In 1759 a band of Delaware Indians kidnapped 12-year-old Mary Caroline Campbell from the family homestead in Pennsylvania. Vowing never to forget her Campbell family, Mary fights with anger and then with emotional appeal, "I won't breathe a word, on my honor . . . I'll say I got l-lost in the w-wilderness. I won't say anything about you if you'll just take me home." But Mary is gradually enculturated into the group as the lost granddaughter of chief Netawatwees Sachem, an English-trained Indian who understands both cultures.
As the Delawares travel for weeks to the Ohio territory, Mary is often overwhelmed with pain and anguish, which goes unnoticed by the marching tribe. Certainly she is not dressed for the strenuous days and cold nights - "the bodice to my birthday dress is long gone. My chemise is rent to shreds: what was once a froth of lace is now dirty cloth hanging by bits of tatting." The next day Hepte, her Indian mother, gives her a new garment, a long leather dress. "Now I look just like everyone else except for my reddish-brown hair and blue eyes." She is also given the beautiful beaded moccasins that were to be a gift to the granddaughter who was lost.Mary learns the Delaware language, their customs and tries to become one of them. When she attempts to prove her power by copying the maturation baths of the boys who jump in the icy river, her Delaware mother exhibits an unusual emotion, "I saw you chopping a hole in the ice. . . . You have more strength than any of these boys. And you do not have to jump into a frozen river to prove it."
Mary Campbell does learn to love the people. ("I feel closer to them than my own family") and works tirelessly to save the meager corn crop. "I know I have more strength, courage and resolve than I would have ever dreamed possible. It's like finding a treasure I didn't know was mine. I know I can face anything." She is given the Indian name of Woman-Who-Saved-the-Corn.
"The Beaded Moccasins" is based on a true incident, one of several known "white captive" stories from the 1700s. The author's notes in the "Afterword" explain the tradition of taking captives in this way, which is traced to prehistoric America where tribes replaced loved ones who were lost or died. The captive was often treated well, as was the case of Mary Caroline Campbell.
According to journals, Mary was united with her mother and brother six years after her abduction.
Mary Campbell married Joseph Willford in Pennsylvania and had 12 children to whom the neighbors often referred to as "those Mohawks" since it is likely that she taught them to use and appreciate the Native American culture.
The author, who has included the pronunciation of the Indian names to assist the reader, makes the story very humane to the capturer as well as Mary Campbell. Documentation of customs and cross-culture emotions makes "The Beaded Moccasins" a tender slice of history for readers in grades 4 and above.