Gezhiiyaash: Ogimaa, Diplomat, and Grandmaster of the Freemasons?

August 15, 2013

KAIZHEOSH, and his band from Lake Vieu Desert.  Michigan and Wisconsin: Copied from the original birch bark by Seth Eastman and published in Schoolcraft, Henry R. Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, Volume 1. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, and Company, 1853. (Digitized by the University of Nebraska Libraries)

In the fall of 1848, a group of Ojibwe Indians led by a charismatic mix-blooded interpreter, arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio.  They were bound for Washington D.C., but didn’t have the money to get there because they didn’t have “permission” from the Indian Agent for the trip. They had to raise funds along the way by putting on dances for the curious public.  Those who read Chequamegon History might remember this post and recognize them as John Baptiste Martell, Oshkaabewis, Gezhiiyaash, and the other chiefs from the Lac du Flambeau/Ontonagon region who carried the famous pictographic birch bark petitions to Washington.  The pictographs showing the united Ojibwe clans, and the written petition that accompanied them, asked the government to create reservations in Michigan and Wisconsin, and not remove the Oijbwe.

When Gezhiiyaash got sick in Cincinnati, the doctor he was seeing noticed that the petitions were not the only birch bark documents carried by the party.  The ill Lac Vieux Desert chief was a leader in the Midewiwin Society, and he had brought a Mide scroll.  His doctor, like many prominent American men in the middle of the 19th century, was a Freemason, and this is where things got interesting.  And, I’ll leave it at that because I don’t want to spoil any more of this story.  It’s a good one.

Masonic Voice Review, Volume 4.  J. Ernst., 1849.  Digitized by Google Books

There isn’t a whole lot to add to this other than to say the 1848-49 “Martell Expedition” gets weirder and more interesting with each new source that surfaces. Please read …a donation of twenty-four sections of land covering the graves of our fathers, our sugar orchards, and our rice lakes and rivers… and Reconstructing the “Martell” Delegation through Newspapers, for an explanation of the goals and accomplishments of these chiefs and the obstacles they faced along the way.

Satz, Ronald N. Chippewa Treaty Rights: The Reserved Rights of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Indians in Historical Perspective. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 1991. Print.
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 Seth Eastman. Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Collected and Prepared under the Direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs per Act of Congress of March 3rd, 1847. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, 1851. Print.

One Response to “Gezhiiyaash: Ogimaa, Diplomat, and Grandmaster of the Freemasons?”

  1. “The first Masonic Lodge in the Territory of Minnesota was organized in St. Paul in 1849, under a dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Ohio, and was known as St. Paul Lodge No. 1. Brethren from all sections of the Union composed its membership and their ideas of Masonic work differed widely. Political feeling ran high in the community and even found its way within the tyled recesses of the Lodge.

    Torn asunder by discord and dissension the Lodge ceased work for about a year. Finally in October, 1852, St. Paul Lodge applied for and received a charter from the Grand Lodge of Ohio. Subsequently the Grand Lodge of Minnesota was organized as previously related.”

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