During the 18th century during the frontier wars, the Native Americans invaded whole communities of colonialists and kidnapped women and children. These acts were done as retaliation for what the Native Americans deemed as an invasion of their land by the colonialists. Then the frontier wars ended with the signing of treaties between the European-Americans and the Native Americans which stipulated that all captives be released. The colonialists were however baffled when some of the captives fought against being reunited with their European-American families. Some who were forced to reunite escaped and returned to their captors. This paper will discuss some of the reasons the captives chose to stay with their captors instead of reuniting with their European- American families.
The first explanation is the Stockholm syndrome that is common among captives. Stockholm syndrome is a condition where a captive unreasonably identifies with his/her captors and develops feelings of hostility towards their people because they blame them for not rescuing them earlier (De Fabrique 2). For some of these colonial women, they were kidnapped while at their camps. They stayed in captivity for several years without being rescued. This would have provided them with enough time to question the intentions of their people. As they wait for rescue efforts from the soldiers they would eventually give up and imagine their colonial families have given up on them. This would lead them to develop some form of hatred for their people.
The second reason is that the colonial women had adapted to the Native Americans' way of life and found it appealing. During those early colonial years, the American frontier was harsh, and the colonialists had to struggle to obtain some basic needs such as food and shelter. The Native Americans had spent more time on the continent and had found ingenious ways to survive. Something that appealed to these colonial women (Wade 145). They had perfected the art of hunting and gathering more than the colonialists, and this made their life a bit easier than that of the colonialists.
Also, there is the sense of community that was present among the Native Americans. Unlike the colonialists who had a first come first serve policy, the Native Americans shared whatever little they had equally among the community members. This guaranteed that everyone would get something. This way of life that placed the welfare of the community above individual benefit gave these colonial women a sense of security. They felt their welfare and wellbeing was guaranteed unlike in their colonial families where they could only depend on their family members for help. This made them more determined to stay with their captors. The way of life of the Native Americans also meant that the colonial women had little cares. Starting from the dress code, shelter to the food of the Native Americans, they did not have to worry about any other thing other than health, food, shelter, and clothing. The colonial way of life meant that they had to worry about wealth and status in the community making the colonial life more challenging.
The final explanation is in regards to the position women occupied in Native American society and the colonial society. In Native American society, women had a bigger role that was essential to the survival of the society (Klein, 56). Some of the roles included; warriors, building, farmers, craftswomen and even making weapons for the men. In Native American society, the men identified the role played by women in the survival of the community and hold them in very high regard. This elevated the status of women in the society. In the colonial American society, however, women were simply homemakers. A woman was expected to do house chores and take care of her children. Her activities to the community did not go beyond those she did for her own family. Because of their roles in the society women had been reduced to vessels for carrying children. In captivity, while being assimilated, captured colonial women discovered their roles had been increased. They could now play a bigger role in the survival of the community. This gave them a sense of purpose, responsibility and more meaning in life. When they were rescued, they were not willing to back to being homemakers for the colonial men.
Most of these captured women simply spent too much time with their captors which allowed them time to have families with their captors. Most of the women captured by Native Americans were young and were married off to chiefs and warriors. By the time they were rescued they had had children with their captors and developed a bond with them. They had stopped viewing them as captors and rather viewed them as a family. This inspired them to stay. Also, the long period to which some of these women had been in captivity resulted in some feeling like they do not have anything to go back to in their colonial societies. Therefore choosing to stay with their new communities.
Klein, Laura F., and Lillian A. Ackerman, eds. Women and power in native North America. University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.
De Fabrique, Nathalie, et al. "Understanding Stockholm syndrome." FBI L. Enforcement Bull. 76 (2007): 10.
Wade, Linda R. Life in Colonial America. ABDO Publishing Company, 2010..
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