testing a baby for courage

I just saw “The Legend of Jenny Wylie” which is a musical performed in Prestonsburg, Kentucky based freely on the legends of Jenny Wylie which are based on the events of Jenny Wylie’s life. Jenny Wylie was a settler in about 1785 who was captured by Indians; lived with them for 11 months; gave birth to a baby that she had been “growing” since before she was captured; the baby was tested for courage, failed, and was killed; and then Jenny Wylie escaped, was reunited with her husband and they started a new family.
The question is does testing a baby of perhaps two or three months for courage make sense? I’m not asking whether it is logical, I’m asking whether there is any historical evidence that it was done. The procedure appeared to be put baby on a raft, float it into the river, if baby cries, baby is not brave, baby is killed. The baby in the story started crying when the water got too rough. The Indian who insisted that the baby be tested for courage was probably Cherokee, at least in the production.


I’d have to say it rates as one of the dummer things I’ve ever heard of. My son hates water, for example. :slight_smile:

I don’t think it’s all that far-fetched. Of course it varied greatly from tribe to tribe, and depended on the circumstances. But from what little I’ve read of Indian captives (3 books, 2 of them about Mary Jemison), it seems likely they would quickly ransom or kill those who cried or complained. On the other hand, those who did display corage were often adopted into Indian families as equals.

I found this on the web

I have read that centuries ago, white people were greatly impressed by the fact that Indian babies rarely cried. Whether it was genetic or environmental (or just bad reporting on the part of the whites) is not for me to say.

Well, despite the responses I’ve gotten and despite reading another short summary of Jenny Wylie’s life from a book on state parks in KY (so it’s at least a semi-independent source), I still find it hard to believe. It doesn’t surprise me that the baby may have been killed at the age of a few monthes, but the test for courage seems like an unneccessarily dramatic way of doing so(the guy who ordered the courage test in the production both lusted after Jenny and hated her because of her white blood, so I can’t imagine he’d have wanted her baby to be a member of the tribe)