63 Depicting the Colonial Encounter

Jessica Caputo

While reading the rest of The First Remove my conception of the colonial encounter changed. In my eyes, while reading, Bartoleme de las Casas’ narrative, I saw genocide the most out of anything in the story. Everyone was getting killed, including babies and the elderly. Reading this narrative was heart wrenching because all of my schooling up until now we were taught different things. We were taught that there were differences but not to this extent that we are being taught now. My depiction of the colonial encounter has changed drastically from how I viewed it in middle school and high school to now.

Now I’m not saying that “The First Remove” wasn’t heartbreaking because it was but it was a different type of heartbreak. In Bartoleme de las Casas’ narrative, there was genocide and people were being killed day by day. In Mary Rowlandson’s story, kids, sisters, and wives were being sold to other families, kids were dying from sicknesses, and mothers and fathers were getting stuck in the middle of fights and getting injured to the point they didn’t think they could make it. There was so much going on at once and so much emotion going on inside my head while reading. The most heartbreaking and heart wrenching quote I read had to be,

I cannot but take notice how at another time I could not bear to be in the room where any dead person was, but now the case is changed; I must and could lie down by my dead babe, side by side all the night after.


She had to lay all night at her dead child’s side, not knowing whether she would get to give her a proper burial or if they would just take her away from her arms. Imagine the thought of laying side by side with your child that has just passed away, all night long not being able to move away, not having the chance to grieve properly. It shatters my heart into a million pieces reading that quote.

There is one part of her story that I did not quite understand. In this quote below they laughed at the sight of Mary being injured and her injured child falling over the head of the horse.

Then they set me upon a horse with my wounded child in my lap, and there being no furniture upon the horse’s back, as we were going down a steep hill we both fell over the horse’s head, at which they, like inhumane creatures, laughed, and rejoiced to see it, though I thought we should there have ended our days, as overcome with so many difficulties.


Then after the child has passed away the Indigenous peoples have the decency to bury her for Mary’s sake or so that the child had a somewhat proper burial after struggling to live for nine days straight.

I went to take up my dead child in my arms to carry it with me, but they bid me let it alone; there was no resisting, but go I must and leave it. When I had been at my master’s wigwam, I took the first opportunity I could get to go look after my dead child. When I came I asked them what they had done with it; then they told me it was upon the hill. Then they went and showed me where it was, where I saw the ground was newly digged, and there they told me they had buried it.


The fact that they were laughing at her and her child the day before when they fell off the horse but both injured then wanted to bury her dead child for her is something I never will quite understand. Why did they do this? What was the reasoning? Why didn’t they just leave the child where it was like they did with so many other people?


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The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature: A PSU-Based Project Copyright © 2016 by Jessica Caputo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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