Monthly Archives: October 2009

Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

a36c05434657b115934374b55514141414c3441I originally read this Newbery Honor award winner (published in 1941), when I was in second or third grade. The book is based on the true story of Mary Jemison, captured by members of the Seneca tribe. One of a number of white children captured by Native Americans over the years who chose not to return to white society, Mary’s story is one of the more well-known because of her own account of her experiences which was first published in 1824 (A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison, who was Taken by the Indians, in the year 1775, When Only About Twelve Years of Age, and has Continued to Reside Amongst Them to the Present Time by James E. Seaver).

Over the years, many authors have retold her story for various audiences. Lenski focuses on a period of two to three years in Mary’s childhood: her capture, the couple of years following, and her initial decision to remain wit her captives. Lenski is noted as being the first author to study Seneca life and customs, and to accurately represent them in her account of Mary’s story. Lenski thus avoids much of the stereotyping one would expect to find in a book of its era, and many interesting details of the ways of life and beliefs of the Seneca are presented. Illustrated by Lenski with Seneca symbols and articles used in their life at that time add interest to the story.

Reading this book for the second time, as an adult, I again found it fascinating, but I now want to read her original account.

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