This book by Scott Zesch is a fascinating history of children captured by tribes of ‘Indians’ in Texas in the nineteenth century. At the heart of the book is the story of Adolph Korn, a distant relative of the author. Korn was abducted by Apaches in 1870 but then traded to another tribe. It was the start of a life as part of a tribe, a life that was both challenging and exhilarating. As the book progresses we gain the feeling that the sense of community to be found in the tribes was something that was hard to give up. As is well documented, some of the captured preferred the life they had been involuntarily brought into to the one they left behind. When it came to matters of choice, some chose to stay with the tribe. In nearly all cases, a return to the previous life was problematic.
Alongside the story of Korn, Scott Zesch tells of other documented cases. They show the perils of being in the American frontier at the time and the hardships these pioneers faced. The ‘Indians’ could be brutal and the book might have benefited from more examples of children who were killed rather than captured. However, all the lives relayed here illustrate the interesting concept of adopting by force a child into a new and alien culture.
The transformation was swift. Boys were stripped of their old clothes, had their ears pierced and hair altered, all to make them ‘like’ their other children. If this seemed brutal it had to be weighed up against this complete acceptance of the child as ‘one of us’. Once the cultural border has been crossed, the way back is hard.
‘The Captured’ by Scott Zesch is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?