Relations Between Colonists and Native Americans

Tensions between the colonists and Native Americans were a source of great concern in the seventeenth century. Puritan settlers proved to be both fearful of losing connection to their culture and intrigued by the stories of those who had been taken captive and returned to colonial civilization. These captivity narratives especially gained popularity with the literate, including those whom embraced a view that trials and conflicts were predetermined by God though Divine Providence. In Mary Rowlandson’s “The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs.

Mary Rowlandson”, the biblical framework of her account introduces dichotomy between civilized, educated Christians and the wild Natives through making sense of the colonists’ fears through a Puritan worldview, the reference of biblical figures and liturgical tradition, and a didactic tone in order to present her experience as a lesson to others.

Like Rowlandson, many Puritan pilgrims of the time failed to view Native Americans as fellow human beings, but as a part of the wilderness.

When taken captive, Mary Rowlandson refers to the experience as threatening and mournful and even recounts, “Now away we must go with those barbarous creatures, with our bodies wounded and bleeding” (271). By naming the natives “barbarous creatures” a sense of separation is evoked. Her faith helped make sense of her trails as a captive: as she was unsure of her new surroundings, the application of Puritan ideology is used to both express her feelings and give explanation to events that took place throughout her captivity. She gives credit to God for every positive event; as she remembers her carelessness towards the Sabbath, it is evident that she believes that God should have righteously turned His back to her, but she states that “Yet the Lord still showed mercy to me and upheld me; and as He wounded me with one hand, so He healed me with the other.

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”, which attributes her survival, despite suffering from severe wounds, to God Himself (273).

The concept of “othering” is further supported by this as it shows that even when held against their will, God would not allow His chosen people to perish under the hand of evil. Rowlandson’s biblical motifs and mention of liturgical tradition are prevalent in her narrative by the method in which she communicates grief and remorse in wake of the death of her youngest daughter. She separates herself from the Indians by comparing her sadness and desperation for her aching child’s comfort to their version of putting her out of her misery: by offering to kill her quickly. Rowlandson alludes to the story of a biblical figure, Job to express that “this was the comfort I had from them, miserable comforters are ye all, as he said” (273). In the Bible, Job is presented as a virtuous, well-off man that God allows disaster to fall on through Satan.

His family, health, and property are ruined, and he looks to God for answers. Similarly, Rowlandson, a “saved” Christian woman, has been struck with heartache and ruin. She sees God’s allowing Satan’s works to test Job as an explanation to the difference in the ways of the natives from her own. After Sarah dies and Rowlandson is obliged to cease fawning over the dead body, she asks what they had done with the child, and is shown her burial site. Troubled by her daughter’s lack of Christian funeral in a Puritan churchyard, she is forced to leave her child in the wilderness, comparing her daughter’s state to her own: the important spiritual closure that a proper funeral provides to the dead is equally as significant to the living as well.

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Relations Between Colonists and Native Americans. (2022, Apr 29). Retrieved from

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