Captive Selves, Captivating Others: The Politics and Poetics of Colonial American Captivity Narratives

By Pauline Turner Strong | Go to book overview

3
Captivity and Hostage-Exchange in Powhatan's Domain, 1607-1624

A Christian for a Savage: The Middle Ground of Hostage-Exchange

As Frobisher's initial contact with the Baffinland Inuits demonstrates, Europeans took captives not only in order to fashion informants and allies but also to obtain hostages who might be used as instruments of diplomacy. Europeans employed hostages to ensure the safety of other Europeans who were in indigenous hands, to bargain for political concessions, and more rarely, to cement alliances. Similar uses of hostages were known in indigenous societies, as Massasoit's capture of Tisquantum attests. The political use of hostages and the reciprocal exchange of hostages, then, were forms of mediation between societies with which both Europeans and indigenous peoples were familiar. However, because considerable variation existed in conventions regarding hostages and in the extent to which conventions were followed, there was ample room for misunderstandings and hostility to arise. Particularly objectionable to Native Americans were European violations of reciprocity in the training of interpreters and mediators--that is, their attempts to fashion such individuals asymmetrically through capture rather than reciprocally through hostage-exchange.

In comparison to the English and the Iberians, the French more often obtained consent before transporting Indians across the ocean, hoping to win over persons of influence to the cause of the Crown and the Church. The most notorious exception, Cartier's kidnapping of Domagaya and Taignoagny in 1534, is revealing in its conspicuous breach of indigenous expectations. These two boys were the teenage sons or matrilateral nephews of Donnacona, the headman of the St. Lawrence Iroquoian village of Stadacona (at the site of Quebec) (see Map 2.1). No doubt the Stadaconans, like other Iroquoians, would have understood Cartier's

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