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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 17, 2003 - Issue 87


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History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan
Chapter Twelve
by ANDREW J. BLACKBIRD, Late U.S. Interpreter, Harbor Springs, Emmet Co., Mich.
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

The Present Condition of the Indians of this State

Some histories have been written by white men of events since the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians came in contact with white people in this part of the country, but here is given the history of this race of Indians before that time. This account of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians is of as much interest to every inquirer into the histories of nations, as that of any other people; and all philanthropic people, and those who are endeavoring to enlighten and Christianize the Indians, will fee deeply interested in becoming acquainted with the past history as well as the present condition of these once numerous and warlike people. There are now but comparatively few living in the State of Michigan, trying to become civilized and to imitate their white neighbors in agricultural industries and other civilized labors. The greater part of them are being Christianized and are members of various Christian churches of the country, erecting houses of worship with their own hands in which to worship the true God in spirit and in truth. A few of them are becoming native preachers and expounders of the Gospel.

A treaty was concluded in the city of Washington in the year 1836, to which my people--the Ottawa and Chippewa--were unwilling parties, but they were compelled to sign blindly and ignorant of the true spirit of the treaty and the true import of some of its conditions. They thought when signing the treaty that they were securing reservations of lands in different localities as permanent homes for themselves and their children in the future; but before six months had elapsed from the time of signing this treaty, or soon after it had been put in pamphlet form so that all persons could read it and know its terms, they were told by their white neighbors that their reservations of land would expire in five years, instead of being perpetual, as they believed. At the end of this time, they would be compelled to leave their homes, at if they should refuse they would, be driven at the point of the bayonet into a strange land, where, as is almost always the case, more than one-half would die before they could be acclimated. At this most startling intelligence more than half of my people fled into Canada; fled to the protection of the British government; fled, many of them, even before receiving a single copper of the promised annuities; fled to a latitude like that in which they had been accustomed to live. The balance of them determined to remain and await whatever the consequences might be, and receive the annuities, which they were promised for twenty years. But fortunately their expulsion from the State was suddenly stayed, in the years 1850 and '51. By the kindness of the people of the State of Michigan, they were adopted as citizens and made equal in rights with their white neighbors. Their voice was to be recognized in the ballot box in every election; and I thought, this is what ought to be, for the same God who created the white man created the red man of the forest, and therefore they are equally entitled to the benefits of civilization, education and Christianity.

At the time I was one of the principal ones who advocated this cause, for I had already received a partial education, and in my understanding of this matter, I thought that was the only salvation of my people from being sent off to the west of the Mississippi. In laboring for this object, I suffered very great hardship and many struggles, but was at last successful.

But in order that my people can enjoy every privilege of civilization, they must be thoroughly educated; they must become acquainted with the arts and sciences, as well as the white man. Soon as the Indian youths receive an education, they should be allowed to have some employment among the whites, in order to encourage them in the pursuits of civilization and to exercise their ability according to the means and extent of their education, instead of being a class of persons continually persecuted and cheated and robbed of their little possessions. They should have been educated amongst the civilized communities in order to learn the manners and customs of the white people. If this method could have been pursued in the first instance, the aborigines of this country would have secured all the advantages of civilization, education and Christianity. This was my plan and my proposition at the council of Detroit, in the treaty of 1855, as there was quite a large sum of money set apart and appropriated by the Government for the education of Indian youth of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan, and I made the propositions at this council that the sum for that purpose be retained in the hands of the Government solely to pay for the education of those Indians youths who should be educated in a civilized community, instead of committing this sum of money to the hands of the preachers and teachers in the missions among the Ottawas and Chippewas. If my plan could have been adopted, even as late as thirty-two years ago, we should have had, by this time, many well-educated Indians in this State, and probably some good farmers, and perhaps some noted professors of sciences would have been developed and consequently happiness, blessings and prosperity would have been everywhere among the aborigines of the State of Michigan.

Chapter 11

Chapter 13

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