Maggie Blackbird

Romancing Canada's Indigenous People

In Part One and Part Two, the books I listed were completed by scholars and historians.  For this post, I’m concentrating on those of an autobiographical/biographical/memoir nature.  These are wonderful account from those who lived long ago, or are about those who lived long ago.


Everyone’s journey is a story.

Moose to Moccasins by Madeline Katt Theriault

Blurb courtesy of Goodreads:

Moose to Moccasins by TheriaultHaving been born in a tent on Bear Island, Lake Temagami, in 1908, Madeline Katt Theriault could recall an earlier independent and traditional First Nations lifestyle. In this book, the late author proudly tells of her youth and coming of age by sharing her vivid memories and drawing on exceptional old family photographs. In her own words, she writes of a time long ago — a time that was difficult, but not without personal rewards.

Moose to Moccasins is a remarkable account by Madeline Theriault, or Ka Kita Wa Pa No Kwe (‘Wise Day Woman’), who, in her own words, has lived ‘in both cultures, Indian and white man’s.’ From her birth in the Temagami region in 1908, to her life in North Bay in the 1970s and 1980s, she takes the reader on a remarkable journey. We travel through the bush with her as a young girl. ‘We killed animals only when needed and we could drink water anywhere. Our camp was always fresh; fresh balsam branches for our beds and floors in the camp. Such lively smells and the air was pure.’ We step back into another century, into another universe. There is a wealth of information in these pages about a people, and a way of life, about which most non-Natives know almost nothing.”– Donald B. Smith, Professor of History, University of Calgary.

Buy Links: | | B&N | Indigo | Kobo

The Falcon by John Tanner

Blurb courtesy of Amazon:

The Falcon by John TannerThis is the tragic story of the corruption, suppression and ultimate destruction of Native American culture. It is also the tragic story of John Tanner, who was kidnapped from his father’s Kentucky farm on the banks of the Ohio River at the age of nine years. Tanner lived, hunted, and starved with the Indians for thirty years, during which time he married twice, had children, and lost all knowledge of English, except for a few rudimentary words. At age thirty-nine, John Tanner returned and found his family. Edwin James, M.D., a world renown botanist and naturalist, and the Army surgeon at Fort Sault St. Marie, where Tanner worked for the Army as an interpreter, wrote down Tanner’s complete autobiography, which was published in 1830 under the title: A Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner (U.S. Interpreter at the Saut de Sainte Marie) During Thirty Years Residence among the Indians in the Interior of North America.

Buy Links: | | B&N | Indigo | Kobo

Rainy River Lives by Maggie Wilson

Blurb courtesy of Goodreads:

Rainy River Lives by Maggie WilsonThe long-lost collection of stories of Ojibwe men and women as told by a hitherto unpublished, traditional Ojibwe storyteller, Maggie Wilson (1879–1940). Wilson lived on the Manitou Rapids Reserve on the Rainy River, which flows along the Ontario-Minnesota border. When anthropologist Ruth Landes arrived at Rainy River to conduct her doctoral research in 1932, Wilson often worked with the young scholar, telling her many stories. Their relationship continued after Landes returned to Columbia University. During the following decades, however, the letters and stories Wilson had sent Landes, which Landes had carefully collected, were lost. Only recently were they discovered in the basement of the Smithsonian Institution, where they had been misfiled with papers of another anthropologist.

This rich set of narratives takes us inside the intimate world of Ojibwe families at the turn of the twentieth century, a time of great upheaval when the Ojibwes were being relocated onto reserves and required by the government to abandon their seasonal migrations and subsistence activities. These remarkably detailed stories of ordinary Native people, precisely through their everyday character, reveal much about Ojibwe cultural beliefs and paint a nuanced ethnographic portrait of Ojibwe life. In the distinctive voice of an exceptional and highly creative individual, the stories address both the culturally specific world of the Ojibwes and universal human themes of love,  loss, and perseverance.

Buy Links: | | B&N | Indigo | Birchbark Books

Memories, Myths, and Dreams of an Ojibwe Leader by William Berens

Blurb courtesy of Goodreads:

Memories Dreams and Myths of an Ojbwe Leader by William BerensBecause the elderly chief wanted his visitor to understand the Ojibwe world, and because Hallowell was deeply interested in his subject matter and was such a good listener, Berens freely related his dreams and other stories about encounters with powerful beings. The fact that he also shared traditional myths in summer, when Ojibwe people thought it dangerous to discuss such things, shows the depth of his relationship with Hallowell. Berens’ reminiscences and story and myth texts are unparalleled as sources for the life, experiences, and outlook of this important Ojibwe leader, and for the insights they provide into the history and culture of his people. Rooted in the collaboration between Berens as steward of his oral traditions and Hallowell as creator and guardian of their written versions, Memories, Myths, and Dreams of an Ojibwe Leader draws the reader into the world – and world view – of Chief Berens, showing how an Aboriginal Christian of the early twentieth century could simultaneously take part in “modern” and “traditional” Ojibwe life.

Buy Links: | | B&N | Indigo | Kobo

Holding Our World Together by Brenda J. Child

Blurb courtesy of Goodreads:

Holding Our World Together by Brenda J. ChildA groundbreaking exploration of the remarkable women in Native American communities In this well-researched and deeply felt account, Brenda J. Child, a professor and a member of the Red Lake Ojibwe tribe, gives Native American women their due, detailing the many ways in which they have shaped Native American life. She illuminates the lives of women such as Madeleine Cadotte, who became a powerful mediator between her people and European fur traders, and Gertrude Buckanaga, whose postwar community activism in Minneapolis helped bring many Indian families out of poverty. Moving from the early days of trade with Europeans through the reservation era and beyond, Child offers a powerful tribute to the courageous women who sustained Native American communities through the darkest challenges of the past three centuries.

Buy Links: | | B&N | Kobo | Birchbark Books

My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks by Brenda J. Child

Blurb courtesy of Goodreads:

My Grandfathers Knocking Stick by Brenda J ChildWhen Ojibwe historian Brenda Child uncovered the Bureau of Indian Affairs file on her grandparents, it was an eye-opening experience. The correspondence, full of incendiary comments on their morals and character, demonstrated the breathtakingly intrusive power of federal agents in the early twentieth century.

While telling her own family’s stories from the Red Lake Reservation, as well as stories of Ojibwe people around the Great Lakes, Child examines the disruptions and the continuities in daily work, family life, and culture faced by Ojibwe people of Child’s grandparents’ generation—a generation raised with traditional lifeways in that remote area. The challenges were great: there were few opportunities for work. Government employees and programs controlled reservation economies and opposed traditional practices. Nevertheless, Ojibwe men and women—fully modern workers who carried with them rich traditions of culture and work—patched together sources of income and took on new roles as labor demands changed through World War I and the Depression.

Child writes of men knocking rice at wild rice camps, work customarily done by women; a woman who turns to fishing and bootlegging when her husband is unable to work; and women who carry out traditional healing ceremonies. All of them, faced with dispossession and pressure to adopt new ways, managed to retain and pass on their Ojibwe identity and culture to their children.

Buy Links: | | B&N | Kobo | Birchbark Books

The Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation by George Copway

Blurb Courtesy of Kobo:

The Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation by George CopwayThe Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation (1850) was one of the first books of Indigenous history written by an Indigenous author. The book blends nature writing and narrative to describe the language, religious beliefs, stories, land, work, and play of the Ojibway people. Shelley Hulan’s afterword considers Copway’s rhetorical strategies in framing a narrative—she considers it a form of “history, interrupted”—for a non-Indigenous readership.

Buy Links: | | B&N | I | Kobo

History of the Ojibway People by William W. Warren

Blurb courtesy of Goodreads:

History of the Ojibway People by William W WarrenDuring the early period of white settlement, William Warren-the son of a white man and an Ojibway woman-recorded the oral traditions of the Ojibway Indians of the Upper Mississippi and Lake Superior regions. His vivid descriptions include Ojibway customs, family life, totemic system, hunting methods, and relations with other tribal groups and with the whites. First published in 1885.

Buy Links: | | B&N | lndigo | Kobo

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