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A Journal Of An Indian Captivity During Pontiac’s Rebellion In The Year 1763, By Mr John Rutherfurd, Afterward Captain, 42nd Highland Regiment
“Every one of us was seized by his future master…
April 1958 | Volume 9, Issue 3
My master soon after this untied my hands, often telling me of the impossibility of my escaping. I told him I had no such intention, and feigned a satisfaction with their way of living and a particular fondness for my new dress, by which means I secured his good will, as he thought he was sure of me, and that from my being so young I would sooner take to the novelty of their way of life and more easily forget my country and my friends. Certain it is, by this behavior I fared in many respects better than those prisoners who appeared sullen and displeased with their situation, some of them suffering death on that account.
I now frequently saw two of the soldiers that were taken with me, but the Indians did not choose us to have long conferences together. However, these short meetings now and then were very satisfactory. It gives inexpressible pleasure to meet one of your countrymen when in a foreign country; judge how much more so when in captivity with a nation of savages of a different color from ourselves. Happy was I to meet and converse with these poor fellows, who a little before I would not suffer to speak to me without the usual marks of respect from an inferior to a superior. Here there was no distinction; nay, we were glad to find three people of our color. We used often to compare notes with regard to the usage we met from our masters. One of them told me he was obliged to eat of Captain Robertson’s body. We would form fifty different ways of making our escape, and immediately reject them all as impracticable.
About the middle of May we were in great distress for want of provisions, owing to the indolence of the savages, who never stir out of their huts to fish or hunt till necessity drives them, which was our case at this time. During four days the wind continued so high that no fish could be taken, as they durst not venture upon the lake with their little bark canoes, which generally are navigated by two men (or a man and a boy), the former standing in the bow, or fore part, where there is a pole fixed having a light at the end, which attracts the fish; it being in the darkest nights they are most successful. The man in the bow sees the fish approaching and directs the boy how to steer the canoe, so that he may strike the fish with a harpoon or threepronged gig.
In this manner I have seen as much as two men could carry of catfish, perch, and pike taken in two hours’ time. Independent of the satisfaction of procuring what is so necessary a part of sustenance among them, it is a great amusement and truly a pleasant sight to see upwards of fifty of these lights moving upon the smooth lake in every direction, while the only sound heard is the different cries of wild beasts in the forest. This occasions no apprehension to the fishers, who are out of their reach. I before have observed that the stormy weather had reduced us to our last extremity, viz., picking up acorns and boiling them in ashes and water, changing the ashes and water frequently to remove the bitter taste. This was our food till the fifth day, when the wind abating, we got plenty of fish.
The Indians are so accustomed to being reduced to this shift that they think nothing of it, and are always sure to make up their loss. When they have victuals of any sort in their huts, they do nothing but eat, smoke their pipe, and sleep. Sometimes they amuse themselves with a game something like our children’s diversion of shinty, where the females play against the men and often come off victorious.∗ It is on this occasion that the beaux and belles make their conquests and dress in their best attire. My master used to dress me out in the richest manner, putting all the ornaments belonging to the family upon me, taking me out to the plain and making me strut about to show myself when the whole village was assembled, calling out to the people to look at the little white man. At this time I was only made a show of, and not suffered to join in the game.
∗ This was the game of lacrosse, immensely popular among the tribes of the Great Lakes.
Towards the end of May we began to make preparations for our voyage to join the rest of the warriors encamped within a few miles of Detroit. For this purpose my master thought it necessary to build a canoe (which he and I did in two days) sufficient to carry all our family for many thousand miles. The evening before our departure I was surprised to see my master seize one of the dogs—of which animals we had several in the hut poking their noses every now and then in our victuals, which they could easily reach as the floor was the only table we had. This dog (which I was not sorry for) was killed and given over to the squaw, who scraped him, as we do a hog, in hot water. Then my master invited all his neighbors, sending a man round the village with a number of little painted sticks, one of which was left with each. Upon entering the hut where the feast is held, every one produces his bit of stick and lays it upon a platter provided for the purpose. Each of the guests got a double portion, eating one and carrying the other home in a dish which they bring with them for this purpose. I sat in the corner of the hut, a silent spectator of this feast, being looked upon as a slave and unworthy to partake of so fine a repast.