Blue Jacket, War Chief of the Shawnees

13 12 2010

By Allan W. Eckert
Published by Little, Brown and Company, 1969

Blue Jacket is the true story of a white man, Marmaduke Van Swearingen, who was captured, and subsequently adopted by the Shawnee Indians. This is my favorite of Allan Eckert’s historical fiction books. Though all have been good reads, Blue Jacket is a great character book as well as a novel that tells about historical events.  Though he was only seventeen when taken prisoner by the Shawnee, Swearingen quickly adapted to the Shawnee ways. It was easier for him because he had always been interested in Indian ways and had understood the westward expansion of white people from the Indian’s point of view.

Though technically taken his West Virginia home (then Virginia) as a prisoner, Sweringen went willingly. This was partly to secure the safety of his younger brother, but also because of the prospect of being adopted into the Shawnee tribe.

With his new Shawnee name of Weh-yah-ih-hr-sehn-wah, or Blue Jacket, the young man grew in stature among the Shawnee until eventually becoming a war chief  then a full chief.

The story of Blue Jacket is one that not only tells of the battle of the Shawnee to hold on to their ancestral land, but is also the story of a boy becoming a man who chooses his culture, chooses the way he will live and with whom he will live it.

in Blue Jacket, War Chief of the Shawnees, Allan W. Eckert has told a compelling story of a great nation.  For history buffs, this book should be read to know anything of the struggle for this American territory, a large part of which became the Northwest Territory.  It is a story mirrored throughout our country as a new people conquered and tamed a land, leaving no place for the native people who loved it first.

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