The Shawnee Prophet, Tenskwatawa painted by Charles Bird King c.1820 (Wikimedia Commons)

In contrast with other Great Lakes nations, the Lake Superior Ojibwe are often portrayed as not having had a role in the Seven Years War, Pontiac’s War, Tecumseh’s War, or the War of 1812.  The Chequamegon Ojibwe are often characterized as being uniformly friendly toward whites, peacefully transitioning from the French and British to the American era.  The Ojibwe leaders Buffalo of La Pointe and Flat Mouth of Leech Lake are seen as men who led their people into negotiations rather than battle with the United States.

No one tried harder to promote the idea of Ojibwe-American friendship than William W. Warren (1825-1853), the Madeline Island-born mix-blooded historian who wrote History of the Ojibway People.  Warren details Ojibwe involvement in all of these late-18th and early 20th-century imperial conflicts, but then repeatedly dismisses it as solely the work of more easterly Ojibwe bands or a few rogue warriors.  The reality was much more complicated.

It is true, the Lake Superior Ojibwe never entered into these wars as a single body, but the Lake Superior Ojibwe rarely did anything as a single body.  Different bands, chiefs, and families pursued different policies.  What is clear from digging deeper into the sources, however, is that the anti-American resistance ideologies of men like the Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa (The Prophet) had more followers around here than Warren would have you believe.  The passage below, from none other than Warren himself, shows that these followers included Buffalo and Flat Mouth.

History of the Ojibway People is available free online, but I’m not going to link to it. I want you to check out or buy the second edition, edited and annotated by Theresa Schenck and published by the Minnesota Historical Society in 2009.  It is not the edition I first read this story in, but this post does owe a great debt to Dr. Schenck’s footnotes.  Also, if you get the book, you will find the added bonus of a second account of these same events from Julia Warren Spears, William’s sister (Appendix C).  The passage that is reproduced here can be read on pages 227-231.    

The great mix-blooded La Pointe fur trader, Michel Cadotte, was Warren’s grandfather. John Baptiste Corbin (Corbine), traded under him for both British and American companies.

“… no event of any importance occured on the Chippeway and Wisconsin Rivers till the year 1808, when, under the influence of the excitement which the Shaw-nee prophet, brother of Tecumseh, succeeded in raising, even to the remotest village of the Ojibways, the men of the Lac Coutereille village, pillaged the trading house of Michel Cadotte at Lac Coutereilles, while under charge of a clerk named John Baptiste Corbin.  From the lips of Mons. Corbin, who is still living at Lac Coutereille, at the advanced age of seventy-six years, and who has now been fifty-six years in the Ojibway country, I have obtained a reliable account of this transaction…”

“…In the year 1808, during the summer while John B. Corbin had charge of the Lac Coutereille post, messengers, whose faces were painted black, and whose actions appeared strange, arrived at the different principal villages of the Ojibways. In solemn councils they performed certain ceremonies, and told that the Great Spirit had at last condescended to hold communion with the red race, through the medium of a Shawano prophet, and that they had been sent to impart the glad tidings.

Shawano or Shawnee (Zhaawano- or Zhaawani-) means “Southern” in Ojibwe and related languages.  The Shawnee, living in the Ohio Country, were considered the southerners.  The name of Shawano, Wisconsin also means “south.”

The Shawano sent them word that the Great Spirit was about to take pity on his red children, whom he had long forsaken for their wickedness. He bade them to return to the primitive usages and customs of their ancestors, to leave off the use of everything which the evil white race had introduced among them. Even the fire-steel must be discarded, and fire made as in ages past, by the friction of two sticks. And this fire, once lighted in their principal villages, must always be kept sacred and burning. He bade them to discard the use of fire-water—to give up lying and stealing and warring with one another. He even struck at some of the roots of the Me-da-we religion, which he asserted had become permeated with many evil medicines, and had lost almost altogether its original uses and purity. He bade the medicine men to throw away their evil and poisonous medicines, and to forget the songs and ceremonies attached thereto, and he introduced new medicines and songs in their place. He prophesied that the day was nigh, when, if the red race listened to and obeyed his words, the Great Spirit would deliver them from their dependence on the whites, and prevent their being finally down-trodden and exterminated by them. The prophet invited the Ojibways to come and meet him at Detroit, where in person, he would explain to them the revelations of the “Great Master of Life.”  He even claimed the power of causing the dead to arise, and come again to life.

To read about Tenskwatawa’s messengers among the prairie Ojibwe (Saulteaux) and their Cree and Assiniboine allies, check out pages 155-158 of John Tanner’s A Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner (1830) on Google Books.

It is astonishing how quickly this new belief obtained possession in the minds of the Ojibways. It spread like wild-fire throughout their entire country, and even reached the remotest northern hunters who had allied themselves with the Crees and Assiniboines. The strongest possible proof which can be adduced of their entire belief, is in their obeying the mandate to throw away their medicine bags, which the Indian holds most sacred and inviolate. It is said that the shores of Sha-ga-waum-ik-ong were strewed with the remains of medicine bags, which had been committed to the deep. At this place, the Ojibways collected in great numbers. Night and day, the ceremonies of the new religion were performed, till it was at last determined to go in a body to Detroit, to visit the prophet. One hundred and fifty canoes are said to have actually started from Pt. Shag-a-waum-ik-ong for this purpose, and so strong was their belief, that a dead child was brought from Lac Coutereille to be taken to the prophet for resuscitation.

Warren’s characterization of the journey as “foolish,” and his condemnation of Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa’s pan-Indian resistance ideology, is consistent with the tone found in much of History of the Ojibways.  Although he was three-eighths Ojibwe himself, and advocated for Ojibwe causes, the book was written for a white American audience.  Like many in his day, Warren thought Indian cultures were doomed and that assimilation was the only hope for Indian survival.

This large party arrived on their foolish journey, as far as the Pictured Rocks, on Lake Superior, when, meeting with Michel Cadotte, who had been to Sault Ste. Marie for his annual outfit of goods, his influence, together with information of the real motives of the prophet in sending for them, succeeded in turning them back.

The few Ojibways who had gone to visit the prophet from the more eastern villages of the tribe, had returned home disappointed, and brought back exaggerated accounts of the suffering through hunger, which the proselytes of the prophet who had gathered at his call, were enduring, and also giving the lie to many of the attributes which he had assumed. It is said that at Detroit he would sometimes leave the camp of the Indians, and be gone, no one knew whither, for three and four days at a time. On his return he would assert that he had been to the spirit land and communed with the master of life. It was, however, soon discovered that he only went and hid himself in a hollow oak which stood behind the hill on which the most beautiful portion of Detroit City is now built. These stories became current among the Ojibways, and each succeeding year developing more fully the fraud and warlike purpose of the Shawano, the excitement gradually died away among the Ojibways, and the medicine men and chiefs who had become such ardent believers, hung their heads in shame whenever the Shawano was mentioned.

Two men of “strong minds and unusual intelligence,” Buffalo of La Pointe (top) and Eshkibagikoonzhe or “Flat Mouth” of Leech Lake. (Wisconsin Historical Society) (Minnesota Historical Society)

At this day it is almost impossible to procure any information on this subject from the old men who are still living, who were once believers and preached their religion, so anxious are they to conceal the fact of their once having been so egregiously duped. The venerable chiefs Buffalo, of La Pointe, and Esh-ke-bug-e-coshe, of Leech Lake, who have been men of strong minds and unusual intelligence, were not only firm believers of the prophet, but undertook to preach his doctrines.

One essential good resulted to the Ojibways through the Shawano excitement–they threw away their poisonous roots and medicines, and poisoning, which was formerly practiced by their worst class of medicine men, has since become entirely unknown.

So much has been written respecting the prophet and the new beliefs which he endeavored to inculcate amongst his red brethren, that we will no longer dwell on the merits or demerits of his pretended mission.  It is now evident that he and his brother Tecumseh had in view, and worked to effect, a general alliance of the red race, against the whites, and their final extermination from the ‘Great Island which the great spirit had given as an inheritance to his red children.’”

From 1805 to 1811, the Shawnee Prophet Tenskwatawa and his brother Tecumseh spread a religious and political message from the Canadas in the north, to the Gulf of Mexico in the south, to the prairies of the west.  They called for all Indians to abandon white ways, unite as one people, and create a British-protected Indian country between the Ohio and the Great Lakes.  While he seldom convinced entire nations (including the Shawnee) to join him, Tecumseh gained followers from all over.  

This picture of Tecumseh in British uniform was painted decades after his death by Benson John Lossing (Wikimedia Commons)

His coalition came apart, however, at the Battle of Tippecanoe on November 7, 1811.  Tecumseh was away recruiting more followers when American forces under William Henry Harrison defeated Tenskwatawa.  Accounts suggest it was a closely-fought battle with the Americans suffering the most casualties.  However, in the end Harrison prevailed due to his superior numbers.

With Tenskwatawa discredited, Tecumseh ended up raising a new coalition to fight alongside the British against the Americans in the War of 1812.  He was killed in the Battle of the Thames, October 5, 1813, when the British forces under General Henry Procter abandoned their Indian allies on the battlefield.

After the War of 1812, British traders pulled out of their posts in American territory.  However, the Ojibwe of Lake Superior continued to trade across the line in Canada.  In 1822, the American agent Henry Schoolcraft’s gave his first description of Buffalo, a man he would come to know well over the next thirty-five years.  He described “a chief decorated with British insignia.”  Ten years later, Flat Mouth was telling Schoolcraft he had no right or ability to stop the Ojibwe from allying with the British.  These chiefs were not men who were unwavering friends of the United States for their whole lives.

Buffalo and Flat Mouth lived to be very old men, and lived to see the Ojibwe cede their lands in treaties, suffer the tragic 1850-51 removal to Sandy Lake, and see the beginnings of a paternalist American regime on the newly-created reservations.  Their Shawnee contemporary, Tecumseh, did not live that long.  

Tecumseh’s life and death are documented in the second episode of the 2009 television miniseries American Experience: We Shall Remain.  The episode, Tecumseh’s Vision, is very good throughout.  The most interesting part comes at the very end when several of the expert interviewees comment on the meaning of Tecumseh’s death:

“I think Tecumseh is, in a sense, saved by his death. He’s saved for immortality through death on the battlefield.”

Stephen Warren, Augustana College

“One of the great things in icons is to bow out at the right time, and one of the things Tecumseh does is he never lets you down. He was there, articulating his position — uncompromisingly pro-Native American position. He never signs the treaties. He never reneges on those basic as principles of the sacrosanct aboriginal holding of this territory. He bows out at the peak of this great movement he is leading. He’s there, right at the end, whatever the odds are, fighting for it into the dying moments.”

John Sugden, author Tecumseh:  A Life

For some people, they may call him a troublemaker. And I think that’s because, in the end, he lost. Had he won, he’d have been, you know, a hero. But I think, to a degree, he still has to be recognized as a hero, for what he attempted to do. If he had a little more help, maybe he would have got a little farther down the line. If the British would have backed him up, like they were supposed to have, maybe the United States is only half as big as it is today.”    

Sherman Tiger, Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma

Stephen Warren and John Sugden indicate that he is a hero because of the way he died. Sherman Tiger seems to say that Tecumseh’s death, in part, is what kept him from being a hero, and that if he had more men, maybe his “vision” of a united Indian nation would have come true. 

In 1811, the Ojibwe of Lake Superior and the upper Mississippi had hundreds of warriors experienced in battle with the Dakota Sioux.  They were heirs to a military tradition that defeated the Iroquois and the Meskwaki (Fox).  A handful of Ojibwe did fight beside Tecumseh, and according to John Baptiste Corbine through Warren, many more could have.  It’s possible they could have tipped the balance and caused Tippecanoe or Thames to end differently.  It is also possible that Buffalo, Flat Mouth, and other future Ojibwe leaders could have died on the battlefield.  

Tecumseh died young and uncompromised. Buffalo and Flat Mouth faced many tough decisions and lived long enough to see their people lose their independence and most of their land.  However, they were there to lead their people through the hard times of the removal period.  Tecumseh wasn’t. 

Ultimately, it’s hard to say which is more heroic?  What do you think?

Schenck, Theresa M., William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, and Philip P. Mason. Expedition to Lake Itasca; the Discovery of the Source of the Mississippi,. [East Lansing]: Michigan State UP, 1958. Print.
Schoolcraft, Henry R. Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers: With Brief Notices of Passing Events, Facts, and Opinions, A.D. 1812 to A.D. 1842. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and, 1851. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.
White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. Print.
Witgen, Michael J. An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2012. Print.


Note:  This is the second of four posts about Lt. James Allen, his ten American soldiers and their experiences on the St. Croix and Brule rivers.  They were sent from Sault Ste. Marie to accompany the 1832 expedition of Indian Agent Henry Schoolcraft to the source of the Mississippi River.  Each of the posts will give some general information about the expedition and some pages from Allen’s journal.   

The expedition made good time along the south shore of Lake Superior, with the soldiers in the larger Mackinac boats and the rest of the group in smaller and faster canoes.  At the mouth of the Brule River, they got lucky.  They met an Ojibwe named Ozaawindib (Yellow Head) who was part of the Cass Lake band and who considered the headwaters of the Mississippi part of his hunting territory.

He agreed to guide the group all the way past Fond du Lac, across the portages to Sandy Lake, and up the Mississippi to what the Ojibwe called Omashkooz (Elk) Lake and the French called Lac la Biche.  Possibly thinking that a lake already possessing an indigenous and a European name wouldn’t need to be “discovered,” Schoolcraft renamed it Lake Itasca and told the world he had found the source of the Mississippi (Ozaawindib’s hunting camp).

  • (Side note:  if the last paragraph seemed a little cynical, I apologize.  I hate stories about “discoveries” that aren’t really discoveries.  I’m pretty sure that’s why it took me so long to read this book.  I need to get over this prejudice, or I’m going to miss something good.  Still, you won’t see many “First [insert name of WASP] to visit [insert natural feature well known to Native, nonwhite, or Catholic people]stories on this site).    

Eshkibagikoonzhe (Guelle Platte; Flatmouth), chief of Leech Lake band is a towering figure in the history of the upper Mississippi country in the early 19th century. He gave Schoolcraft and company a friendly but clear demonstration of the limits of American power (Minnesota Historical Society).

Schoolcraft’s relative ease (due to having mix-blood and Ojibwe guides and paddlers) in reaching Elk Lake caused him to remark that the Ojibwe would have to accept American authority now that Government officials and soldiers could penetrate that far into their territory.  Of particular concern to him was the Leech Lake band.  Eshkibagikoonzhe (Flat Mouth) the chief was powerful and independent, and so was the rest of the band. When the expedition returned through Leech Lake, Allen had his dozen soldiers drill and parade, but Flat Mouth put it in friendly but very clear terms.  They were guests in his house.  (The expedition’s experiences in Leech Lake are great reading.  A short rundown here wouldn’t do them justice.  Read the introduction to Witgen’s An Infinity of Nations to get a very good analysis).

Schoolcraft and company took the Crow Wing route to the Mississippi and Fort Snelling (later Minneapolis), and met with more Ojibwe and Dakota bands along the way.  He came back north through the St. Croix and Brule to Lake Superior, returned to the Sault, and sent off a positive report of an efficient and effective trip to bring the Ojibwe under American domination.  All had gone according to plan, right?  Read on.

Pee-Che-Kir: a Chippewa Chief by Charles Bird King: This image of Bizhiki (the “Pee-ghee-kee” mentioned below) was originally painted in 1824 while the Snake River chief was part of a delegation to Washington D.C.  Bizhiki (Buffalo) is a name shared with a famous contemporary, Chief Buffalo of La Pointe (Wikimedia Commons).

The journal picks up July 29, 1832 on the St. Croix River.  The expedition has already reached the source of the Mississippi, proceeded downriver to Fort Snelling (Minneapolis) and was on its way back to Lake Superior. 

These pages document Allen’s journey up the St. Croix.  Schoolcraft, along with the expedition’s interpreter and doctor, are in canoes paddled by mix-blooded voyageurs and are making good time.  The soldiers are a few days back and falling farther behind each day.  They pass through the villages of the “St. Croix band.” The St. Croix Ojibwe are not a single unit, but have several villages and camps.  Their biggest villages are at Snake River and Yellow River, but the account also mentions the small village of the prominent chief  Gaa-bimabi (Keppameppa).  This was near present-day Gordon, Wisconsin.

Section of Allen’s map showing the St. Croix around Yellow River and Namakagon River. Ottawa Lake is Lac Courte Oreilles (reproduced by John Lindquist)

At this point, Allen is becoming increasingly angry at Schoolcraft for ditching the soldiers.  As he passes through the three Ojibwe villages, his racism towards Indians shifts from a comfortable sense of superiority to a fearful paranoia.


Doc. 323; pg 58


Doc. 323, pg. 59


Doc. 323, pg. 60
Allen’s journal is part of Phillip P. Mason’s edition of Schoolcraft’s Expedition to Lake Itasca: The Discovery of the Source of the Mississippi (1958). However, these Google Books pages come from the original publication as part of the United States Congress Serial Set.

To be continued…

Maangozid’s Family Tree

April 14, 2013

(Amos Butler, Wikimedia Commons) I couldn’t find a picture of Maangozid on the internet, but loon is his clan, and “loon foot” is the translation of his name. The Northeast Minnesota Historical Center in Duluth has a photograph of Maangozid in the Edmund Ely papers. It is reproduced on page 142 of The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely 1833-1849 (2012) ed. Theresa Schenck.

In the various diaries, letters, official accounts, travelogues, and histories of this area from the first half of the nineteenth century, there are certain individuals that repeatedly find their way into the story. These include people like the Ojibwe chiefs Buffalo of La Pointe, Flat Mouth of Leech Lake, and the father and son Hole in the Day, whose influence reached beyond their home villages. Fur traders, like Lyman Warren and William Aitken, had jobs that required them to be all over the place, and their role as the gateway into the area for the American authors of many of these works ensure their appearance in them. However, there is one figure whose uncanny ability to show up over and over in the narrative seems completely disproportionate to his actual power or influence. That person is Maangozid (Loon’s Foot) of Fond du Lac.

Naagaanab, a contemporary of Maangozid (Undated, Newberry Library Chicago)

In fairness to Maangozid, he was recognized as a skilled speaker and a leader in the Midewiwin religion. His father was a famous chief at Sandy Lake, but his brothers inherited that role. He married into the family of Zhingob (Shingoop, “Balsam”) a chief at Fond du Lac, and served as his speaker. Zhingob was part of the Marten clan, which had produced many of Fond du Lac’s chiefs over the years (many of whom were called Zhingob or Zhingobiins). Maangozid, a member of the Loon clan born in Sandy Lake, was seen as something of an outsider. After Zhingob’s death in 1835, Maangozid continued to speak for the Fond du Lac band, and many whites assumed he was the chief. However, it was younger men of the Marten clan, Nindibens (who went by his father’s name Zhingob) and Naagaanab, who the people recognized as the leaders of the band.

Certainly some of Maangozid’s ubiquity comes from his role as the outward voice of the Fond du Lac band, but there seems to be more to it than that.  He just seems to be one of those people who through cleverness, ambition, and personal charisma, had a knack for always being where the action was.  In the bestselling book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell talks all about these types of remarkable people, and identifies Paul Revere as the person who filled this role in 1770s Massachusetts. He knew everyone, accumulated information, and had powers of persuasion.  We all know people like this.  Even in the writings of uptight government officials and missionaries, Maangozid comes across as friendly, hilarious, and most of all, everywhere.

Recently, I read The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely 1833-1849 (U. of Nebraska Press; 2012), edited by Theresa Schenck. There is a great string of journal entries spanning from the Fall of 1836 to the summer of 1837.  Maangozid, feeling unappreciated by the other members of the band after losing out to Nindibens in his bid for leadership after the death of Zhingob, declares he’s decided to become a Christian.  Over the winter, Maangozid visits Ely regularly, assuring the stern and zealous missionary that he has turned his back on the Midewiwin.  The two men have multiple fascinating conversations about Ojibwe and Christian theology, and Ely rejoices in the coming conversion.  Despite assurances from other Ojibwe that Maangozid has not abandoned the Midewiwin, and cold treatment from Maangozid’s wife, Ely continues to believe he has a convert.  Several times, the missionary finds him participating in the Midewiwin, but Maangozid always assures Ely that he is really a Christian.

J.G. Kohl (Wikimedia Commons)

It’s hard not to laugh as Ely goes through these intense internal crises over Maangozid’s salvation when its clear the spurned chief has other motives for learning about the faith.  In the end, Maangozid tells Ely that he realizes the people still love him, and he resumes his position as Mide leader.  This is just one example of Maangozid’s personality coming through the pages.

If you’re scanning through some historical writings, and you see his name, stop and read because it’s bound to be something good.  If you find a time machine that can drop us off in 1850, go ahead and talk to Chief Buffalo, Madeline Cadotte, Hole in the Day, or William Warren. The first person I’d want to meet would be Maangozid.  Chances are, he’d already be there waiting.

Anyway, I promised a family tree and here it is.  These pages come from Kitchi-Gami: wanderings round Lake Superior (1860) by Johann Georg Kohl.  Kohl was a German adventure writer who met Maangozid at La Pointe in 1855.


When Kitchi-Gami was translated from German into English, the original French in the book was left intact.  Being an uncultured hillbilly of an American, I know very little French.  Here are my efforts at translating using my limited knowledge of Ojibwe, French-Spanish cognates, and Google Translate.  I make no guarantees about the accuracy of these translations.  Please comment and correct them if you can.

1) This one is easy. This is Gaadawaabide, Maangozid’s father, a famous Sandy Lake chief well known to history.  Google says “the one with pierced teeth.” The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary translates it as “he had a gap in his teeth.”  Most 19th-century sources call him Broken Tooth, La Breche, or Katawabida (or variants thereof).

2) Also easy–this is the younger Bayaaswaa, the boy whose father traded his life for his when he was kidnapped by the Meskwaki (Fox) (see post from March 30, 2013).  Bayaaswaa grew to be a famous chief at Sandy Lake who was instrumental in the 18th-century Ojibwe expansion into Minnesota.  Google says “the man who makes dry.”  The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary lists bayaaswaad as a word for the animate transitive verb “dry.”

3) Presumably, this mighty hunter was the man Warren called Bi-aus-wah (Bayaaswaa) the Father in History of the Ojibways.  That isn’t his name here, but it was very common for Anishinaabe people to have more than one name.  It says “Great Skin” right on there.  Google has the French at “the man who carries a large skin.”  Michiiwayaan is “big animal skin” according to the OPD.

4)  Google says “because he had very red skin” for the French.  I don’t know how to translate the Ojibwe or how to write it in the modern double-vowel system.

5)  Weshki is a form of oshki (new, young, fresh).  This is a common name for firstborn sons of prominent leaders.  Weshki was the name of Waabojiig’s (White Fisher) son, and Chief Buffalo was often called in Ojibwe Gichi-weshki, which Schoolcraft translated as “The Great Firstborn.”

6) “The Southern Sky” in both languages.  Zhaawano-giizhig is the modern spelling.  For an fascinating story of another Anishinaabe man, named Zhaawano-giizhigo-gaawbaw (“he stands in the southern sky”), also known as Jack Fiddler, read Killing the Shamen by Thomas Fiddler and James R. Stevens.  Jack Fiddler (d.1907), was a great Oji-Cree (Severn Ojibway) chief from the headwaters of the Severn River in northern Ontario.  His band was one of the last truly uncolonized Indian nations in North America.  He commited suicide in RCMP custody after he was arrested for killing a member of his band who had gone windigo.

7) Google says, “the timber sprout.”  Mitig is tree or stick.  Something along the lines of sprouting from earth makes sense with “akosh,” but my Ojibwe isn’t good enough to combine them correctly in the modern spelling.  Let me know if you can.

8) Google just says, “man red head.” Red Head is clearly the Ojibwe meaning also–miskondibe (OPD).

9) “The Sky is Afraid of the Man”–I can’t figure out how to write this in the modern Ojibwe, but this has to be one of the coolest names anyone has ever had.

**UPDATE** 5/14/13

Thank you Charles Lippert for sending me the following clarifications:
“Kadawibida    Gaa-dawaabide    Cracked Tooth
Bajasswa    Bayaaswaa    Dry-one
Matchiwaijan    Mechiwayaan    Great Hide
Wajki        Weshki    Youth
Schawanagijik    Zhaawano-giizhig    Southern Skies
Mitiguakosh    Mitigwaakoonzh    Wooden beak
Miskwandibagan    Miskwandibegan    Red Skull
Gijigossekot    Giizhig-gosigwad    The Sky Fears

“I am cluless on Wajawadajkoa. At first I though it might be a throat word (..gondashkwe) but this name does not contain a “gon”. Human skin usually have the suffix ..azhe, which might be reflected here as aja with a 3rd person prefix w.”


Kohl’s Kitchi-Gami is a very nice, accessible introduction to the culture of this area in the 1850s.  It’s a little light on the names, dates, and events of the narrative political history that I like so much, but it goes into detail on things like houses, games, clothing, etc.

There is a lot to infer or analyze from these three pages.  What do you think?  Leave a comment, and look out for an upcoming post about Tagwagane, a La Pointe chief who challenges the belief that “the Loon totem [is] the eldest and noblest in the land.”

Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print.
Kohl, J. G. Kitchi-Gami: Wanderings round Lake Superior. London: Chapman and Hall, 1860. Print.
Miller, Cary. Ogimaag: Anishinaabeg Leadership, 1760-1845. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2010. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.

Note:  This is the first of four posts about Lt. James Allen, his ten American soldiers and their experiences on the St. Croix and Brule rivers.  They were sent from Sault Ste. Marie to accompany the 1832 expedition of Indian Agent Henry Schoolcraft to the source of the Mississippi River.  Each of the posts will give some general information about the expedition and some pages from Allen’s journal.  The journal picks up July 26, 1832, after the expedition has already reached the source, proceeded downriver to Fort Snelling (Minneapolis) and was on its way back to Lake Superior.   

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793-1864)

Although I’ve been aware of it for some time, and have used parts of it before, I only recently read Henry Schoolcraft’s, Narrative of an Expedition Through the Upper Mississippi to Itasca Lake: The Actual Source of this River from cover to cover.  The book, first published in 1834, details Schoolcraft’s 1832 expedition through northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.  As Indian agent at Sault Ste. Marie, he was officially sent by the Secretary of War, Lewis Cass, to investigate the ongoing warfare between the Ojibwe and Dakota Sioux.  His personal goal, however, was to reach the source of the Mississippi River and be recognized as its discoverer.

Schoolcraft’s expedition included a doctor to administer smallpox vaccinations, an interpreter (Schoolcraft’s brother-in-law), and a protestant missionary.  Having been west before, Schoolcraft knew what it would take to navigate the country.  He hired several mix-blooded voyageurs who are hardly mentioned in the narrative, but who paddled the canoes, carried the portage loads, shot ducks, and did the other work along the way.

Ozhaawashkodewekwe (Susan Johnston) was the mother-in-law of Schoolcraft and the mother of expedition interpreter George Johnston. Born in the Chequamegon region, she is a towering figure in the history of Lake Superior during the late British and early American periods.

Attached the the expedition was Lt. James Allen and a detachment of ten soldiers, whose purpose was to demonstrate American power over the Ojibwe lands.  The United States had claimed this land since the Treaty of Paris, but it was only after the War of 1812 that the British withdrew allowing American trading companies to move in.  Still, by 1832 the American government had very little reach beyond its outposts at the Sault, Prairie du Chien, and Fort Snelling.  The Ojibwe continued to trade with the British and war with the Dakota in opposition to their “Great Father” in Washington’s wishes.

This isn’t to say the Ojibwe were ignorant of the Americans and their military.  By 1832, the Ojibwe were well aware of and concerned about the chimookomaanag (long knives) and what they were doing to other Indian nations to the south and east.  However, the reality on the ground was that the Ojibwe were still in power in their lands.


Doc. 323, pg 55

Doc. 323, pg. 56

Doc. 323, pg. 56

Doc. 323, pg. 57 Allen's journal is

Doc. 323, pg. 57
Allen’s journal is part of Phillip P. Mason’s edition of Schoolcraft’s Expedition to Lake Itasca:  The Discovery of the Source of the Mississippi (1958).  However, these Google Books pages come from the original publication as part of the United States Congress Serial Set.

To be continued…