By Cheryl Morgan
BWHL is proud to share excerpts from Cheryl Morgan’s book, Ottissippi. To purchase a copy of Cheryl’s book in its entirety, click here.
It was thought by many that the Indian was the vanishing American. He was thought to be culturally extinct, to have unhappily vanished from the face of the land” (Stan Steiner, The New Indians, 1968).
The country was heavily populated before the White man came (Iroquois www). European diseases reached the Northeast with such devastating effects, even prior to European exploration. We know little about the Indians of the Upper Ohio Valley in this period. Some scholars suggest a Native population decline of 90 to 95% within a century after contact, loosening the Natives’ grip on land more than any other factor.
The Indians didn’t accumulate material wealth or develop stratified classes, they were a very thankful people (Sturdevant, Handbook of North American Indians, 1978).
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There was a delta at the mouth of the St. Clair River at the foot of Lake Huron. It was shallow with large rocks for our fish weir. There were three mouths, the main mouth went east to where Point Edward, Ontario is now. A part of the channel is now a lake at Canatara Park in Point Edward, Ontario (Lake Chipican). We could walk most of the way across the Ottissippi (St. Clair River) on sand gravel bars. Some used poles to vault over deeper areas, or canoes, swimming, and rafting to cross. Horses swam across also.
“We welcomed the French and the metal tools to make our lives easier. They also brought guns, whiskey, missionaries, land thieves, and self-seeking exploiters. As predicted, we were faced with a difficult choice. To keep, our own traditions or abandon the old way for European ways. A world of increasing hardships as the fur trade brought whiskey, religion, dishonest traders, opportunists, and missionaries.
Increasing tribal warfare took place for control of the land teeming with fur-bearing animals and the waterways, lakes, and rivers (highways). Social and cultural distress were suffered as the result of the decision to embrace the Gitchi Mookmaan ways, values, law, and religion, many leaving the teaching of the elders behind. Pontiac and Tecumseh, our spiritual leaders and seers, tried to warn us of the devastation and sickness of alcohol, disillusionment, loss of language and identity, but in vain.
Europeans saw our seeming infinite resources, forests, waters, grasslands, and wonderful food supply, as ripe for the taking, never with respect, appreciation, or as a gift from the Creator, Gitchi Manido. Disaster was brought on by the headlong insensitive flight of progress.
More and more, the Native concept of living in harmony is being understood. We saw the world as a place full of living beings with a spirit and character to be respected. This is essential to understanding who we are. All beings come from one supreme creator, and we are part of creation. Ethics demand that humans treat all of creation with respect.
We believe in one creator, a Supreme Being, Gitchi Manido. He created the universe and put it in motion, revolving around the sun. He created Earth and all in it – mountains, plains, and waters. He gave each its direction and purpose to flourish and lend order. He then made every species of animal, and much time passed.
God made man in four colors, each in different parts of the world.
The Anishinabe on Turtle Island – America. Universal order was made; He made laws that govern natural laws. When humans defy or alter this natural order, all beings suffer, but humans the most – pollution of water, air, land, animals, fish, bodies, and ozone.
There are four layers to the world: The earth, the sky, beyond the sky realm, and beyond that, the spirit realm, the abode of the Creator, Gitchi Manido. The earth has four layers; human and animals dwell on earth, water is the lifeblood upon it, the surface veins, all earth life depends upon water to live. Thus, Mother Earth nurtures and sustains. The fiery center, the fourth layer, is underground, as the center of the universe is the sun. There is the rock layer, the soil layer, the water and humans.
The universe in its vast realms follow the Creator’s will and natural law to carry out the sacred design and order of creation. Anishinabe theology ascribes the Creator’s essence or spirit to all of creation. Thus, all of creation is of the spirit, the Great Spirit.
The majority of Anishinabe have embraced Christianity and belong to churches.
Our Dodem, Clan Signs Totems, originally, there were seven clans given to the people after the cleansing of the earth by the Great Flood. Each had a special purpose within the greater tribal system. We are now the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge. The conference fosters intertribal cooperation on many issues, treaty rights, and education.
During the Sixth Fire Time Era, we faced many difficulties. A glimpse of our past, our story, our leaders, warriors, and families faced great odds and survived to save some land, our customs, spirituality, and heritage over nearly overwhelming adversity. We are telling our story to help people understand the past and educate others about where we have been and where we are going.
The Seventh Prophecy is still unfolding today. The flames of the Seventh Fire are preparing us for a bright and promising future” (Diba Jimooyung, Saginaw Chippewa, Ziibiwing, 2005).
Expansion brought short term wealth, but the price was very high. This became clear during the 1800s as hard times and disease took their toll. Disease came, and we neglected the teachings of grandparents; illness and death came, virulent diseases that we had no resistance to. Very few were given vaccinations against these diseases when sought out. Acculturation brought loss of identity, language, pride, and self-esteem. Contact brought racism and denial of basic human rights by the dominant society. Alcohol was the biggest and most devastating scourge.
We have survived all the tragedies of the Sixth Fire Prophecy. We are now the fastest-growing ethnic population in North America. Our birthrate is the highest among Non-White minorities. The life span is increasing and is now at 59.5, after being 47.5 and 37, although the Western and Northern peoples are suffering from alcohol addiction and suicide at alarming rates.
The Black River and Swan Creek people lived between the Saginaw Bay Watershed and Lake St. Clair Watershed. Pottawatomies and Wyandots were also living in the area (Ron Satz, Chippewa Tribal Rights). They were labeled as a notoriously turbulent band of Chippewa, staunchly loyal to the British. They leased and rented their lands to White settlers with whom they were friendly. To three families who were helpful to them, annual payment was made in trade goods.
In the beginning of the 1800s, there were 20 distinct villages in St. Clair County, Michigan (Tanner, Atlas of Great Lakes Indians, 1987).
During the War of 1812 to 1814, a party of half-breeds and Indians, crossing from the Marine City area of Michigan to attack the Canadian Indians, met at Baby’s Creek, south of Mooretown, a battle took place. For many years after, the banks and bottom of the creek were strewn with unburied Indian bones and skulls.
The following is from Charles Eastman’s “The Indian Today and as He Was”:
The Indian is free-born, a free thinker, their government pure democracy. An intrinsic right and justice which governs his conception and play of life. Naked and upright before the Great Mystery, he does not excuse himself or lie to save his miserable body. He allows others the same freedom.
Spiritual life is paramount. Daily he meets with the “Great Mystery”, morning and evening, from the highest hilltop in the regions of his home. He has respect for all. The only laws as necessary are to guard personal and tribal purity and honor. There is respect for all. No undue advantage was sought by any individual. With us the individual is supreme. There is no national wealth, no taxation for the government. Chiefs were natural born leaders, with much influence but little authority.
There were no fermented drinks; no salt was used in the Indian diet. They were God-fearing, clean, honorable people. Women do not associate with men outside the family. The women have one child every three years to, five children.
He will not be forced to accept materialism, as the basic principle of his life. He is fearless of hunger, suffering and death.
The Indian will not be forced to accept materialism as the basic principle of his life. He preferred to reduce existence to its simplest terms.
The Indians were peaceful, kind, patient, and reasonable, offering resistance only when faced with irresistible provocation (C. Eastman, The Indian Today). In religious zeal to gain honor and converts, the Black Coats and others represented them as godless and murderous savages. Otherwise there was no one to convert (C. Eastman the Indian Today).
There is not one instance of a Scout betraying the cause he served. Once his honor is pledged to a public trust, he must sustain it at any cost.
The Indian value system placed importance on respect for Mother Earth fellow man, having no prejudice, respect for the Great Spirit – God, the aged and family tradition, generosity, and sharing. There were no tranquilizers, drugs, alcohol, or ulcers. There was, thousands of years of peace before 1492. There are no taxes, borders or boundaries, no insane asylums, jails or prisons, no orphanages. There was honest leadership selection, bravery, and courage. There was no religious animosity, no poor and no rich (Will Antell, Ed McGaa, DSS Publication, St. Paul Minn).
Strength in the sense of endurance and vitality underlies all genuine beauty. He is prepared at any time to volunteer his services on behalf of his fellow people at any cost or inconvenience and real hardship, and thus to grow in personality and soul culture. Generous to the last mouthful of food. Fearless of hunger, suffering, and death.
“A hero is not to have, but to be” is his national motto. No politics and no money in it for anyone. His conscience is never at war with the mind. No undue advantage was sought by any individual. Justice must be impartial; if the accused alone knew the facts, it was common to surrender himself.
Indian warfare was mainly rivalry in patriotism, bravery, and self-sacrifice. The willingness to risk life for the welfare or honor of the people was the highest test of character. A system of decorations evolved to preserve an example to the young. This was of feathers and skins.
In duels and small skirmishes, a small scalp lock was worn by the leader, mourning for dead enemies. Only after bounties were made by colonial governments were scalps and murder for pay.
Weaknesses are very apparent with the complicated system of civilization.
There was no fermented drink; liquor was the ruin of our race. Cholera, venereal disease, immoralities of Whites, indoor life, bronchitis and pneumonia, tuberculosis, consumption, unsanitary crowded space, and unwholesome food were our sickness.
Scouts, guides, and allies were of great value to the early history of this country. There is not one instance of a scout betraying the cause he served, even against his own tribe and relatives. Once his honor is pledged to a public trust he must sustain it at any cost.
Often the means to bring neighboring tribes into subjection was cruel warfare. Relentless, demoralizing, based on a desire to conquer and despoil of possessions – a motive unknown to the Primitive American. With weapons more effective and deadly, spiritual and moral loss was great. The Indian came to believe that the White man alone has a real God. And things he thought Sacred are inventions of the devil. This teaching undermined the foundations of his philosophy. The inconsistency of its advocates made it difficult to accept or understand.
Whiskey and gunpowder were the two great civilizers. The Indian sold his birthright; his manhood began to crumble. White officers deserted wives and children after, as if there was no binding obligation. The demoralizing was gradual but certain, culminating in the final loss of his freedom and confinement to reservations under the most depressing conditions. The last surrender was in 1886.
Wars were incited by the insolence and aggressiveness of Americans. Algonquins and Iroquois were used as allies in the long struggle and conflict between the French and the English, and thus were initiated into the motives and methods of the White man’s warfare. The Pontiac War was caused by a few self-seeking men, gross overcharging and use of liquor to debauch the Natives. He accumulates much tainted wealth, buys land, then much stock or a mill on Indian water power, and becomes a man of influence in his home state. From the vantage point of a rough border town peopled largely with gamblers, saloon keepers, and horse thieves, this man and his kind plot, the removal of the Indian from his fertile acres. They harass him in every way and at last forced resistance upon him. Then he loudly cries, “Indian outbreak! Send us troops! Annihilate the Savages!” Many went our way.
The Indian was hospitable; he was willing to shelter fugitive slaves.
The Seminole tribe in the Florida Everglades is the only unconquered band in the U.S. today.
The Great Lakes Indians are scattered far and wide in fragments.
The 1836 Blackhawk War was the end of Algonquin resistance.
The Southwest Frontiers were occupied by remnants of the Eastern tribes. Starving Indians were promised support that never came; they sought sustenance, revolted, and were massacred. 15,000 people in the Black Hills were massacred for the railroad and gold. Over 120,000 were massacred in California for gold. It was impossible to conquer the Plains Indians without destroying the buffalo. Vast herds were destroyed ruthlessly by the U.S. Army. By 1880, they were practically extinct. The reservations were concentration camps. Serving time, a beggarly apathetic way of life, and then many died a broken heart. Called incorrigible savages, the Indians was defrauded of the finest country in the world.
Christian men and women came tardily to the conclusion that these brave people had lost everything in the face of Herculean advance of the dominant race. Reflection upon the sordid history of their country’s dealings with Red men taught them to think clearly above the clamor of the self-seeking mob. Under Churches and missionary organizations, they try to put an end to official corruption.
“My father was one of 260 pardoned by President Lincoln” (Charles Eastman, The Indian Today and as he was).
THE INDIAN AT SCHOOL
In “From the Deep Woods to Civilization”, Charles Eastwood wrote of his experience when his father chose to educate him in the White way.
I asked a few questions. New ideas didn’t fit with the cardinal principles of Eternal Justice. I saw a false life, a treacherous life. My father converted and gave a totally new vision of White men as a religious and kindly man. A race which learned to weigh and measure everything including time and labor. We learned to accumulate and preserve wealth and records for future generations. We never had anything to count. We valued nothing except honor that cannot be purchased.
Taught to commune alone with the Great Spirit, I heard for the first time him addressed openly in a house full of men and women.
I was given a big bag to fill with straw, a small one for a pillow, sheets and blankets. We filled our own water and wood.
A painted globe was placed before us, and the teacher said that our world was like that, that upon such a thing our forefathers had roamed and hunted for untold ages as it whirled and danced around the sun in space. I felt that my foothold was deserting me. All my Savage training and philosophy was in the air, as if these things were true. Dr. Riggs explained the industries of White man, his thrift and forethought; we could see the reasonableness of it all. Economy is the able assistant of labor and the two together produce great results. Systems and methods of business, especially the medium of exchange, was of deep interest.
Dr. Riggs’ personality, words of counsel, and daily prayers found root. He did more than any other next to my father to make it possible for me to grasp the principles of true civilization, teaching me to stick with whatever I might undertake. The world gradually unfolded before me and the desire to know all that the White man knows was my total desire.
My father said to me, “I find the White Man has a well-grounded religion and teaches his children the same virtues that our people taught to theirs. The great mystery has shown to Red and White men alike the good and the evil from which to choose. Then you must be careful; success lies in the choice of the right road. Be doubly careful, for traps will be laid out for you. The most dangerous is the spirit – water, that causes a man to forget his self-respect.”
Grandmother said, “always remember the Great Mystery is good; evil can only come from ourselves.” I parted from my first teacher, the woman who taught me to pray.
Reverend Doctor John P. Williamson influenced me powerfully toward Christian living. My father wrote to say an Indian can learn all that is in the books of a White man, so he may be equal to them in the way of the mind. I studied hard. Missionaries were poor and government policy of education for Indians was not developed. In two years, I caught up and could translate every word into the Native tongue. I was now studying algebra and geometry.
Cities were crowded, and everyone was in the greatest hurry.
I absorbed knowledge through every pore. The more I got, the larger my capacity grew, and my appetite increased in proportion.
I discovered my theory of this new life was all wrong and was confronted with problems entirely foreign to my experience. English was almost beyond my grasp. History and geography to me were legends and traditions. I soon learned the logic of mathematics. I then went on to Dartmouth N.H. college to become a physician to my people, to serve my race.
I had been accustomed to broad, fertile prairies and tribal ways. Here I had my savage gentleness and Native refinement knocked out of me. I gained more than their equivalent (C. Eastman).
“European colonial powers competition undermined our economic stability. Wars came as British ships seized French merchant ships and disrupted fur and tobacco shipments to Europe.
The British treated us as inferior savages. In the French and British wars, the Indians had some on each side and some neutral. We fought for those who gave us the best prices on our furs and would treat us with a degree of respect.
The Saginaw Chippewa lived in a huge beautiful village at the north end of Lake St. Clair in the 1730s. There were 1,500 people there in 1736, in one village in Ontario and Michigan. We grew between 1740 and 1760 and flourished. We gained material wealth, but the cost was irreparable to our culture and peaceful way of life. Death and warfare became the major parts of Anishinabe life” (Diba Jimooyung, Ziibiwing, Saginaw Chippewa).
“Metis Fur Trade warriors, with Charles Langlade, led war parties to attack the British. In 1758, at Pittsburgh – Ft. Dusquesne, we had overwhelming victory and received much valuable prizes: gold, silver, cloth, weapons, 1,000 rifles, 100 oxen, and 400 to 500 horses. We used horses much after this battle for some time.
The decisive war began in 1756, the Seven-Year War. Famine and disease weakened us at home and on the battlegrounds. Smallpox claimed many more than bullets ever could. From Niagara to Mackinac, European biological warfare (disease), chemical warfare (alcohol), and psychological warfare – the destruction of our culture – devastated all Anishinabe people.
In 1760, the French surrendered to the British, ending the war and French Canada. The British also claimed the Mississippi Valley, the Ohio Valley, and Florida. The British moved to the heart of our territory, occupying the fort at Detroit. The Anishinabe had not lost a single battle. Our great leader Pontiac, an Ottawa with an Ojibwe mother, led the way, taking 9 of 11 forts West of the Appalachians.
Booniwuk (Pontiac) means “Thunderbirds Landing Upon the Earth”. He was a warrior, statesman, and father. His clan totem was the Otter. We wanted to return to Anishinabe life uncomplicated by the European influence of alcohol, fur trade, competition, and war. We were preeminent, courageous defenders – warriors, patriots – of the people and the land. We had not been defeated in War. We would not sell our land and would not surrender. Pontiac was murdered at Cahokia (the large castle opposite St. Louis) by a Peoria Illinois.
The British assumed ownership and domination over our people. They did not give gifts, a tribute for our friendship and use of our land, as the French had. The British showed no respect. Whiskey and rum were rampant, traders charged outrageously high prices for supplies and limited the powder and lead. The same tactics used the world over to build the British Empire.
The British wanted to punish us for the War. Rum was used very effectively to destroy our people and tribes. We were tested daily to protect our hunting lands and territory. The Whites came as locusts to the feast. As unending waves of the ocean. The Family Compact and patroons were given power by the English king.
In the War for Independence in 1776, we were urged to remain neutral, the government promising not to move North of the Ohio River. Despite the wampum belts as visual reminders of an agreement binding on both parties, all such promises and treaties were broken. The U.S. claimed to defeat the British and all Anishinabe allies as well, claiming our territory by right of conquest. We yet held our western boundary. We traveled south to protect our borders in the 1780s and 1790s, attacking settlements and taking captives who were often adopted by our families and the tribe. Peace treaties followed as the U.S. government built its treasury and strengthened its army.
The U.S. behaves as though we were defeated enemies, dictating boundary lines, offering no compensation for lands taken in the process. They never enforced the treaty lines ever. In 1786, the Northwest Ordinance promised to stay behind their boundaries to never take our land without consent and to never invade or disturb us unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress. But laws founded in justice and humanity shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, for preserving peace and friendship. Noble words, outright lies, and lots of whiskey.
The U.S. adopted the new policy in hopes of averting an all-out war. They were never satisfied, continuing to cross into our territory with immunity. We continued to resist incursions onto our Native soil. The Three Fires and Lakes People held long meetings at Walpole Island and Saginaw Valley. The Bear clan leaders urged all-out war.
Harmer was badly defeated in 1790. St. Clair in 1791 had huge losses of 700 men. Mad Anthony Wayne trained his army in our tactics for two years. The British at Fort Miami would not help us, and the Americans prevailed. Many Whites were adopted to replace those who died. The new American government was weak; the Northwest Territory was up for grabs. No nation controlled them. France, Britain, and Spain had a covetous eye on it. In our pain, heartbreak, and loss, we prayed for the coming generations.
At the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw, we refused, saying “We will not sell our lands.” After 640 gallons of whiskey, over ten council meetings and endless private meetings with Chief Neome, Jacob Smith, Kishkahko, Ogemaw – Ogemagigido, the Riley’s, and other traders and chiefs, 114 Anishinabe signed their totems, giving up a very large portion of Michigan – over five million acres. Some Anishinabe moved to Canada, others to the reserved lands. Cholera and smallpox from 1832 to 1837 killed over one-third of the Anishinabe in the Saginaw Valley. It took many of our leaders and whole villages.
None of these treaties were by the people’s consent. We do not know which leaders went or why. We have a democratic government of consensus by all. We never gave up the right to govern our people, to worship the creator, to hunt, fish, trap, and harvest plants and medical foods and other resources.
The Anishinabe never left their homelands. Most still live on their homelands. Only two small groups did not stay.
The Chippewa-Ojibwe signed over 80 treaties with the U.S. government, more than any other tribe. After 1804, the treaty negotiations were in a foreign language; we couldn’t understand what was said or written, we couldn’t defend ourselves” (Diba Jimooyung, Telling Our Story, 2005, Ziibiwing, Saginaw Chippewa).
The Anishinabe placed land in the care of the Indian Department employees, merchants, former soldiers, and officers to protect them from being taken by the government, squatters, and unscrupulous trade and speculators. The Indian alliance were to protect them for Indian use to hunt fish and fowl, plant corn, and make maple sugar on any unsettled lands. This was the purpose of making these agreements (Adapted, Travers, 2015).
The Lake Indians suffered an extraordinary loss of numbers by the late War of 1812, not so much from those who fell in battle as from camp diseases and hunger and misery, consequent upon their return to their distant villages. Whole villages in the North were depopulated or reduced to but a few souls, and I have passed over sites of towns populous in 1802, which are now overrun with grass and bramble and where not a single soul dwells to repeat the tale of their sufferings. The furs diminished very rapidly, and this trade was completely prostrated in Michigan in about 1837. The Indians had been plied freely with ardent spirits during this time, and they were deteriorated in their tone and independence of mind and left sadly in debt. Several tribes began to think of disposing of their surplus lands to clothe their families and pay their debts. Everything in the condition of the state communities is adverse, to their prosperity, as whole tribes and their emigration has therefore naturally forced itself upon the attention of the public as the only practicable mode of rescuing them and preserving them as a distinct race (H. Schoolcraft, 1838).
If an Indian had the audacity to stand up for his peoples being defrauded, repressed, and oppressed, he was quickly put down. Leonard Peltier has been serving a 40-year sentence for bringing to light the injustice being done to the reservation Indians at Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Dennis Banks, Russel Means, Clyde Bellecourt, Lee Brightman, Leonard Peltier, and many others were given time in prisons for seeking help with deplorable conditions on the reservations.
Stereotypes eroded the status of Indians as real human beings, making them seem as beasts. Descriptions given for wild animals (in) propaganda implied racial defects. They were depicted as cruel and war-like with limited potential, or exploited and despoiled, saying it would serve all to have them removed West of the Mississippi, where they would be free to roam and hunt.
Andrew Jackson, Louis Cass, and Christian missionaries were sending them to an unwelcome West already settled by other tribes. With goodwill and utter righteousness, they set out to save the Indian by destroying their economy, language, social systems, and religions. Imperial aggression took their rich lands, the Indians were exploited as unskilled labor. It brought on the total collapse of all they treasured. Military force was used, presents, liquor, land grants, traders, and debt. The Indians only source of money was their land.
The government officials having a vested interest, dictated to the men they used as representatives of the tribes, what to say. Governor Cass, Indian Agent Henry Schoolcraft, and Stuart, a fur trader for John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company, used the illusion of progress for removal, greed, and opportunism (Cleland, Rites of Conquest).
The Indian agents controlled all aspects of life on the reserves. The dictatorial power of the Indian Department and its agents through patronage appointments did much to prevent economic progress on the reserves. Farming was the only acceptable occupation, retarding improvements on reserve lands that were in most cases not suitable for farming. Fishing and lumbering were taken over by Whites as were other Indian industries. The loss of fisheries was especially decisive; fishing formed the traditional backbone of Ojibwe economic survival (Schmaltz, The Ojibwe of Southern Ontario).
The necessary seed and supplies for farming were often detained for weeks and months, too late to sow them. Most Anishinabe spent any money on provisions, tools, housing, and to settle accounts. Laws and acts were made to protect indigenous people from criminal behavior of the Upper Canada Colonists. Property was swindled and whittled away to acquire what was formerly given as presents (Travers 2015).
The Indians were hemmed in and lost their freedom of movement. Filth, disease, starvation, and crushing poverty afflicted life in almost every Indian settlement. Economic and cultural racism prevailed. For survival, interracial couples and their children concealed their identities (Travers 2015).
Written records of the period are sparse, careless, inaccurate, and often highly biased. Their history is fragmentary, full of gaps. Much of the evidence is sketchy, oral and undocumented. Some of the printed sources are unreliable (Darlene Gay Emmert, “The Indians of Shiawassee County”, Michigan Historical Commission, vol. 47).
Records and numbers were a story of decline and degeneration, as if they were a vanishing people, and they were treated as if they were. The system was designed for eventual elimination. This was a false accounting, for although the people were suffering, they had their traditional values and cultural life designed to survive (Adapted from Travers 2015).
The French commandment at Detroit from 1714 to 1718, Jacques Charles Sabrevois De Blury, describes the “Saguinan” as the “most unruly and unmanageable in the whole region”.
In 1823, Territorial Governor Lewis Cass wrote a missionary group: “with respect to the establishment of a Mission at Saginaw, I will state the facts: the Chippeways who live there were the most troublesome Indians in this quarter. They are in the lowest state of moral degradation. Heretofore they have not been favorably disposed; in one instance, the attempt has failed. But so much depends on the experience and personal character of those appointed to conduct such a work”.
The Methodists appear to have been the primary influence in the St. Clair and Shiawasee area. They were quite important in the entire Saginaw Basin.
Joseph T. Marsaac, overseer of farming for the Saginaw Indians, wrote,
“I am requested, by the majority, of the principal chiefs of the Saginaw Indians, to enter a complaint about the Methodist Indians toward them.
“Firstly, the M. Indians have and do urge them to join the Church of the Methodists by threats of the Department at Detroit as well as by the President of the United States, saying that in case the Indians should not join their Church, they would be sent West of the Mississippi. They confirm their report by saying that their ministers at different times received letters from the President of the United States which letter-authorized them to use such language among the Indians.
“Secondly: whenever the Methodists have succeeded by using the authority of the government to make one or more proselytes, the chiefs say that there are among such a band of Indians so no more peace and farming in the band, but discords and discussion separate friendship.
“Thirdly: it appears by the report of the chiefs that the M. Indians also commit predations among the other Indians; they have already killed one horse and threatened to kill oxen likewise.”
White men in general and government officials in particular tended to look with greater favor on Indians who were Christian and who were more ready to grant their wishes.
When the Indians became poorer, their hunting and fishing grounds taken up by settlers, relations between the races changed. The settlers gradually dominated the old hunting grounds and became increasingly disturbed by the begging of the Indians. Large quantities were never taken, just enough for the food that they needed. The visitors were usually not dangerous, though alcohol sometimes added spirit to their demands.
Whenever a White man found himself in need of Indian hospitality, there is no record of his having been turned away. Problems were created by the difference between White and Indian concepts of hospitality.
Liquor introduced by the White man became a major problem for the Indian who rarely could control his desire. The insatiable appetite for liquor led the Indian to give anything he had to obtain it. The influence of this beverage often made otherwise harmless Indians both frightening and dangerous (MHC. vol. 47 Emmert).
Between 1837 and 1840, cross border meetings gradually disappeared between Michigan and Canada. The U.S. people were cut off. The U.S. policy of British gifts given annually was that they must reside in Canada to receive the gifts. Grand Councils continued, runners carried messages between the border.
In 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota, Abraham Lincoln orders the largest mass execution in history. Thirty-eight Santee Dakota Sioux were hanged because they dared to protect the rights to their lands in the Sacred Black Hills. The ink was hardly dry on the Black Hills when the government wanted timber rights, they really wanted gold to cover the cost of war. This led to Custer’s gold-finding mission; any who resisted were deposed (Metis Timeline, www).
Major Richard Dodge at the Arkansas River saw a great herd of bison cross the river. It took five days for the herd to pass a given point, and the herd was not less than 50 miles wide, viewed from a high vantage point in 1868 (Metis Timeline, www). Over 50 million buffalo were killed, the bones used for fertilizer, the hides and tongues shipped east for sale in the Fur Trade. By 1888, the U.S. Game Report only six buffalo exist. The last buffalo drives were cattle hunts; old, stringy steers were let loose to be run after by old men who had grown up in the presence of endless herds of sacred buffalo. It was over, and even the dream of what it once had been was dying (Tunkashila).
Buffalo weighed up to 5,000 pounds with horns six feet across. Today they weigh about 2,000 pounds and are about 12 feet long and six feet tall at the shoulders. The hump on their back stores fat.
There were 80 million buffalo. Now there are 130,000 (PBS American Buffalo, Spirit of a Nation. www).
(The Natives) facing starvation, the government respond with minimal rations and used them to force land concessions and subjugation (Metis Timeline, www).
“The Indian lived a life of liberty, simplicity, and innocence. Critical of traditional religious and political beliefs. The New Enlightenment, a belief in the power of human understanding, unaided by divine revelation, (rose up). A substituting the natural for the supernatural explanation of the workings of plants and animals and human beings. The ever increasing, multiplicity of (each).
The Indian was declared equal by Thomas Jefferson, but his actions implied something else, a buffoon – lies.
Human progress, expansion, and conquest seemed to justify history as progressive and superior to other peoples. This led to White Supremacy and the belief in discovery and a conjectural history regardless of geography or history. This gave life and social sciences a larger scape, using the European standard and idea of progress to measure the direction and amount of development. Assumptions in the new guise of cultural and social evolution. A classification scheme embracing all people and made it into a sequential relationship of a time series. With newly emerging discipline and social evolution, a race of progress and a dying race. Ranking all societies in a hierarchical order according to ethnocentric criteria, confusing culture and biology.
Racism is an invention of European peoples: the moral qualities of a certain group are correlated with their physical characteristics, and all humankind is divisible into superior and inferior stocks based on the first assumption. The inherent racial differences and the moral judgments thereon are the explanation of diversity, entirely of, mainly in terms of racial inheritance.
Race replaced the word “nation” to designate a major division of humankind: civilized and primitive peoples, primordial origin, rather than subsequent history. Types of (Categorizing) humankind as separate species, rather than tracing cultural history of mankind as a whole as the key to understanding human diversity.
Changing the religious atmosphere and divorce between religion and scientific study of human origins, the division of a few races instead of many nations or peoples, biased gross comparisons, and prejudice.
A spectrum of variation, instead of hard and fast differences among races. So, search for fast proof switched to another index, head measurements, part of the pro-slavery argument for inherent inferiority. The range of sizes to them proved conclusively the superiority of Whites over all other races. All attempts to civilize have failed, also every endeavor to enslave them. Violent racism was given the Pettina of Science through craineology (head measurements). It was used to rationalize White American policy toward Indians and Blacks. The cultural hierarchy fused with racial hierarchy and evolution progress. Lower races possessed darker skin and bad manners, and organic equipment was inferior as well. Racial selection for the history of mankind. A racial psychology, stereotypes of various peoples in confusion of race, physical structures and culture, and ethnic psychology, rather than cultural pluralism – many varieties.
Racism is discredited in science and considered merely political and social ideology by those who would dominate other peoples for political or economic reasons, repudiating raceology and evolution, espousing the idea of culture as the way of understanding human diversity in lifestyles as the foundation concept of their discipline. We need to replace the conjectural approach with actual history.
The comparative method – superficial research – that ripped the cultural element out of its context to fit a preconceived scheme – the Postulative Stage Theory, the wholeness of a single culture rather than comparisons across cultures. There is diversity of cultures with no morally absolute ranking in favor of variety, a total entity not in relation to other cultures.
The appreciating of Native American cultures in their variety, and understanding Indians and their achievements in terms of themselves. The Indians have played a role in American history and still have a role to play, not as museum pieces, nor as individuals lost in the melting pot. The Indian ways and traditions, we grow and change. A unified way of life with values being superior to fragmented modern industrial life. The wholeness of man, humanity of interpersonal relationships, and integrity of unity.
The White men studied other cultures according to the premise of their own stereotyped and racial biases. In White eyes, the Indian was bad, without history. The White Man chose racism and ethnic cleansing to cover the taking of the Indian lands and rich resources. This ignorance is yet perpetuated (The White Man’s Indian, Robert F. Berkhofer Jr. 1979). The records of most of the early Indian and White history and White dealings have been lost, hidden, or destroyed.
I found Yankees of the uneducated class very Indian-like in their views and habits. Strong character, plain-spoken and opinionated, very frugal and saving. Counting barrels of potatoes and apples before they were grown, and every brooklet forced to do a river’s work in mills and factories (C. Eastman “From the Deep Woods to Civilization”).
I became the government physician to Pine Ridge S.D., a bleak and desolate place. There was no medical equipment, no sanitation or preventive work; my people were groping blindly for spiritual relief in bewilderment and misery. They had many grievances and causes for profound discontent. Sickness was prevalent and the death rate alarming, especially in children. Trouble had been developing, and humane conciliatory measures may have checked this.
Rations were cut from time to time, protests disregarded. Never was more ruthless fraud and graft practiced upon a defenseless people than these poor Natives by politicians. Nevermore worthless scraps of paper anywhere in the world than many of the treaties and government documents.
Dishonest politicians robbed, bullied, then in a panic, called troops to suppress them – wrongs unbelievable of common decency.
I believed a great government like ours would never condone or permit such practices while administering a large trust fund and being guardian to a race made helpless by lack of education and legal safeguards. I had not dreamed what American politics really is. The people were starving. Those who had testified for the Indians or tried to bring about an honest investigation were punished. In the face of official opposition, the usual method is to deprive them of various privileges, imprison on trivial pretexts, ordered off as disturbers of the peace, slandered, or make (their) position intolerable and force a resignation. Harassed, (with) fake charges, government employees were usually dismissed from service or transferred. Many were forced to leave.
I had faith in everyone and accepted civilization and Christianity at face value – a great mistake. I was struck with the loss of manliness and independence in these reservation Indians. I longed to help them regain their self-respect.
A gross fraud had been committed. I determined to secure justice; in my inexperience, I believed that it had only to be exposed to be corrected. The farces were Whitewashed. The White man is a man of business and has no use for a heart. Some imagine we are still wild savages living on the hunt, but we are now fully entrenched in the battle of civilized life (1916, C. Eastman, From the Deep Woods to Civilization).
Dishonor and abuse of their trust has brought them to mistrust even friends.
The barbarous and atrocious character commonly attributed to him have dated from the transition period when strong drink, powerful temptations, and commercialism of the White man led to deep demoralization.
In the simple condition, morality and spirituality thrive better than organized society. The struggle for existence with the forces of nature and not with one’s fellow man.
C. Eastman – Ohiyesa, or Always Wins – was the acknowledged hero of the Boy Scouts and Camp Fire Girls, teaching that there is no superior race and no inferior. He was a founder of the YMCA. He was associated with the YMCA preaching Jesus; he established 32 Indian groups of the YMCA. He served as BSA National Councilman for many years and under many U.S. presidents in many capacities.
One old battle-scarred warrior said, “Why, we have followed this law you speak of for untold ages. We owned nothing because everything is from Him. Food was free, land free as sunshine and rain. Who has changed all this? The White Man: and yet he says he is a believer in God! He does not seem to inherit any of the traits of his Father, nor does he follow the example set by his Brother Christ.”
Another older man said, “I have come to the conclusion that this Jesus was an Indian. He was opposed to material acquirement and great possessions. He was inclined to peace. He was unpractical as any Indian and set no price upon his labor of love. These are not the principles upon which the White Man has founded his civilization. It is strange that he could not rise to these simple principles which were commonly observed among our people. He was glad we had selected such an unusual character for our model. Another old chief of the Sac and Fox tribe in Iowa was glad I was satisfied with the White Man’s religion and his civilization. As for them, neither had seemed good to them. The White Man had showed neither respect for nature nor reverence toward God, but tried to buy God with the by-products of nature, tried to buy his way into heaven but did not even know where Heaven is. As for us, we still follow the Old Trail. I said Christianity is not at fault for the White Man’s sins, but rather the lack of it. I knew many good men, Christians; had I not, I would have long ago returned to the woods” (C. Eastman, “From the Deep Woods to Civilization”).
Why do we find so much evil and wickedness practiced by the nation’s Christian? Behind the material and intellectual splendor of our civilization, a primitive savagery and cruelty and lust hold sway, undiminished and unheeded. A system of life based on trade, the dollar the measure of value, and might still spells right. Otherwise, why war? Never lose the Indian sense of right and justice for development along social and spiritual lines, rather than commerce and nationalism or material efficiency. I am an American.
All other means failing these men will not hesitate to manufacture evidence against a man’s or a woman’s personal reputation, in order to attain their ends (C. Eastman).
The word-by-word reliving of the past by the Indians was extraordinary; it still is. They told history you won’t find in the library, anywhere known in written history. It is recited from tribal memory, a necessity, a time machine with no written language. Every man had to be his own history book, his own walking archive, history, geography, nature study, and ethics, stories that would create in me the desire to become brave, good, strong, to become a good speaker, a good Leader.
Deceitfulness was a crime. Absolute honesty toward each other was the basis of character. The Indian code was so deeply ingrained that when they met the cunning and deception of the White Man, these were ways of behavior for which the Indian had no name. Justice was human; human needs were the measure of wrong and right.
The values that industrial societies place on property, money, status, and manufacturing of products for market were non-existent in tribal societies. Every little thing was cherished: human beings, all people. Every living thing is cherished. Every living thing was to be shared. The culture of mass media is fed to us, choked down our throats (The New Indian).
Roy Rogers said, “The slogan is honor; the object is land.”
When I think of our condition, my heart is heavy. I see men of my race treated as outlaws and driven from country to country or shot down like animals. Whenever the White Man treats the Indian as they treat each other, then we will have no more wars. We shall all be alike – brothers of one father and one mother with one sky above us and one country around us and one government for all. Then the Great Spirit Chief who rules above will smile upon this land and send rain to wash out the bloody spots made by brother’s hands from the face of the earth. For this time, the Indian race are waiting and praying. I hope that no more groans of wounded men and women will ever go to the ear of the Great Spirit Chief above and that all people may be one people (Chief Joseph, Nez Perce).
It does not require many words to speak the truth (Chief Joseph, Nez Perce).
European values and beliefs were imposed upon the people. The English are socially retarded, their politeness restricted. It is the issue of imported cultural failings. They have little regard or respect for people who lived on the land for thousands of years (Ojibwe History and Migration to the Great Lakes, www).
Benjamin Franklin cites the Iroquois people’s governing traditions as a model for his Albany plan (being, of the people, by the people, for the people). The League of Nations – United Nations – was modeled after the system used by the Native Savages, Americans (Consensus).
Indian women were not allowed to vote in American elections until 1960.
Part 2 of Ch. 15 will be published in two weeks. Until then, check out Cheryl’s previous excerpts here.
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This book came about after a visit to the library where I could not find local Indian History. I grew up in the St. Clair and Black River area of Michigan, fishing on all the area waters with my father and brothers. I loved books, libraries, horses and puzzles; I was not a tech person. I love to cook, garden, travel, and camp. I was determined to find and share the truth. This has been a difficult journey in every way. I give you, the reader, the truth and blessings I also reaped. Cheryl Morgan
Cheryl Morgan lives near Port Huron, Michigan with her husband Tom and dog Fred.
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