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Empire

150. Worlds Colliding: Seizing Settlers in New England

Mon May 20 2024
Early American settlersCaptivesDeerfieldFragility of British settlementsComplex relationshipsCultural crossings

Description

The episode discusses the story of early American settlers captured by First Nations, focusing on the narrative of Reverend Williams and his daughter Eunice. It highlights the fragility of early British settlements in the 17th and 18th centuries, contrasting it with the dominant narrative of Victorian imperialism. Deerfield, a town in Massachusetts, was settled by white settlers on disputed land, leading to conflicts with indigenous tribes and involvement in global power struggles between France and Britain. The settlers in Deerfield experience a series of raids, with the big attack happening in February 1704 resulting in many casualties and captives being taken towards Canada. Eunice Williams, a captive during the Ottoman Empire, chose to stay with the Mohawk tribe despite efforts to bring her back. She lived a happy life with her new culture and family until she passed away at the age of 89.

Insights

The Fragility of Early British Settlements

The podcast highlights the fragility of early British settlements in the 17th and 18th centuries, contrasting it with the dominant narrative of Victorian imperialism.

Complex Relationships Between Captors and Captives

Captured individuals faced uncertainty and fear while being led by the French, with some developing complex relationships with their captors.

The Cultural Crossings of Early Colonialism

Eunice Williams' story reveals the cultural crossings and complexities of the colonial period in North America. It showcases interactions between white Puritans, French Catholics, and various Iroquois tribes.

Chapters

  1. Early American Settlers and Captives
  2. Deerfield: A Town in Conflict
  3. Challenges Faced by Indigenous People
  4. The Brutal Raid on Deerfield
  5. Complex Relationships and Choices
  6. Eunice Williams' Life with the Mohawk Tribe
Summary
Transcript

Early American Settlers and Captives

00:01 - 07:35

  • The podcast discusses the story of early American settlers captured by First Nations, focusing on the narrative of Reverend Williams and his daughter Eunice.
  • Eunice's story is unique as she marries one of her captors and chooses to stay with them instead of returning to her family.
  • The podcast highlights the fragility of early British settlements in the 17th and 18th centuries, contrasting it with the dominant narrative of Victorian imperialism.

Deerfield: A Town in Conflict

07:09 - 14:07

  • Deerfield, a town in Massachusetts, was settled by white settlers on disputed land, leading to conflicts with indigenous tribes and involvement in global power struggles between France and Britain.
  • Deerfield was established by Puritans striving to create a utopia but clashed with the indigenous people who considered the land their own.
  • Reverend John Williams, a key figure in Deerfield, was taken captive as he was seen as a high-status individual for potential trade with the French side.
  • Children often suffered in raids like the one at Deerfield, leading to settlers interpreting it as barbarism while John Demos suggests pragmatic reasons for killing them.

Challenges Faced by Indigenous People

13:41 - 20:20

  • Indian children in the transcript are vulnerable to diseases brought by Europeans like smallpox, leading to high mortality rates
  • The Iroquois Confederacy united different Indigenous tribes with a system of governance and similar practices
  • Indigenous people faced crises due to wars, intertribal conflicts, epidemics, and competition for resources from settlers
  • Deerfield was a vulnerable frontier settlement with a history of violence and inadequate protection
  • European conflicts played out on American soil through raids and battles

The Brutal Raid on Deerfield

19:50 - 26:24

  • The settlers in Deerfield experience a series of raids, with the big attack happening in February 1704 resulting in many casualties and captives being taken towards Canada.
  • The settlers are vulnerable due to lack of protection and support from the government, making them easy targets for attacks.
  • During the brutal march towards Canada, many captives die due to harsh conditions and inability to keep up with the pace set by the raiders.
  • Survivors of the raid endure a nightmarish journey through deep snow, facing death and uncertainty about their fate.

Complex Relationships and Choices

26:01 - 32:35

  • Captured individuals faced uncertainty and fear while being led by the French, with some developing complex relationships with their captors.
  • Negotiations for redemption were initiated upon returning to Montreal, highlighting the commercial aspects of the raid.
  • Eunice, a young girl captured during the raid, was effectively adopted into an Indian family and lost her ability to speak English within two years.
  • Despite efforts to retrieve Eunice, she chose to stay with her captors due to the care and warmth she received from them.

Eunice Williams' Life with the Mohawk Tribe

32:09 - 38:46

  • Eunice Williams, a captive during the Ottoman Empire, chose to stay with the Mohawk tribe despite efforts to bring her back.
  • Despite diplomatic efforts and family attempts, Eunice refused to return home and eventually got married and had children within the Mohawk tribe.
  • Even after years of separation, there were still meetings between Eunice and her family members, showing ongoing contact.
  • Eunice's strong Catholic beliefs influenced her decision not to return home, viewing her Puritan family as heretics.
  • Eunice lived a happy life with her new culture and family until she passed away at the age of 89.
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