The ability to construct a tale of experience is one of the most fascinating, and important abilities humans possess. Worldwide, narratives of travel and capture are considered to be important historical artifacts, as well as being intriguing and entertaining. Early American texts give contemporary readers the ability to get a glimpse of life during a vastly different time; such texts also give clues as to the interactions between different cultures. In exploring the early Native American – European contact, texts such as “A Narrative of the life of Mrs. Mary Jemison” and “A Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner,” of the early American period, roughly starting with the Declaration of Independence in 1787, allow for the analysis of interactions between Native tribes, and interactions between Natives and Europeans, from intriguingly unique viewpoints. Since the two texts are told in retrospect, and the events and conversations were not transcribed verbatim, and translated from native languages into English, descriptions of intra and extra-cultural life, as well as interactions between tribes and between Natives and Europeans is still valid and useful in understanding the historical period, as well as the personal lives these texts reveal. “A Narrative of the life of Mrs. Mary Jemison” and “A Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner”, recount the lives of Mary Jemison and John Tanner after being captured by Native Americans. Both tales reveal interesting aspects of Native life from the inside, as seen through a settler’s point of view. Jemison and Tanner’s narratives evidence many Native customs, including tribal dynamics, family and religion. Further, contextualizing the readings allows for generalization and classification of Jemison and Tanner’s experiences as typical in some ways and unusual in others.
This research was supported by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).
A Narrative of the life of Mrs. Mary Jemison” and “A Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner”: Early Native American Tribal Ritual, Identity and Interaction.
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