Friday, November 5, 2010

Journey to the Maquasen and Sinnekens

A native of New York City and an almost-history major in college, I am astounded sometimes by what I never learned in my Bronx school education, and even more astounded when I don't find something utterly amazing until 2010:  and worse, I find it in the Young Adult section of the library.

Sometimes I think the Young Adult (YA) books are more timely and sometimes....I guess, less timely.

Until finding a certain book called "Journey into Mohawk Country" by Messrs. Van den Bogaert & O'Connor, I never knew that a certain Harmen Mayndertsz van den Bogaert had written a diary of his journey from New Amsterdam [New York City] to Ft.Orange [Albany] accompanied by two Dutch and five Maquasen Indians [Mohawk] taking approximately 5 weeks, during December of 1634 and January of 1635.  His mission?  To find out why the Mohawk were abandoning their beaver fur trade with the Dutch in favor of trading with the French.

Until I had traveled in September to Stillwater and Ft. Ticonderoga (and Lake George Village), I had not paid much attention to the history preceding the French and Indian War.  Now, I seem to be running into it everywhere.

The YA version of this book was actually a graphic novel.  But like the old Classics Illustrated comics, this graphic novel may lead readers to the original book.  For me, it was a good read while I was nursing my sprained ankle.

This was raw travel.   Van den Bogaert and his traveling companions would not have made it to Ft. Orange had it not been for the hospitality of the Maquasen and Sinnekens [a general word for Native Americans west of the Mohawk, but used here to describe the Oneida].   They traded tools and weapons for the Native hospitality. They slept in longhouses, tried a couple of times to heal sick Native Americans at their hosts' request, and unsuccessfully tried to purchase a "tame" bear as a traveling companion.  They feasted on bear, dried salmon, and hare cooked with chestnuts.

True adventure of a type that is hard to come by in the East today.  Thinking that Van den Bogaert wasn't much older than my son when he made this journey....this type of adventure is denied our young people.  I sometimes wonder if my son would have leapt at the chance to make this journey.  I suspect he would have.

Will I try to tackle the source document?  Not sure.  But I loved the graphic novel.  Maybe for my retirement....

Thank you, George O'Connor, and the other people involved in adapting this journal to the graphic novel format.

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