John Gyles


  1. Biography
  2. Why Should We Read and Study Gyles?
  3. Literature & Analysis
    • “The First Year” from Memoirs of Odd Adventures
    • Analysis of “The First Year”
  4. Questions and Considerations for Reflection
  5. Strategies for Teachers
  6. Further Reading
  7. Copyright


Born in Pemaquid, Maine around 1680, the Puritan John Gyles entered New Brunswick as the famous boy captive of the Maliseet of the St. John River. He later became an interpreter, military officer, and author of Memoirs of Odd Adventures, Strange Deliverances, Etc., in the Captivity of John Gyles (1736), one of the most arresting captivity narratives in our literary history. Attack and capture by indigenous populations was part of the English-French struggle in the New World, a struggle that often pitted native peoples against the English. It was routine for English settlers to carry guns to guard against ambush by native war parties led by French officers and instigated to violence by French clergy. Such was the fate of a young John Gyles, who was captured by a Maliseet raiding party in 1689, brought from Maine to what is now New Brunswick, made a slave of the Maliseet for six years, and eventually sold to a French family on the St. John River with whom he lived for three years until 1698. In the process he was one of the first English residents to live in the province, and undoubtedly the first, observed Stuart Trueman, to have an intimate knowledge of the culture, language, and habits of English, Maliseet, and French societies. His value as a translator and interpreter came from that unique experience, which he (purportedly) recorded in his personal journal, which he published as Memoirs of Odd Adventures in 1736.

For a much more detailed biography of Gyles, see his New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia entry.

Why Should We Read and Study Gyles?

  • Critic Dana Schwab cogently states the case for what should be our interest: “Gyles’ memoir is ... a fascinating study, both in a literary and in an anthropological sense. It is an important work not only in terms of its chronicling of the habits and practices of the Maine/New Brunswick Maliseet but also by way of its acknowledgment of the complexity of their culture, which flies in the face of traditional Eurocentric condemnation. In spite of what may certainly be perceived as flaws relating to [Gyles’] ethnographic imperialism and a clear Protestant agenda, Gyles’ memoir is a valuable tool not only in the reconstruction of a people of the eastern coast about which little is known, but also in its pioneering synthesis of the major historical perspectives of early New Brunswick” (New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia).
  • Gyles’ documentary-like observations, then, regardless of the fact that they are semi-fictional, provide an essential record of seventeenth century society in our area. What we know of native populations, native-settler relations, trade and mobility patterns, wildlife, resource extraction and sustenance practices, and many other aspects of seventeenth century New World sociology come from Gyles and early observers like him. Their observations are invaluable to our understanding.

Literature & Analysis

“The First Year” from Memoirs of Odd Adventures, Strange Deliverances, etc., in the Captivity of John Gyles

[The First Year]

ON THE SECOND day of August, 1689, in the morning, my honored father, THOMAS GYLES, Esq., went with some laborers, my two elder brothers and myself, to one of his farms, which laid upon the river about three miles above fort Charles, adjoining Pemmaquid falls, there to gather in his English harvest, and we labored securely till noon. After we had dined, our people went to their labor, some in one field to their English hay, the others to another field of English corn. My father, the youngest of my two brothers, and myself, tarried near the farm-house in which we had dined till about one of the clock; at which time we heard the report of several great guns at the fort. Upon which my father said he hoped it was a signal of good news, and that the great council had sent back the soldiers, to cover the inhabitants; (for on report of the revolution they had deserted.) But to our great surprise, about thirty or forty Indians, at that moment, discharged a volley of shot at us, from behind a rising ground, near our barn. The yelling of the Indians, the whistling of their shot, and the voice of my father, whom I heard cry out, “What now! what now!” so terrified me, (though he seemed to be handling a gun,) that I endeavored to make my escape. My brother ran one way and I another, and looking over my shoulder, I saw a stout fellow, painted, pursuing me with a gun, and a cutlass glittering in his hand, which I expected every moment in my brains. I soon fell down, and the Indian seized me by the left hand. He offered me no abuse, but tied my arms, then lifted me up, and pointed to the place where the people were at work about the hay, and led me that way. As we went, we crossed where my father was, who looked very pale and bloody, and walked very slowly. When we came to the place, I saw two men shot down on the flats, and one or two more knocked on their heads with hatchets, crying out, “O Lord,” &c. There the Indians brought two captives, one a man, and my brother James, who, with me, had endeavored to escape by running from the house, when we were first attacked. This brother was about fourteen years of age. My oldest brother, whose name was Thomas, wonderfully escaped by land to the Barbican, a point of land on the west side of the river, opposite the fort, where several fishing vessels lay. He got on board one of them and sailed that night.

After doing what mischief they could, they sat down, and made us sit with them. After some time we arose, and the Indians pointed for us to go eastward. We marched about a quarter of a mile, and then made a halt. Here they brought my father to us. They made proposals to him, by old Moxus, who told him that those were strange Indians who shot him, and that he was sorry for it. My father replied that he was a dying man, and wanted no favor of them, but to pray with his children. This being granted him, he recommended us to the protection and blessing of God Almighty; then gave us the best advice, and took his leave for this life, hoping in God that we should meet in a better. He parted with a cheerful voice, but looked very pale, by reason of his great loss of blood, which now gushed out of his shoes. The Indians led him aside! – I heard the blows of the hatchet, but neither shriek nor groan! I afterwards heard that he had five or seven shotholes through his waistcoast or jacket, and that he was covered with some boughs. The Indians led us, their captives, on the east side of the river, towards the fort, and when we came within a mile and a half of the fort and town, and could see the fort, we saw firing and smoke on all sides. Here we made a short stop, and then moved within or near the distance of three quarters of a mile from the fort, into a thick swamp. There I saw my mother and my two little sisters, and many other captives who were taken from the town. My mother asked me about my father. I told her he was killed, but could say no more for grief. She burst into tears, and the Indians moved me a little farther off, and seized me with cords to a tree.

The Indians came to New Harbor, and sent spies several days to observe how and where the people were employed, &c., who found the men were generally at work at noon, and left about their houses only women and children. Therefore the Indians divided themselves into several parties, some ambushing the way between the fort and the houses, as likewise between them and the distant fields; and then alarming the farthest off first, they killed and took the people, as they moved towards the town and fort, at their pleasure, and very few escaped to it. Mr. Pateshall was taken and killed, as he lay with his sloop near the Barbican.

On the first stir about the fort, my youngest brother was at play near it, and running in, was by God’s goodness thus preserved. Captain Weems, with great courage and resolution, defended the weak old fort two days; when, being much wounded, and the best of his men killed, he beat for a parley, which eventuated in these conditions:

1. That they, the Indians, should give him Mr. Pateshall’s sloop. 2. That they should not molest him in carrying off the few people that had got into the fort, and three captives that they had taken. 3. That the English should carry off in their hands what they could from the fort.

On these conditions the fort was surrendered, and Captain Weems went off; and soon after, the Indians set on fire the fort and houses, which made a terrible blast, and was a melancholy sight to us poor captives, who were sad spectators!

After the Indians had thus laid waste Pemmaquid, they moved us to New Harbor, about two miles east of Pemmaquid, a cove much frequented by fishermen. At this place, there were, before the war, about twelve houses. These the inhabitants deserted as soon as the rumor of war reached the place. When we turned our backs on the town, my heart was ready to break! I saw my mother. She spoke to me, but I could not answer her. That night we tarried at New Harbor, and the next day went in their canoes for Penobscot. About noon, the canoe in which my mother was, and that in which I was, came side by side; whether accidentally or by my mother’s desire I cannot say. She asked me how I did. I think I said “pretty well,” but my heart was so full of grief I scarcely knew whether audible to her. Then she said, “O, my child! how joyful and pleasant it would be, if we were going to old England, to see your uncle Chalker, and other friends there! Poor babe, we are going into the wilderness, the Lord knows where!” Then bursting into tears, the canoes parted. That night following, the Indians with their captives lodged on an island.

A few days after, we arrived at Penobscot fort, where I again saw my mother, my brother and sisters, and many other captives. I think we tarried here eight days. In that time, the Jesuit of the place had a great mind to buy me. My Indian master made a visit to the Jesuit, and carried me with him. And here I will note, that the Indian who takes a captive is accounted his master, and has a perfect right to him, until he gives or sells him to another. I saw the Jesuit show my master pieces of gold, and understood afterwards that he was tendering them for my ransom. He gave me a biscuit, which I put into my pocket, and not daring to eat it, buried it under a log, fearing he had put something into it to make me love him. Being very young, and having heard much of the Papists torturing the Protestants, caused me to act thus; and I hated the sight of a Jesuit. When my mother heard the talk of my being sold to a Jesuit, she said to me, “Oh, my dear child, if it were God’s will, I had rather follow you to your grave, or never see you more in this world, than you should be sold to a Jesuit; for a Jesuit will ruin you, body and soul!” It pleased God to grant her request, for she never saw me more! Yet she and my two little sisters were, after several years’ captivity, redeemed, but she died before I returned. My brother who was taken with me, was, after several years' captivity, most barbarously tortured to death by the Indians.

My Indian master carried me up Penobscot river, to a village called Madawamkee, which stands on a point of land between the main river and a branch which heads to the east of it. At home I had ever seen strangers treated with the utmost civility, and being a stranger, I expected some kind of treatment here; but I soon found myself deceived, for I presently saw a number of squaws, who had got together in a circle, dancing and yelling. An old grim-looking one took me by the hand, and leading me into the ring, some seized me by my hair, and others by my hands and feet, like so many furies; but my master presently laying down a pledge, they released me.

A captive among the Indians is exposed to all manner of abuses, and to the extremest tortures, unless their master, or some of their master’s relations, lay down a ransom; such as a bag of corn, a blanket, or the like, which redeems them from their cruelty for that dance. The next day we went up that eastern branch of Penobscot river many leagues; carried over land to a large pond, and from one pond to another, till, in a few days, we went down a river, called Medocktack, which vents itself into St. John’s river. But before we came to the mouth of this river, we passed over a long carrying place, to Medocktack fort, which stands on a bank of St. John’s river. My master went before, and left me with an old Indian, and two or three squaws. The old man often said, (which was all the English he could speak,) “By and by come to a great town and fort.” I now comforted myself in thinking how finely I should be refreshed when I came to this great town.

After some miles’ travel we came in sight of a large cornfield, and soon after of the fort, to my great surprise. Two or three squaws met us, took off my pack, and led me to a large hut or wigwam, where thirty or forty Indians were dancing and yelling round five or six poor captives, who had been taken some months before from Quochech, at the time Major Waldron was so barbarously butchered by them.

* * *

I was whirled in among this circle of Indians, and we prisoners looked on each other with a sorrowful countenance. Presently one of them was seized by each hand and foot, by four Indians, who, swinging him up, let his back fall on the ground with full force. This they repeated, till they had danced, as they called it, round the whole wigwam, which was thirty or forty feet in length. But when they torture a boy they take him up between two. This is one of their customs of torturing captives. Another is to take up a person by the middle, with his head hanging downwards, and jolt him round till one would think his bowels would shake out of his mouth. Sometimes they will take a captive by the hair of the head, and stooping him forward, strike him on the back and shoulder, till the blood gushes out of his mouth and nose. Sometimes an old shrivelled squaw will take up a shovel of hot embers and throw them into a captive’s bosom. If he cry out, the Indians will laugh and shout, and say, “What a brave action our old grandmother has done.” Sometimes they torture them with whips, &c.

The Indians looked on me with a fierce countenance, as much as to say, it will be your turn next. They champed cornstalks, which they threw into my hat, as I held it in my hand. I smiled on them, though my heart ached. I looked on one, and another, but could not perceive that any eye pitied me. Presently came a squaw and a little girl, and laid down a bag of corn in the ring. The little girl took me by the hand, making signs for me to go out of the circle with them. Not knowing their custom, I supposed they designed to kill me, and refused to go. Then a grave Indian came and gave me a short pipe, and said in English, “Smoke it;” then he took me by the hand and led me out. My heart ached, thinking myself near my end. But he carried me to a

French hut, about a mile from the Indian fort. The Frenchman was not at home, but his wife, who was a squaw, had some discourse with my Indian friend, which I did not understand. We tarried about two hours, then returned to the Indian village, where they gave me some victuals. Not long after this I saw one of my fellow-captives, who gave me a melancholy account of their sufferings after I left them.

After some weeks had passed, we left this village and went up St. John’s river about ten miles, to a branch called Medockscenecasis, where there was one wigwam. At our arrival an old squaw saluted me with a yell, taking me by the hair and one hand, but I was so rude as to break her hold and free myself. She gave me a filthy grin, and the Indians set up a laugh, and so it passed over. Here we lived upon fish, wild grapes, roots, &c., which was hard living to me.

When the winter came on we went up the river, till the ice came down, running thick in the river, when, according to the Indian custom, we laid up our canoes till spring. Then we travelled sometimes on the ice, and sometimes on the land, till we came to a river that was open, but not fordable, where we made a raft, and passed over, bag and baggage. I met with no abuse from them in this winter’s hunting, though I was put to great hardships in carrying burdens and for want of food. But they underwent the same difficulty, and would often encourage me, saying, in broken English, “By and by great deal moose.” Yet they could not answer any question I asked them. And knowing little of their customs and way of life, I thought it tedious to be constantly moving from place to place, though it might be in some respects an advantage; for it ran still in my mind that we were travelling to some settlement; and when my burden was over-heavy, and the Indians left me behind, and the still evening coming on, I fancied I could see through the bushes, and hear the people of some great town; which hope, though some support to me in the day, yet I found not the town at night.

Thus we were hunting three hundred miles from the sea, and knew no man within fifty or sixty miles of us. We were eight or ten in number, and had but two guns, on which we wholly depended for food. If any disaster had happened, we must all have perished. Sometimes we had no manner of sustenance for three or four days; but God wonderfully provides for all creatures. In one of these fasts, God’s providence was remarkable. Our two Indian men, who had guns, in hunting started a moose, but there being a shallow crusted snow on the ground, and the moose discovering them, ran with great force into a swamp. The Indians went round the swamp, and finding no track, returned at night to the wigwam, and told what had happened. The next morning they followed him on the track, and soon found him lying on the snow. He had, in crossing the roots of a large tree, that had been blown down, broken through the ice made over the water in the hole occasioned by the roots of the tree taking up the ground, and hitched one of his hind legs among the roots, so fast that by striving to get it out he pulled his thigh bone out of its socket at the hip; and thus extraordinarily were we provided for in our great strait. Sometimes they would take a bear, which go into dens in the fall of the year, without any sort of food, and lie there four or five months without food, never going out till spring; in which time they neither lose nor gain in flesh. If they went into their dens fat they came out so, and if they went in lean they came out lean. I have seen some which have come out with four whelps, and both very fat, and then we feasted. An old squaw and a captive, if any present, must stand without the wigwam, shaking their hands and bodies as in a dance, and singing, “WEGAGE OH NELO WOH,” which in English is, “Fat is my eating.” This is to signify their thankfulness in feasting times. When one supply was spent we fasted till further success.

The way they preserve meat is by taking the flesh from the bones and drying it in smoke, by which it is kept sound months or years without salt. We moved still further up the country after moose when our store was out, so that by the spring we had got to the northward of the Lady mountains. When the spring came and the rivers broke up, we moved back to the head of St. John’s river, and there made canoes of moose hides, sewing three or four together and pitching the seams with balsam mixed with charcoal. Then we went down the river to a place called Madawescook. There an old man lived and kept a sort of trading house, where we tarried several days; then went farther down the river till we came to the greatest falls in these parts, called Checanekepeag, where we carried a little way over the land, and putting off our canoes we went down-stream still. And as we passed down by the mouths of any large branches, we saw Indians; but when any dance was proposed, I was bought off. At length we arrived at the place where we left our birch canoes in the fall, and putting our baggage into them, went down to the fort.

There we planted corn, and after planting went a fishing, and to look for and dig roots, till the corn was fit to weed. After weeding we took a second tour on the same errand, then returned to hill our corn. After hilling we went some distance from the fort and field, up the river, to take salmon and other fish, which we dried for food; where we continued till corn was filled with milk; some of it we dried then, the other as it ripened. To dry corn when in the milk, they gather it in large kettles and boil it on the ears, till it is pretty hard, then shell it from the cob with clam-shells, and dry it on bark in the sun. When it is thoroughly dry, a kernel is no bigger than a pea, and would keep years, and when it is boiled again it swells as large as when on the ear, and tastes incomparably sweeter than other corn. When we had gathered our corn and dried it in the way already described, we put some into Indian barns, that is, into holes in the ground, lined and covered with bark, and then with dirt. The rest we carried up the river upon our next winter’s hunting. Thus God wonderfully favored me, and carried me through the first year of my captivity.

Analysis of  “The First Year” from Memoirs of Odd Adventures, Strange Deliverances, etc., in the Captivity of John Gyles

Without likely realizing the larger context, readers of Gyles’ narrative of captivity encounter the influences of a global world. They enter an age of Elizabethan and Tudor travel literature that is informed by Renaissance fantasy and exaggeration. Those familiar with Shakespeare’s Othello and The Tempest, both of which touch on travel and adventure, will recognize the context. This was an age when the world's most powerful empires were expanding beyond their borders, a time when court-sponsored explorers returned to port with animal and human curiosities, not to mention all manner of adventure story. Writers, in turn, fed home audiences with tales of darkness, strange encounters, and intrigue. Gyles’ narrative is one of those tales, the New World about which he writes a subject of curiosity, fear, and hyperbole.

As strange as that world was, however, it had to be made familiar to a home audience, which is why Gyles’ narrative is so obviously Christian. His story opens in a virtual garden of the New World that, Eden-like, provides for gentlemen farmers. The deeply Christian subtext is repeated in the second paragraph, where, after ambush and injury, Gyles’ dying father is allowed to pray before he blesses his children. Why is he allowed to pray? Because the natives, too, have been Christianized, though in ways that make them heathen to the Puritans. What is more significant is the description that follows of the father’s “great loss of blood, which ... gushed out of his shoes.” The vividness of that description points to Gyles’ intent, which is clearly to entertain readers by being provocative and graphic: by using blood, the most potent of Christian symbols, to heighten the suffering of the father. What this reveals is that the lure of graphic violence is not a feature of our modern world, but more generally a feature of a kind of storytelling that seeks to sensationalize in the interest of winning and holding an audience.

The vividness of the father’s death is complemented by the heightened passion of Gyles’ final encounter with his mother in paragraph seven. The melodrama in that encounter is palpable, and the pathos, or heightened pity, further amplified by the contrast of “old England” and the romantic ideals it embodies with the savagery of “going into the wilderness,” an unknown that brings darkness where there was light. Again, the encounter is exaggerated for readability and presumes a Christian sensibility in the reader for full effect. Those readers, and there would have been many, who were familiar with Dante’s “Inferno” would have been suitably horrified.

Reference to the Jesuit in the next paragraph (8) defines the Christianity further. Gyles fears the Jesuit, thinking he put some magic into a biscuit “to make me love him.” Such were the fears of Catholic ritual that Protestants held. The literalness of Protestant theology and of its abiding textuality (Protestants are people of the Book who read verse literally) is here contrasted with the magic and ritual of Catholic practice – of, for example, the taking of Holy Communion, which turns bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Since Gyles’ English-speaking audience was predominantly Protestant, this strike at Catholicism was a calculated bit of playfulness. And, of course, it affirmed for the English that the French Catholics were allied with the natives.

Beyond the ideological, Gyles’ intent was to entertain and educate, an aim that becomes obvious in the final three paragraphs above. We read those as if we were reading National Geographic or watching the Nature Channel today. Those final paragraphs focus on the instrumental and practical: how the natives hunted, endured winter, travelled, bartered, preserved food, etc. Such description fed an unquenchable European appetite for the unknown. That appetite had been whetted for such mystery by the release of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) seventeen years before Gyles’ Memoirs of Odd Adventures. Defoe’s English castaway, and the earlier Renaissance delight in exaggerated phantasmagoria (remember Desdemona’s dreams and her hunger for Othello’s stories of “men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders”), primed European readers for similar tales of New World “otherness.” The seventeenth century was the age of travel and discovery, the age when Europe’s imperial powers were sailing into the dark corners of the world. Gyles knew that and was writing accordingly.

Questions and Considerations for Reflection

► The first thing to note about this passage from Gyles is that it is a record of the tables being turned: instead of Europeans taking an Indigenous person hostage, as Cartier did (see Cartier’s “First Encounter”), the natives take a settler hostage, bringing him into their community, where, like Donnacona’s sons in Cartier's account, he becomes an object of curiosity and scorn, something to be traded and commodified. That the reaction to difference is consistent in both communities invites us to reflect on a human nature we share, regardless of differences.

► Readers will note, too, the sense of harmony with which the passage opens. That harmony (of humans in parallel with their environment) is deeply Christian, reflecting the Edenic beginnings of the Book of Genesis. As we know from that Biblical text, harmony is ruptured by disorder, in this case the disorder and “mischief” of an Indian raid that forever quashes the settler romance. The fact that the pattern of order/disorder is prefigured in the Bible, one of our founding texts, suggests that tribulation is part of the human drama. Only in Canada was settlement not followed by revolution, an exception worth thinking about.

► The paragraphs after the section break function in ways that are even more overtly ideological. The descriptions of Indian torture are graphic and horrific, and akin to descriptions of what Islamic terrorists do today. The more bloodthirsty the enemy can be made to appear, the greater the chances that he will be objectified and dehumanized by the masses, thus guaranteeing that campaigns against him will be unopposed. War propaganda has always worked that way, and while Gyles was more sympathetic to the natives than this tactic would suggest, he was nevertheless playing to a paying audience that had been fed a steady diet of Indian lore that was exaggerated and dehumanizing.

Strategies for Teachers

Strategy 1: Assessing Credibility (“The First Year”)

Primary sources are crucial pieces of evidence in history, but we cannot accept them uncritically as “true.” Just like people today, people in the past lie, exaggerate, and make mistakes. Ask students to evaluate whether Gyles’ account is credible, using evidence from the text to support their argument. It is unlikely students will have the background required to identify details that are historically accurate or inaccurate, but for this activity students can draw on knowledge of how they and others choose to present themselves in writing. How does Gyles appear in the text? How does Gyles want the reader to see him? Does his story remind them of any other stories they have read or heard? If they had to select the sections they found most and least believable, what would those sections be, and why?

Extension: Ask students to write two or more short accounts of some aspect of their lives (for example, their journey to school that day). Challenge them to include several recurring elements in each account, while constructing a completely different effect in each. For instance, students might present themselves as a scrappy hero in one, and a helpless victim of circumstance in another. Discuss: What changes of focus, details, and language were required to create these different impressions? Was it necessary to make up things that were untrue, or just change the way they talked about things that did happen? If one version were to be published, which would they want others to read, and why?

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Reading and Viewing: Critically evaluate the information they access

  • Reading and Viewing: Articulate their own processes and strategies in exploring, interpreting, and reflecting on sophisticated texts and tasks

  • Writing and Representing: Demonstrate an understanding of the ways in which the construction of texts can create, enhance, and control meaning

Strategy 2: Compare to the Hannah Duston Legend (“The First Year”)

Hannah Duston, like Gyles, was taken captive by an Abenaki raiding group during King William’s War in the late 17th century. Her infant child died or was killed shortly after their capture. Hannah escaped, with the help of two other captives, after murdering and scalping ten sleeping Abenaki, including several young children. She is understandably a controversial figure. After reading Gyles’ narrative, ask students to listen to the podcast “Monumental Dilemma” produced by 99 Percent Invisible. Does the debate over the accuracy of Duston’s narrative, and over how she is remembered and commemorated, provide any new insight into Gyles’ account? In what ways might our worldview shape not only how we tell a story, but also how others interpret and use our story for their own purposes?

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Speaking and Listening: Listen critically to analyse and evaluate concepts, ideas, and information

  • Reading and Viewing: Examine how texts work to reveal and produce ideologies, identities, and positions

Further Reading

Davis, Lanta. “‘And Then I Fell A-Weeping’: Tears and Reconciliation in Puritan Captivity Narratives.” The Captivity Narrative: Enduring Shackles and Emancipating Language of Subjectivity. Ed. Benjamin Mark Allen and Dahia Messara. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012. 31-52.

Ben-Zvi, Yael. “Ethnography and the Production of Foreignness in Indian Captivity Narratives.” American Indian Quarterly 32.1 (2008): ix−xxxii.

Gyles, John. Memoirs of Odd Adventures, Strange Deliverances, Etc., in the Captivity of John Gyles, Esq., Commander of the Garrison on Saint George River, in the District of Maine. Written by Himself. Boston: S. Kneeland & T. Greene, 1736. [Rpt. as Nine Years a Captive, or John Gyles’ Experience among the Malacite Indians, from 1689-1698. Saint John, NB: Daily Telegraph Steam Job Press, 1875.]

Schwab, Dana. “John Gyles.” The New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia. Ed. Tony Tremblay. Fredericton: New Brunswick Studies Centre, 2009. 13 July 2020 <>.

Trueman, Stuart. The Ordeal of John Gyles: Being an Account of His Odd Adventures, Strange Deliverances, Etc., as a Slave of the Maliseets. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1966.

VanDerBeets, Richard. The Indian Captivity Narrative: An American Genre. Lanham: UP of America, 1984.

For much more detailed primary and secondary source bibliographies of Gyles, see his New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia entry.


The work above has been in the Canadian public domain for 50 years after publication and 50 years after the author’s death. As such, it is no longer protected by copyright in Canada. However, it may still be under copyright in some countries. Readers outside Canada must comply with the respective copyright laws of the country in which they live.

The Gyles passage above appears in Literature in Canada, Vol. 1. Ed. Douglas Daymond and Leslie Monkman. Toronto: Gage, 1978. 21-28.

All contents except for poetry and fiction copyright © Tony Tremblay, James W. Johnson, and Alexandra Cogswell.