Thursday, November 18, 2010

Indian Captivity of John Tanner

John Tanner was about nine years old when he was captured by the Shawnee and later on joined the Ojibway Indians. He finished his childhood as an Indian eventually forgetting how to speak English. He was known as "The Falcon" in their lanugauge, "Shaw-shaw-wa Benase," as it is written under his photograph at the beginning of the book.

After a couple years with the Shawnee, he was traded to the Ottowas during a night of heavy consumption of alcohol by the Indians, and his new mother treated him much better than before. He became more involved in their way of life, hunting, skinning animals, etc., and the day-to-day work of their camps as they moved around. His new stepfather was an Ojibway. Tanner went on hunting parties, raiding parties, trading parties, etc., and one time killed 24 bears and 10 moose. He says he killed the ten moose with seven balls (bullets), which I find hard to believe.

After some time with the Shawnee and Ottowaws, he joined some Red River Ojibbeways (his spelling), and the main enemy is the Sioux, with whom they had several encounters. He ran into white men (traders) on occasion and they urged him to return to the States. He wanted to do that, but felt that the time was not right. Of course he took an Indian wife and had to consider that aspect as well. He did try to return to the white man ways, but it was a struggle and his white friends said he was a mean and contentious person.

His narrative was first printed in 1830. The book I have was printed in 1956 an edition of two thousand copies. I have copy No. 509. This narrative is very interesting and readable, telling about all the customs and ways of these Indians, including times of hunger, war, happiness, disillusionment, and the day-to-day activities in which he was involved. There is also a good deal of interaction with other tribes, the Crees, Assiniboines, Yanktongs, Mandans, Muskegoes (not very well liked), etc.  The book was prepared for the press by Edwin James, M.D., who also edited an account of Major Long's Rocky Mountain expeditions. It is 427 pages long, and Mr. Tanner had a great memory to recount all of his thirty years with the Indians.


  1. It was an intersting book, and he had a tough life to adapt to. I wouldn't want to do anytime in his moccasins.

  2. John Tanner's book had detailed information of the Indian people he lived in the Canada around the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario. I am his descendant Ed Tanner. I would like to make a documentary of his life and times.