Important Themes in “The Unredeemed Captive”
“Most of all, I wanted to write a story” (Demos, 1) In The Unredeemed Captive, John Demos, the author, wanted to write a story about the beginnings of America. John Demos’ “story” explains the life of Reverend John Williams and his family. In 1703, French and Indians raid the city of Deerefield, and take most of the citizens captive, including John Williams and his family. His family is split between the Indian and French captors; some go to Montreal, and some go to Native American villages and tribes. The story focuses on Eunice Williams, one of John Williams’ daughter, and her story of marrying a Native American. The rest of the book explains ...view middle of the document...
” (Demos, 4)
Jesuit missionaries tried to convert Iroquois to Christianity; however, not all were accepted and successful. Some Jesuit missionaries were accepted into Indian villages, others were “martyred” and imprisoned. Jesuit missionaries often created internal differences within the native population; traditionalists, those who opposed Christianity, versus those who adopted Christianity. “Many Iroquois villages [were] divided into bitterly antagonized factions: newly professed Christians on the one hand, versus staunch ‘traditionalists’ on the other.” (Demos, 5) Economic opportunity and pressure affected the natives by forcing them to either retain cultural integrity or gain prosperity and dependence on European commerce.
The Jesuits were granted a portion of land, which they named “LaPrarie”, a place where they recruited Iroquois and preached Christianity to them. However, religion was not the only key motif for Iroquois to go to LaPrarie, “The year 1667…a year of peace, following decades of devastation…for refugees from the burned out Mohawk villages, there was incentive to get away.” (Demos, 123) LaPrarie was also close to economic opportunity due to beaver hunting and fur trade, making opportunity another motif for Native Americans to migrate to LaPrarie. The trading of animal skins for European guns, clothes, and liquor plagued LaPrarie of violence and drinking.
The Iroquois eventually split from LaPrarie, falling from civilized community to chaos. Some of the Iroquois eventually converted back into “civilized” Christians and migrated to Sault St. Louis; another establishment like LaPrarie, except it was bigger and had more resources. To combat future corruption, French officials collected the furs and prevented trade with other merchants. The French used religion as a method to create Native American allies; but they were not fully successful.
Native American populations were eventually affected by the onset of foreign populations. In 1665, the French sought truce with most of the Iroquois tribes, the Native American tribes from current day upstate New York. Those who accepted the truce eventually became the French Indians, and the opposing tribes were overwhelmed by the French military power and forcibly accepted the truce.
Epidemic diseases brought from Europe over to America devastated susceptible native populations. Eventually native populations tried to...