Analysis of The Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison

This assignment calls for you to analyze Mary Jemison’s memoir by answering the questions
below. Your essay should be 8-10 pages in length (double spaced). You will upload your essay
as a Word document to the course Brightspace page. You do not need a title page or works
cited/bibliography page. When quoting from the narrative, parenthetical citation is sufficient
(please put the page number in parentheses following the quote or paraphrase). Do not quote
from the editor’s introduction or use any outside material in your essay. The point of the exercise
is to analyze Mary Jemison’s life story as she told it.
Mary Jemison was taken prisoner by the Seneca Indians as a young girl. At the end of her life
she dictated her autobiography to a neighbor. In telling the story of her life Jemison gave us an
intimate view of life among the Indians of eastern North America during the eighteenth century.
Her memoir reveals much about race and gender in early America. This is the story of the (often
difficult) relations between ordinary colonists and their Native American neighbors. In your
essay explain what Mary Jemison’s personal experiences tell us about Native American culture
and what it reveals about the relationship between Indians and Anglo-Americans in the
eighteenth century.
What details does Jemison’s narrative provide about Indigenous society?: How did these people
subsist? Describe the Indians’ concept of family and community. What did the Seneca think of
strangers (both white and Indian) and how did they regard colonists and colonial culture? Why
did they take white captives? What does Jemison’s memoir reveal about the concept of race
(from both an Indigenous and a white perspective) during the colonial period?
Jemison’s memoir reveals many details about gender relations in Indigenous society: What can
we learn from her about gender roles – the relations between men and women and husbands and
wives in Native American culture? How were society’s expectations different for men and
women? How did the life of Indigenous women differ from that of their English colonial
counterparts? Why did Jemison prefer to live her life as a Seneca woman?
Because of prolonged contact with Europeans, Indigenous society underwent some profound
transformations: Describe the impact of European influence on Indian culture and society. How
were native peoples transformed by their association with the English? How did colonists
initially view the Indians? How did their attitudes towards native peoples change over time? By
the end of Jemison’s life Indians and white people lived together as friends and neighbors. How
do you explain that transformation?

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