The Light In The Forest

Historic Background

The Light in the Forest focuses on the relationship between the Scotch-Irish settlers of western Pennsylvania and the Lenni Lenape Native Americans of the Delaware area. The story is set in 1765, against the stormy early period of Pennsylvania history when white settlers paid bounties for Native American scalps, and Native Americans captured and scalped whites. Colonel Bouquet's historic march into Native American territory along the Muskingum River in Ohio and western Pennsylvania forms the focal point of the story. Bouquet pressures the Lenni Lenape and Shawanose to sign a treaty to return all captive whites. Although the Native Americans hate to give up their adopted white relatives, they are afraid to lose their land and see it replaced by a white settlement on the banks of their sacred river.


The Light in the Forest (1953), whose name derives from a Wordsworth poem that prefaces the book, represents Richter's careful research of the Indian- white relations of eighteenth century Ohio and Pennslvania, and it demonstrates his fascination with the many accounts of white captives who desperately tried to leave white civilization and return to their adopted Indian families. As Richter writes in "Acknowledgements" preceding The Light in the Forest, his aim was to write an objective and realistic novel that could "give an authentic sensation of life in early America." He also hoped that, by giving the reader a better idea as to how the Indians viewed our way of life years ago, he may help the reader gain a better understanding of how other cultures view American society today. The sources Richter used to research his book include John Hechewelder's Indian Nations, David Zeisberger's History of North American Indians, and "Narrative of John Brickell's Captivity Among the Delawares," which was an article that ran in the American Pioneer in 1842.
The story told in the book The Light in the Forest, tells about John Cameron Butler. When he was a child, he was captured in a raid on the Pennsylvania frontier and adopted by the great warrrior Cuyloga. Renamed True Son, he came to think of himself as fully Indian. But eleven years later his tribe, the Lenni Lenape, has signed a treaty with the white men and agreed to return their captives, including fifteen-year-old True Son. Now he must go back to the family he has forgotten, whose language is no longer his, and whose ways of dress and behavior are as strange to him as the ways of the forest are to them. A beautifully written, sensitively told story of a white boy brought up by Indians, The Light in the Forest is a beloved American classic.
The story of The Light in the Forest is based on an actual event that occurred in the fall of 1764, during the treacherous white westerly expansion into the Indian territory of Ohio. Colonel Bouquet, who is an historic figure in addition to being a character in the book, marched into Ohio with 1,500 soldiers and ordered that the Indians return the white prisoners they had captured. The troop came back to Fort Pitt on November 9, 1764 with 206 white captives, and, according to certain accounts of the ordeal, many whites were indeed angry about their forced return. In addition to Colonel Bouquet, Parson Elder is another real-life character in the book. The Paxton Boys' massacre was also an actual event that occurred in response to the Pontiac Indian uprising, a number of attacks that Indians wreaked upon Pennsylvanian settlers in 1763. As Richter explains in the novel, the settlers in western Pennsylvania resented the lenient attitude toward punishing Indians of influential judges and politicians of eastern Pennsylvania. These settlers felt that they had to take justice into their own hands.

Stop here and fill out the L and W columns of your handout. Then, write a summary on the back, using the information that you wrote in the L column.

Make some predictions before you read the book.
Copy the quote from Wordsworth that was used in the preface of The Light in the Forest. into your notebook

Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;

Think about what you've read in the book summaries printed above. Does the excerpt from the poem seem to refer to the experiences of John Butler, who was known as True Son by the Indians? What is the prison house? Who is the growing boy? When the boy sees the light, how does he feel? Why does the book's author say that the "light" that is talked about in the poem is in the forest?

Learn about the historic background of The Light in the Forest.
Assignment for Monday, September 21, 2009:

Read about the Battle of Bushy Run and Colonel Henry Bouquet, using the Wikipedia article and links. Bushy Run Henry Bouquet Copy these questions into your notebook and answer them:

1. Describe the Battle of Bushy Run, using the 5 w's and the h. (who, what, when, where, why, how) Write at least ONE sentence for every w and for the h.

2. Who was Colonel Henry Bouquet? Answer in sentence form.

3. Write a short biography of him, (at least 5 sentences) using the link in the Wikipedia article for information.

4. Use the Bouquet link to describe his actions in Pontiac's War. Tell all about the smallpox "plan" and the prisoner exchange. Answer in sentence form. Give your personal opinion of this "plan" in one, full sentence.

5. Link to the article on the Paxton Boys. Paxton Boys Copy these questions into your notebook and answer them:

a. Who were the Paxton Boys and what was their nationality?

b. When and why did they attack the Indians?

c. Which tribes did they attack and why was this attack controversial?

d. Tell what happened on these dates: December 14, 1763, December 27, 1763, January, 1764 (a series of events).

Assignment for Tuesday, September 22, 2009.

What was in the 1701 treaty between the Conestogas and William Penn? As you read the novel, notice which information from the above questions are used in the story. Put a check mark (√ ) next to each "fact" that the author used in his book.

Read about Simon Girty, who was kidnapped at the age of 16 by the Senecas, during the French and Indian War. Make a T Chart with True Son written on the left and Simon Girty written on the right of the T. List the characteristics of each story, using what you know so far. Write a 5 sentence paragraph to answer this question: How does his story compare to the novel?

Simon Girty

Click on the link and read about the kidnapping of colonist Mary Jemison, during the French and Indian War. Mary Jemison

Write a 5 sentence summary of her experience.

Views of Fort Pitt and Pittsburgh: Also part of the assignment for Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fort Pitt
Fort_Pitt.jpg
Historic Fort Pitt
View the four pictures of Fort Pitt and Pittsburgh. Which landmarks have remained the same over the years? Which landmarks have changed? Make a T chart on your notebook paper and list the characteristics of Ft. Pitt on the left side of the T and the characteristics of modern Pittsburgh on the right side of the T. At the bottom of the page,write one sentence when you finish the chart to tell what the area may have looked to True Son when he was there. When you read the book in Language Arts class, compare what you wrote here to what the author describes as True Son's impressions.

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Fort Pitt in 1776


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Pittsburgh Today
The red car is called the Mt. Washington Incline. It's a cable car that travels up and down the side of a very steep hill. The view from the top of Mt. Washington is very pretty at night. Answer these questions on your paper: What would it look like at night? How would the view be different from the view that True Son could have seen from the same spot?
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Pittsburgh's "Golden Triangle"

End of Tuesday, September 22, 2009 assignment.

This historic map is difficult to read, but it shows Bouquet's march into Ohio country.
Bouquet's March Into Ohio Country
Bouquet's March Into Ohio Country

The map below is a clearer look at Bouquet's route. It is shown in red. The red star marks the spot of the Bushy Run Battle.
PaMap20.jpg

Conestoga Indian Settlement: This is the settlement that was attacked by the Paxton Boys. Local connection: The Susquehannah River flows into the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, the Chesapeake Bay IS the ancient Susquehannah River bed that was flooded at the end of the last Ice Age. It is actually an estuary.
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Scenes from the lives of Eastern Woodlands Indians

Use this link to help you to imagine the life of the captives when you work on your triangle report

Eastern Woodlands===



Read about the Carlisle Indian School. This will begin our connection to the post Civil War westward movement.Carlisle Indian School

What's A Winter Count? Read the link as directed in class to find out about Lone Dog's Winter Count.Winter Counts

Buffalo Hide Painting Read about the history of buffalo hide paintings to prepare for our project. About Buffalo Hides

Use this direct link to the questions about the Buffalo Hide Painting. Copy them into your notebook and answer them with your partner. Buffalo Hide Questions