During the settlement of Europeans in America during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries Indians periodically captured their children. Sometimes these children were allowed to return to their homes after a short duration. Some of the children did not return. Indian Captive is about a twelve-year old girl named Mary Jemison. She was born of Scotch-Irish parents. Mary was captured along with her parents and other siblings from their Pennsylvania farm in 1758. Two of Mary's brothers were able to escape the captivity. Her parents and remaining siblings who were taken with her were killed shortly after their captivity. The French and Indian War was the main reason for the captivity of the Jemison family.
But why was Mary allowed to live? Mary learns the true meaning of her captivity during an Indian ceremony. The Indians were mourning the loss of a son and brother. He was killed on the Pennsylvania frontier. It was because of his death that Mary was captured. The ancient religious custom of the Indian tribe was to fill the place of the one who died. Mary Jemison was brought to the Seneca tribe to fulfill this purpose. Her golden yellow hair was a major reason for their selection of her. Her hair fascinated the Indians. They gave her the name "Corn Tassel" because her hair was the color of the tassel on corn. Being held captive was devastating for Mary. She longed for her family and former way of life. She cried often, but she was strong. She often heard her mother's voice in her head, saying: "Have courage Molly, my child, be brave! It does matter what happens if you're only strong and have great courage." These were the last words Mary heard from her mother. She used them often to cope with the hardships she would face. She was forced to work and do things around the tribe. The things she learned about the Seneca tribe did not reflect what white society had informed her. They were supposed to be cruel, wicked, and savage animals. This was not the case. Most of the Indians were nice to Mary. They cared for her and she learned to care for them. They taught her how to speak their language, prepare food, grow corn, make clothing, to tan skins, and to care for the younger children. More than anything else her ordeal with the Indians made her a great woman of courage. Mary uses this courage when an Englishman comes to the Seneca tribe to purchase her freedom. At her hesitation the Englishman presented her with this argument: "Don't let their fine words blind you to the crime which they committed against you, in destroying your family, in stealing you away from your home, from white people. Don't fool yourself, or let them fool you into thinking that you could forgive them. You may at the moment, but later you will come to hatred. You will never stop hating till you have had your revenge…they will marry you to an Indian whom you cannot love; your children will be Indian children, who will be hated by white people." When Mary pondered his words she found some truth o them. Maybe she should hate the Indians for the crimes they committed against her and her family. But she had no hatred or revenge in her heart for them. What she did hate was war. She hated the French and Indian War. It was this war that deprived her of her family. The Indians had suffered similar losses over and over again. Was her loss any greater than theirs? And if she went back…what would she go to? All that she had suffered at the hands of the Indians would make the rest of her life easy by comparison. "I cannot go!" she said, in a clear, steady voice. "I wish to stay. The Senecas are my people. I will live and die with the Senecas."
Many inner-city youth feel resentment and discouragement toward their past, present, and future in North America. Through Mary Jemison's story I want students to focus on how she overcame her circumstances. Students will focus on cause-effect development throughout the story. Hopefully students will realize that they can become successful even in the midst of what can often be a hostile environment.