Tuesday, 11 January 2011

James Smith's Captivity & Adoption.

By Robert Griffing.

The day after my arrival at the aforesaid town, a number of Indians collected about me, and one of them began to pull the hair out of my head. He had some ashes on a piece of bark, in which he frequently dipped his fingers in order to take the firmer hold, and so he went on, as if he had been plucking a turkey, until he had all the hair clean out of my head, except a small spot about three or four inches square on my crown ; this they cut off with a pair of scissors, excepting three locks, which they dressed up in their own mode. Two of these they wrapped round with a narrow beaded garter
made by themselves for that purpose, and the other they platted at full length, and then stuck it full of silver broches. After this they bored my nose and ears, and
fixed me with ear rings and nofe jewels, then they ordered me to strip off my clothes and put on a breech- clout, which I did ; then they painted my head, face and body in various colors. They put a large belt of wampom on my neck, and silver bands on my hands and right arm ; and so an old chief led me out in the street and gave the alarm halloo, coo-wihy several times repeated quick, and on this all that were in the town
came running and flood round the old chief, who held me by the hand in the middle:. As I at that time knew nothing of their mode of adoption, and had seen them
put to death all they had taken, and as I never could find that they saved a man alive at Braddock's defeat, I made no doubt but they were about putting me to death in some cruel manner.
 The old chief holding me by the hand made a long speech very loud, and when he had done he handed me to three young squaws, who led me by the hand down the bank into the river until the water was up to our middle. The squaws then made signs to me to plunge myself into the water, but I did not understand them ; I thought that the
refult of the council was that I should be drowned, and that these young ladies were to be the executioners. They all three laid violent hold of me, and I for some time opposed them with all my might, which occasioned loud laughter by the multitude that were on the bank of the river. At length one of the squaws made out to speak a little English (for I believe they began to be afraid of me) and said, no hurt you; on this I gave
myself up to their ladyships, who were as good as their word; for though they plunged me under water, and washed and rubbed me severely, yet I could not say
they hurt me much.


These young women then led me up to the council house, where some of the tribe were ready with new cloths for me. They gave me a new ruffled shirt, which I put on, also a pair of leggins done off with ribbons and beads, likewise a pair of mockasons, and garters decorated with beads, Porcupine-quills, and hair— also a tinsel laced cappo. They again painted my head and face with various colors, and tied a bunch of red feathers to one of these locks they had left on the crown of my head, which stood up five or six inches. They seated me on a bear skin, and gave me a pipe, tomahawk, and polecat skin pouch, which had been lined pocket fassion, and contained tobacco, killegenico, or dry sumach leaves, which they mix with their tobacco, — also
spunk, flint and steel. When I was thus seated, the Indians came in dressed and painted in their grandest manner. As they came in they took their seats and for a considerable time there was a profound silence, every one was smoking, — but. not a word was spoken among them. — At length one of the chiefs made a speech which
was delivered to me by an interpreter, — and was as follows : —

"My son, you are now flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone. By the ceremony which was performed this day, every drop of white blood was washed out of your veins; you are taken into the Caughnewago nation, and initiated into a warlike tribe; you are adopted into a great family, and now received with great seriousness and formality in the room and place of a great man ; after what has passed this day, you are now one of us by an old strong law and custom — My son, you have now nothing to fear, we are now under the same obligations to love, support and defend you, that
we are to love and support one another, therefore you are to confider yourself as one of our people." —
At this time I did not believe this fine speech, especially that of the white blood being washed out of me ; but since that time I have found that there was much sincerity in said speach, — for from that day I never knew them to make any division between me and themselves in any respect whatever until I left them. — If they had plenty of cloathing I had plenty, if we were scarce we all shared one fate. "An account of the remarkable occurrences in the life and travels of Col. James Smith [microform] : during his captivity with the Indians, in the years 1755, '56, '57, '58 & '59"


Gorges Smythe said...

It would be interesting to know why they would kill one man and adopt another. I doubt if even he (Smith) ever knew.

Mike Oscar Hotel said...

Fantastic post, Le Loup. Loved it. Almost a baptism of sorts.

Robert Cochran said...

Accepted into a tribe in this manner is a good story line, but I doubt it is true.
What benefit to the Native American tribe would an non-indian white man with no knowledge of their traditions, culture or history be?
Did they plan to study him to try to understand the way he thinks and reasons.

Le Loup said...

This is fact Robert, not just a story. White men & women were often adopted into woodland Indian society.