To Be the Main Leaders of Our People

To Be the Main Leaders of Our People: A History of Minnesota Ojibwe Politics, 1825-1898

Rebecca Kugel
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 230
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  • Book Info
    To Be the Main Leaders of Our People
    Book Description:

    In the spring of 1868, people from several Ojibwe villages located along the upper Mississippi River were relocated to a new reservation at White Earth, more than 100 miles to the west. In many public declarations that accompanied their forced migration, these people appeared to embrace the move, as well as their conversion to Christianity and the new agrarian lifestyle imposed on them. Beneath this surface piety and apparent acceptance of change, however, lay deep and bitter political divisions that were to define fundamental struggles that shaped Ojibwe society for several generations.In order to reveal the nature and extent of this struggle for legitimacy and authority,To Be The Main Leaders of Our Peoplereconstructs the political and social history of these Minnesota Ojibwe communities between the years 1825 and 1898. Ojibwe political concerns, the thoughts and actions of Ojibwe political leaders, and the operation of the Ojibwe political system define the work's focus. Kugel examines this particular period of time because of its significance to contemporary Ojibwe history. The year 1825, for instance, marked the beginning of a formal alliance with the United States; 1898 represented not an end, but a striking point of continuity, defying the easy categorizations of Native peoples made by non-Indians, especially in the closing years of the nineteenth century.In this volume, the Ojibwe "speak for themselves," as their words were recorded by government officials, Christian missionaries, fur traders, soldiers, lumbermen, homesteaders, and journalists. While they were nearly always recorded in English translation, Ojibwe thoughts, perceptions, concerns, and even humor, clearly emerge.To Be The Main Leaders of Our Peopleexpands the parameters of how oral traditions can be used in historical writing and sheds new light on a complex, but critical, series of events in ongoing relations between Native and non-Native people.

    eISBN: 978-0-87013-932-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    In the spring of 1868, a select group of Ojibwe from the villages located along the Mississippi River moved to the new reservation of White Earth, over one hundred miles to the west, which they had helped establish under the Treaty of 11 March 1863. Six distinguished civil leaders, representing three communities, led the emigrants. Shortly after their arrival, “[t]he six chiefs lay down their blankets & put on white mans clothes—& their Braves & young men followed their examples.” “I have never seen them so willing & ready to work & cultivate the soil,” beamed the Episcopal missionary...

  5. Chapter 1 “You Don’t Do Us Any Good at All by Being Here”: The Uncertain Beginnings of the Ojibwe-American Alliance, 1825–1837
    (pp. 19-54)

    The bitter political divisions that erupted in Minnesota Ojibwe communities in the 1850s and 1860s had long roots. The angry young warriors who threatened missionaries and torched traders’ warehouses only appeared to arise spontaneously, motivated by concerns of the moment. Ojibwe dissatisfaction with their political relationship with the United States, an alliance commenced in the 1820s, had in fact been building for close to thirty years. By the 1850s that alliance had dramatically failed the Ojibwe. It had been unable to prevent massive land loss, consequent impoverishment, and several interconnected social problems indicative of severe social crisis, most noticeably alcohol...

  6. Chapter 2 “We Did Not Understand It So”: Political Division Becomes a Resistance Strategy, 1838–1868
    (pp. 55-100)

    The warriors’ anti-American stance, while well-known and often aired, remained a minority position in Ojibwe communities during the 1830s and 1840s. In these decades, most Ojibwe remained committed to a political alliance with the United States. As Ojibwe life deteriorated in the 1850s, however, the warrior-led and warrior-driven opposition gained large numbers of adherents. Fortified by more and angrier supporters, the warriors scorned alliance with the United States and advocated their militant, resistance-oriented strategy more insistently. In a related move, one with troubling if familiar long-term implications, the warriors began to act independently of the civil leader-dominated village councils, pursuing...

  7. Chapter 3 “In Religion and Other Things I Ought to Be the Main Leader of My People”: The Ojibwe Reassess An Alliance; 1852–1882
    (pp. 101-138)

    In June of 1868 supporters of the civil leaders among the Mississippi Ojibwe villages moved to the newly created reservation of White Earth. Persuaded that removal from central Minnesota would happen whether they wanted it or opposed it, they hoped at the new reservation to embark on the program of Ojibwe-directed social change that had kindled the interest of some civil leaders dating back to the 1830s and influencing their earliest dealings with the ABCFM missionaries. These Mississippi Ojibwe had come to believe that they could regenerate their communities, sundered over the previous two decades by the political disputes with...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. Chapter 4 “[W]e Can Get Along Better Than You Think”: The Ojibwe Adapt to Changing Times, 1880–1900
    (pp. 139-166)

    The Ojibwe did not immediately recognize that their goals and expectations regarding their experiment with Christianization and agriculture differed markedly from those of their Euro-American allies. Although events in the late 1870s and early 1880s could be seen to carry within themselves the seeds of future conflicts, the Ojibwe were not expecting to find hints of future trouble and so did not look for them. At White Earth, the Mississippi Ojibwe civil leaders faced the decade of the 1880s with confidence. They felt secure in their alliance with Euro-American Episcopalians, because it seemed founded on the principles that had historically...

  10. Chapter 5 “They Show Their Disposition Pretty Plain”: Civil and War Leadership in Symbiosis at Leech Lake, 1870–1900
    (pp. 167-198)

    The people of White Earth attempted to maintain a core of valued behaviors and cultural traditions through the selective adaptations of Christian conversion and Euro-American farming technology, but foundered in political disputes. At Leech Lake a very different picture emerged, one all the more remarkable because superficially it resembled developments at White Earth. As early as the mid-1860s the Leech Lake civil leaders, echoing their fellows among the Mississippi villages, expressed an interest in Episcopalianism and agricultural technology “[W]e would like that you would establish a Mission in our country,” eight civil leaders, identifying themselves as “chiefs of the Pillager...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 199-202)

    As the nineteenth century drew to a close, the Ojibwe could look back upon a political relationship with the Americans, commenced by the exploratory expeditions of Zebulon Pike during the winter of 1805–6, that was not yet one hundred years old. Unlike the American public, the employees of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Christian missionaries and reformers, the Ojibwe at the century’s end did not contemplate their impending demise. They did not see themselves as vanishing. They did not see themselves as conquered people—though they recognized the Americans’ continued efforts to force such an admission from them...

  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 203-218)
  13. Index
    (pp. 219-227)