Sometimes, people tell the same story, but from completely different perspectives. In the Captivity Narrative of Mary Rowlandson Mary Rowlandson explains how she was taken captive by the indigenous peoples and watched her family die. She portrays herself as the victim, and uses the role of motherhood to form a connection with those who might be reading her narrative. She calls them “barbarous creatures”, “savages”, and says that “I chose to go with those ravenous beasts”. Dehumanizing them, she makes herself the victim as she humanizes herself. She also humanizes herself by using the role of motherhood. She mentions her children and she stresses how much her survival is not just for her, but for her “sick child in my arms, looking that every hour would be the last of its life.” (Rowlandson) Rowlandson mentions the indigenous women in the narrative, calling them “squaw” and mentions them only with the men- assuming that the culture of indigenous people follows the patriarchal society that she lives in.
The Eulogy of King Phillip by William Apess seeks to counter this view of the Puritans solely as the victims, and says of the Puritans that “these same men came to these Indians for support and acknowledge themselves that no people could be used better than they were; that their treatment would do honor to any nation; that their provisions were in abundance; that they gave them venison and sold them many hogsheads of corn to fill their stores, besides beans…Had it not been for this humane act of the Indians, every white man would have been swept from the New England colonies. In their sickness, too, the Indians were as tender to them as to their own children; and for all this, they were denounced as savages by those who had received all the acts of kindness they possibly could show them” The indigenous people helped the others to survive. He portrays a different perspective, that they treated them like children- (this could be problematic though. To treat someone like a child there’s a bit of a double edged sword here. I should go into it more in my other blog but here I’ll briefly say that Apess in saying that they are as tender to them as their own children, it could be very nice- and they could be seen as caring, but it also infantalizes them and assumption can be made that they can’t care for themselves.)
Back on track: Apess explains that “These Indians had not done one single wrong act to the whites but were as innocent of any crime as any beings in the world. And do you believe that Indians cannot feel and see, as well as white people? If you think so, you are mistaken. Their power of feeling and knowing is as quick as yours. Now this is to be borne, as the Pilgrims did as their Master told them to; but what color he was I leave it. But if the real sufferers say one word, they are denounced as being wild and savage beasts.” He humanizes the indigenous people, who had been dehumanized by texts such as Mary Rowlandson’s.
I think that they are each victims of the ideology: they play a part in the ideology that the land should be the Puritan’s because God gave it to them. They are each helpless to stop the ideology, and realize that their hatred for the other culture isn’t about the culture at all, but about wanting to know that they deserve the land.
- Apess, William. “Eulogy on King Phillip” http://voicesofdemocracy.umd.edu/apess-eulogy-speech-text/
- Rowlandson, Mary “Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson”.