Comedian Amy Schumer learned of an amazing event in her genealogy when she sat down with Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Finding Your Roots. At the turn of the 18th century, her ancestors in the Massachusetts had a run-in with the French-allied Native Americans.
Gates Jr. said, “Your 8th great-grandfather’s sister and two brothers were captured by Native Americans and then taken as prisoners to Canada. Sarah was 14 years old at the time. John was 12 and Zachariah was only seven.”
While the Sara was ransomed and sent to live in a convent in Montreal, the two boys ended up living with the Caughnawaga tribe in the Mohawk territory of Canada.
A few years after the abduction, during a time of peace, a militia man was sent to retrieve the boys from Canada. But when he spoke with the tribe’s chief speaker, he recounted, “Those taken by them were adopted into families and held not as prisoners but as children, and it was not their custom to compel any to return but should leave them to their own liberty.”
The children chose to remain with the Caughnawaga tribe. Despite additional attempts to bring them back to Massachusetts, the boys insisted on staying with the Native Americans, where they prospered. In fact, they became two of the wealthiest people in the Mohawk territory.
Gates said, “I’ve been doing this show eleven years. I love American history. I teach in my day job. And I’ve never heard a story like this.”
Finding Your Roots airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on PBS.
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