Poetry Friday: Indian Captive

Mary Jemison

Her statue stands

over the lands

she grew to love

beyond and above

the first few years

of living with fears

in a New York forest

dense with pine, only the best

used for longhouses in which they could rest.

At first she longed to escape, in hours so late

but then, eventually, accepted her fate.

An Indian Captive no more,

But one of the Seneca who lived on the shore

Of the great canyon cut by the Genesee,

Letchworth, now a park for you and me.

Letchworth State Park, near where Mary Jemison lived with the Seneca nation. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2021.

For some reason the book, Indian Captive (1941) by Lois Lenski, has resurfaced in my life. I read it years ago, on a recommendation from my mom – who taught third grade. It is the story of Mary Jemison, also known as White Woman of the Genesee who was captured by Seneca Indians and then adopted by them. Her story is one of resilience and adaptability. It is a small, yet thoroughly captivating, piece of historical fiction for students aged 8-12. It has a Lexile rating of 800.

Mary Jemison was a real person that lived a long life, some of it in fear and some of it being revered and loved by those of a culture who adopted her. When given a choice to stay with the Seneca nation or leave, she chose to stay. A recounting of her life can be found on this NPR article out of Buffalo, New York – near Letchworth State Park where Jemison or Dehgewanus, her Seneca name, lived.

Letchworth State Park, the gorge formed by the Genesee River. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2021

Last week, I presented a book spine poem that used the Indian Captive book from my home library. And, then yesterday, wandering the shelves at our local library with my writer’s circle students, I again came across this title and made another book spine poem using it. I would highly recommend this book, as a read aloud or to add to your classroom library.

Book spine poetry at our local library, again using Indian Captive. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2021.

Today is Poetry Friday. Our host is Margaret at Reflections on the Teche. Thank you for hosting, Margaret!

9 thoughts

  1. I did not know about this woman and am fascinated by her story. Letchworth State Park is one place that I wish I saw while living in NYS. It is as beautiful in your picture as I thought it would be. Thanks for the poems and the photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by Carol and for your comments. Despite growing up in Western NY, I don’t have many memories of Letchworth and was not aware of Mary Jemison’s story until I was an adult and lived in WI. Life is funny sometimes, isn’t it?!


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