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Blackbird's Song

Blackbird's Song: Andrew J. Blackbird and the Odawa People

Theodore J. Karamanski
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 322
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  • Book Info
    Blackbird's Song
    Book Description:

    For much of U.S. history, the story of native people has been written by historians and anthropologists relying on the often biased accounts of European-American observers. Though we have become well acquainted with war chiefs like Pontiac and Crazy Horse, it has been at the expense of better knowing civic-minded intellectuals like Andrew J. Blackbird, who sought in 1887 to give a voice to his people through his landmark bookHistory of the Ottawa and Chippewa People.Blackbird chronicled the numerous ways in which these Great Lakes people fought to retain their land and culture, first with military resistance and later by claiming the tools of citizenship. This stirring account reflects on the lived experience of the Odawa people and the work of one of their greatest advocates.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-337-1
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xx)

    A gray-haired man sat at a table, Pen in hand. He wrote several lines then paused, looking up from the white page and out the adjacent window. In the pale, dull light of a winter afternoon he stared at the still, leafless limbs of lifeless trees. This had always been a good time of year to tell the old stories. Perhaps he remembered what the grandmothers of the village used to say when he and his friends broke the rule that stories were to be saved for winter telling: “Ha! This person is telling a story. Now a toad will...

  5. 1 A Forest Youth
    (pp. 1-22)

    Before he was born, Before he was even conceived, The soul of Andrew Blackbird had been placed by the Great Manitou in his mother’s womb. In a dome-shaped wigwam the body and the soul became one when his mother, kneeling on a mat of woven reeds, her arms clutching the smooth wooden pole of the delivery rack, pushed the infant boy out into the world. The women attending the birth took the baby and washed him in a murky bath of hot water, herbs, and ash. With relief the weary mother looked at the well-formed baby boy bawling over his...

  6. 2 The Crisis
    (pp. 23-76)

    In the fall of 1835 on the shores of Little Traverse Bay, near the present city of Harbor Springs, Michigan, a large group of Ottawa gathered on the warm sands of the beach. The old women, draped in bright red blankets, had their hands in front of their faces, vainly hiding tears. The men tried to busy themselves with the matter-of-fact tasks of preparing a canoe for a long journey, speaking little, thinking much.

    Andrew Blackbird looked down on the somber scene. He was at the awkward adolescent stage of life, more than a child and less than a man....

  7. 3 A New World
    (pp. 77-108)

    On March 14 1836, Mackadepenessy finally met the “American father.” He and twenty-three otherAnisanabegwere ushered into the White House, where they were received by Andrew Jackson. White haired, grave, and tall, the president in his black suit cut an impressive figure. Mackadepenessy knew little about Jackson’s record as an “Indian fighter” and probably had only a vague understanding of his administration’s fierce adherence to the policy of Indian removal. What Mackadepenessy had long appreciated was that Jackson was the man who could speak with final authority for the Americans, and that he was the one with whom the...

  8. 4 We Now Wish to Become Men
    (pp. 109-144)

    Andrew Blackbird was in a hurry. He swept into his father’s village on the shores of Little Traverse Bay, and with barely abozhoofor friends and family he was gone again within a few hours.¹ For the five years he was at Mission Point he had thought about going east for an education and when he finally made up his mind he was anxious to be off. Yet, in spite of his sense of urgency, his steps took him first to the sandy shores of Little Traverse. He was going to Ohio with high hopes, but was realistic enough...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. 5 Citizen Blackbird
    (pp. 145-166)

    During the protracted winter of 1850–51 Andrew Blackbird spent much time with his father. The son cut timber to build a new house for the old man and in the evenings it is likely they sat by the fire while Mackadepenessy spun out stories about his own adventures in the white man’s world. They may have talked of Andrew’s mother and of the many winters they had spent as a family hunting on the upper Muskegon River. Counting back over the winters, they together worked out how many years had passed since Andrew had been born. Blackbird had never...

  11. 6 Doing Good amongst My People
    (pp. 167-208)

    As his ship edged into Little Traverse Bay Andrew Blackbird had not seen its familiar waters for nearly three years. Many times over those years he had returned in his mind’s eye to its shores. He had an abiding attachment to the waters and woods of L’Arbre Croche. In his writings he mentioned that “the dearest spot to me in this wide world” was a glade of basswood trees where as a boy he listened to the song of his special “messenger,” a brown thrush. Now he would share that place and all of his beloved, beautiful home with the...

  12. 7 Light and Shadows
    (pp. 209-234)

    On a late summer afternoon in 1895 a high-spirited group of tourists from Detroit ambled down Main Street, Harbor Springs. They made their way to a small frame house where they were met at the door by Elizabeth Blackbird. The visitors thought her “very handsome in spite her poverty and surroundings.” To them she was the exotic “white squaw.” When asked how she came to marry an Indian she answered readily.

    I don’t know, he was smart and I felt sorry for him, and I was a romantic girl. You see how I live, yet I was brought up in...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 235-240)

    Andrew Blackbird’s hometown of Harbor Springs remains a beautiful place. Walking down the hill from Blackbird’s grave in Lakeview Cemetery, the visitor’s eye is drawn equally to the sight of the beckoning blue bay and the picture-postcard town, with vintage veranda-graced cottages, the Victorian facades of shops, and the gleaming white steeple of Holy Childhood of Jesus Church. On Main Street, in front of an incongruously modest wood frame house, is an equally incongruous totem pole. The house was Andrew Blackbird’s home, and in 2009 it housed the Harbor Springs Chamber of Commerce. Attached to it, in the false-fronted clapboard...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 241-274)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 275-284)
  16. Index
    (pp. 285-293)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 294-294)