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Monday, March 8, 2010

The Unknown

The Barbarys had survived the Iroquois attack, with the exception of Magdeleine and her husband, but now they were captives. There were six remaining family members: the parents, Pierre and Marie, and the four children, Madeleine, Pierre, Marie Francoise and baby Marguerite. I try to imagine what it was like for them as they entered the Iroquois village. Were they able to remain together, or were they dispersed among the many longhouses? Or perhaps they were dispersed among several villages? I don’t know the answer.

What I do know is that the parents, Pierre and Marie, did not survive for long.

At the time of their captivity, the Iroquois tribes had reputations as fierce warriors. Becoming a skilled and feared warrior had gained in importance among the men as the tribes had become more dependent on agriculture. While hunting still played a large part in their lives, it did not bring the men the same type of prestige as it had in the past. The cycle of the tribes’ existence revolved around establishing a community for 15 or so years, until the soil became depleted from their crops, and then moving on to a more fertile area. This caused tensions in and between the various tribes as they sought to grab more fertile land. Waging war became a pressure release that focused animosity outward, against others, and a way for successful warriors to gain power and respect.

Taking and handling captives, an essential part of warring, became ritualized and helped bind the community together. Captives were adopted into tribal families, especially those that had lost members due to war or other calamities. Women and children were eventually assimilated, but adult males were handled differently. Here is a description of what happened to the male captives, from A Short History of Quebec:

“Captives were brought into the village and symbolically adopted into the family of a recently killed warrior before being subjected to a long ceremony, during which the whole community – men, women, and children – spent hours mutilating the victim before opening the body and eating the vital organs. The prisoner was expected to show his bravery by singing his war song and threatening his tormentors.”

Reports from Lachine captives who had survived their ordeal suggest this was done to some of the captives, while others were burned at the stake.

I don’t know what happened to Pierre, if he was mutilated or burned at the stake shortly after his arrival in the village, but his death was surely not pleasant. As to his wife, Marie – my 8th great grandmother – she may have been burned at the stake or died of grief or natural causes. All that is written is that she did not survive.

The two youngest Barbarys, Francoise and baby Marguerite, were probably adopted into families and assimilated. They were never heard from again.

To Madeleine and her brother, Pierre, it must have seemed that life with the Iroquois would be their destiny, too. What is not known is whether the newly wed Madeleine was pregnant at the time of her capture. If so, the baby would have been raised as an Iroquois.

I wonder how long Madeleine waited to be rescued before giving up all hope. As time passed and she realized no one would come for her, she must have felt that she would never again see her husband, Pierre Jamme dit Carriere.

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