Imagine living as a small child in a small community in New England. Imagine one day that a band of invaders comes and kidnaps you, your family, your friends, and a whole bunch of other people. You all are forced to march north to God-knows-where. Slowly, you watch your community get smaller and smaller as you are led away from it. You then watch your family and friends disappear during the trip. Or maybe worse yet for a young child, you watch them deteriorate physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to where they can no longer take care of you and can barely hold themselves up by their bootstraps anymore. You feel so alone, so helpless. Who will be there for you now? Then, something rather strange happens. The invaders decide to welcome you into their family and treat you like their own child. They love you, care about you, and teach you their family’s and people’s ways. They raise you with love and respect, they teach you their language; and it gets to the point where you and they do not want to ever part from one another. Then, one day, your biological family returns and tells you and your new family that you must return home with them. It is God’s Will that you return home with them, they say. What would you do?
Eunice Williams experienced this same situation firsthand in 18th Century America. She was kidnapped as a seven-year-old child from her home in Deerfield, MA in February of 1704 by the Mohawk Indians from Canada. Her parents, several of her siblings, and family friends were also taken prisoner and marched away from the only home that most of them had ever known. Her family and friends either died on the journey, were killed by the Indians; or were eventually returned to Deerfield. Eunice was not. One day, her father came to “redeem” her stating Divine Providence said that she must return to her original community. What would happen? I will let you read The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America by John Demos in order to get the answer to this question and many others.
Mr. Demos tells one heck of a story of family ties, friendship, Protestantism vs Catholicism, Catholicism vs Protestantism, Englishmen vs. Frenchmen and vice versa; North American colonists vs North American Indians; and a whole bunch of issues in between. I also believe that the issue of biological vs adoptive parents plays a role in this story. Neither Mr. Demos nor I could have ever spoken with Eunice Williams for the book or this article. However, if I was Eunice, I think I would have found the whole situation very confusing. One minute, you are in one life. The next minute, you are not. Your biological family cannot take care of you for whatever reason. Although the Mohawk Indians did invade her village, kill people, take prisoners, etc; they then started to treat her like one of the family. It is not that they treated her like crap and then continued to abuse her and treat her like crap. She became a part of their family through and through. They became her parents and her nurturers. How strange that probably was for a young child. But yet, it was not. She felt like a part of the family because she was well, a part of the family. What would you think? It goes to show that human beings never cease to surprise us both tragically and then, beautifully. Read this book, and you will hopefully see what I mean.