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New Fort Pitt Museum Exhibit Explores Surprising Topic

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A new exhibit at the Fort Pitt Museum, in Point State Park, explores a topic which may surprise many visitors.

In association with Heinz History Center, the exhibition is called "Captured by Indians: Warfare and Assimilation on the 18th Century Frontier."

"Thousands of women and children were taken captive by Native American tribes here during the French and Indian War, and during that early American period," says Heinz History Center president Andy Masich.

There are dozens of rare artifacts, combined with images of Indians and their captives. Fort Pitt Museum director Alan Gutchess says it took years to bring it all together.

"Quite a few Indian captives, at some point in their lives, either penned their own narratives or were interviewed, and so we have a lot of detail about the rituals involved and their life experiences. And so we went through hundreds of these documents, trying to get to the core of the experience for captives."

Kidnapping members of rival tribes was in practice long before the arrival of European settlers and African American slaves.

The Fort Pitt Block House, next to the museum, is a lingering reminder that many French, and later, English, settlers were taken at the forks for the Ohio.

The museum exhibit flies in the face of historical stereotypes.

"It's not only a story of bloodshed and trial," Andy Masich explains, "but of accommodation and acculturation. Women and children learned to live with their Indian captors, and become part of the family. After the French and Indian War, women and children were redeemed, or brought back to their European settlements. Some of them didn't want to go. Some of them even escaped, and went back to their Indian families."

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