Thursday, November 3, 2011

Jonathan Pointer, Enslaved, finds Stature among the Wyandots

My previous post pertained to Richard Pointer, a slave eventually freed ... decades after he demonstrated impressive valor during a 1778 Indian attack on Fort Donnelly, in Greenbrier (now WV) where, one year earlier, James Berry (c1752-1822) had enlisted to serve in Revolutionary forces. Slave Dick's son Jonathan was also born into slavery. Johnathan Pointer was captured by Wyandot Indians at a young age. It was another band of Wyandot warriors that captured Uncle Monk from Estill's Station in 1782. 

In Facing East from Indian Country, author Daniel Richter addresses tribal groups that were fractured by disease and a collision of cultures.
"Hurons mixed with other Iroquoian-speakers to become the people known as Wyandots, Ottawas, Miamis, Illinois, Ojibwas, Potawatomis, Foxes and others who spoke Algonquian languages lived interspersed with one another, sometimes in the same villages, more often in separate towns clustered near French posts such as Michilmackinac or Detroit."
He continues, speaking of fragments of populations coalescing in Ohio country:
"This diverse lot often settled in multiethnic and multilingual villages where they discovered that they had much in common with each other. Many were refugees twice-removed, having left homes in the Susquehanna watershed [Or, in the case of the Wyandots, having left homes in Michigan. - RDH] to which they or their parents had earlier migrated from elsewhere. [Canada]"
Racial distinction was almost insignificant among the Wyandot. Two clans were led by mixed race adoptees: Anglo/Indio men. With his red hair, one of the sub-chiefs could have passed for white, yet he had the allegiance of his mother's people. Richter confirms lore that was reported popular at the time of Monk's capture.
"White colonists who had similarly squatted on Indian country were often slaughtered or sent fleeing to the east, while - revealing the racial dimensions of the movement - enslaved African Americans were often spared."
Monk resisted capture, but Richard Pointer eventually found acceptance among his new masters. He became a person with status: the tribe's Chief Interpreter. It was in this capacity, translating for an itinerant Methodist preacher, that Pointer converted, then helped establish the Methodist's first mission. See Felkner's In the Wigwams of the Wyandots for a more complete description of Pointer's role in the Wyandot tribe's embrace of Christian teachings. 

Pointer refused to accompany Christianized Indians on their pilgrimages to Mission Societies back east. No longer an Indian captive, he never went to visit his father, who died in Virginia in 1827. Pointer stayed behind in 1842 as the tribe was pushed onto non-existent preserves in Kansas. Jonathan Pointer chose instead to move to Negrotown, 8 miles north of the abandoned Wyandot village he'd lived in: to have left Ohio would have made Pointer vulnerable to re-enslavement. The U. S. government did not recognize his adoption by the tribe; slave property captured by Indians would be returned to its rightful owner ... and while repatriation was most likely to occur in slave states, it was a rule of law in force in Ohio until the time of his death there in 1857.

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