Indian Captive Critical Essays

Lois Lenski


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Lenski’s expressed purpose is “to present an authentic and sympathetic background of Seneca Indian life.” In order to achieve this goal, Lenski includes a tremendous amount of carefully chosen detail, both in her writing and in her illustrations. She is also very careful to blame overtly neither the white settlers who encroached upon the Native Americans’ hunting grounds nor the marauding warriors who tried to protect their homes and livelihoods, making the death of Jemison’s family seem like an unavoidable tragedy. The fact that Jemison does not learn of these deaths until much later plays an important part in her ability to accept the Senecas; although the child misses her family deeply, she does not feel the hatred that most probably would have occurred had she been aware of the murders. Lenski further avoids much discussion of the French and Indian Wars, which took place at this time. She merely reports that both the French and the English troops sought the help of the Iroquois nation, as the whites fought against one another for control of land that had once belonged to Native Americans.

Yet Lenski does allow sympathy for the demise of these tribes to permeate the book. She sees this period as the beginning of the end for the Native American way of life. Whites were immigrating in astounding numbers, spreading westward in unprecedented surges as they sought land for their growing families, and their influence upon Native Americans was...

(The entire section is 571 words.)