which she travelled not far, for at the foot of this mountain the cruel bloodthirsty savage who took her to slew her with his hatchet at one stroke” (29). She still for some reason, decided to stay with her captors. She was really too young, to have any good memories of her hometown, only bad ones.
Maybe the reason for her choosing to make a permanent life with the Kahnawake was because of the way they treated their children. The way of life for the children in the Indian tribes, was much different from the Puritan’s view of t how children should be raised. The children who grew up with the Indians, we allowed doing much more than the puritan children. The Indian children grew up by learning from their mistakes.
The Indians felt that the children should be allowed to have some freedom, before they grew up, and had to take on responsibilities of the tribe. Their children were essentially spoiled. “No one would dare to strike and punish them” (144). The Puritan children grew up the way their parents wanted them to grow up. If they did something that their parents did not like, they were scolded and hit. “Children were raised in accordance with Puritan norms and values- were subject to careful discipline, and were obliged, most especially, to curtail their expression of personal will” (142).
The other reason Eunice stayed with the Indians for so many years could be the Indian’s matriarchal society. In the Indian tribes, the wives basically made all the decisions and did the men’s jobs. They didn’t have the traditional woman’s jobs. They worked out in the fields, doing the farming, and raising the animals.
They also made all the war decisions and took part in fighting in the wars. “There were regular women’ councils, which are always the first to deliberate on private or community matters” (165). The puritan woman had the more traditional role in “society”. They stayed at home and took care of the house, and children. This was basically their life; they never really left their house. The Indian women had a more important role in their society and had a chance to make something of their life, unlike the Puritan women.
In conclusion, I feel that there were many reasons for Eunice Williams staying with the Indians, for pretty much all her natural life. She was able to have a better childhood living amongst the Tribe. She also was able to be part of making important decisions with the Indians; she wouldn’t have been able to with the Puritans. If she had stayed with her puritan family, she would have been nothing but a common housewife. With the Indians, she was able to grow socially, and spiritually.
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