9.16.2008

Horrible American Indian Tortures

I’ve been reading this book Todd gave me called The Heath Anthology of Early American Literature, Colonial to 1800. It contains many selections from the first explorers and settlers’ travelogues, diaries, and autobiographies. One of the accounts from New France is from a Jesuit priest named Father Isaac Jogues, who made several missions to the Iroquois on the New York/Canada border. (The Iroquois were known for being particularly warlike.) Father Jogues describes his torture, after his capture by the Iroquois, in which they pull out all his fingernails and then chew on the stumps until “splinters of bone poke through the flesh.” Until I read that, I had thought the worst was the torture I read about in Savage Kingdom, a history of Jamestown, in which one white man witnesses another ceremonially tortured by an Indian priest with stuffed snakeskins attached to his head. The priest flays the white man with a mussel shell and peels his face off.

Iroquois Warrior