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- History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan - 1/22 -






Andrew J. Blackbird, the author of this little book, is an educated Indian, son of the Ottawa Chief. His Indian name is Mack-aw-de-be-nessy (Black Hawk), but he generally goes by the name of "Blackbird," taken from the interpretation of the French "L'Oiseau noir." Mr. Blackbird's wife is an educated and intelligent white woman of English descent, and they have four children. He is a friend of the white people, as well as of his own people. Brought up as an Indian, with no opportunity for learning during his boyhood, when he came to think for himself, he started out blindly for an education, without any means but his brains and his hands.

He was loyal to the Government during the rebellion in the United States, for which cause he met much opposition by designing white people, who had full sway among the Indians, and who tried to mislead them and cause them to be disloyal; and he broke up one or two rebellious councils amongst his people during the progress of the rebellion.

When Hon. D. C. Leach, of Traverse City, Mich., was Indian Agent, Mr. Blackbird was appointed United States Interpreter and continued in this office with other subsequent Agents of the Department for many years. Before he was fairly out of this office, he was appointed postmaster of Little Traverse, now Harbor Springs, Mich., and faithfully discharged his duties as such for over eleven years with but very little salary.

He has also for several years looked after the soldiers' claims for widows and orphans, both for the whites as well as for his own people, in many instances without the least compensation, not even his stamps and paper paid. He is now decrepit with old age and failing health, and unable to perform hard manual labor.

We therefore recommend this work of Mr. A. J. Blackbird as interesting and reliable.

JAMES L. MORRICE, Treasurer of Emmet County.

C. P. NEWKIRK, Principal Harbor Springs Public Schools.

CHARLES R. WRIGHT, Ex-President Harbor Springs.

CHARLES W. INGALLS, Notary Public for Emmet Co.

ALBERT L. HATHAWAY, County Clerk, Emmet County.

WM. H. LEE, Probate Clerk and Abstractor of Titles.

ARCH. D. METZ, Deputy Register of Deeds.

WILLARD P. GIBSON, Pastor Presbyterian Church.



I deem it not improper to present the history of the last race of Indians now existing in the State of Michigan, called the Ottawa and Chippewa Nations of Indians.

There were many other tribes of Indians in this region prior to the occupancy of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of this State, who have long ago gone out of existence. Not a page of their history is on record; but only an allusion to them in our traditions.

I have herewith recorded the earliest history of the Ottawa tribe of Indians in particular, according to their traditions. I have related where they formerly lived, the names of their leaders, and what tribes they contended with before and after they came to Michigan, and how they came to be the inhabitants of this State. Also the earliest history of the Island of Mackinac, and why it is called "Michilimackinac"--which name has never been correctly translated by white historians, but which is here given according to our knowledge of this matter long before we came in contact with white races.

I have also recorded some of the most important legends, which resemble the Bible history; particularly the legends with regard to the great flood, which has been in our language for many centuries, and the legend of the great fish which swallowed the prophet Ne-naw-bo-zhoo, who came out again alive, which might be considered as corresponding to the story of Jonah in the Sacred History.

Beside my own personal and our family history, I have also, quite extensively, translated our language into English and added many other items which might be interesting to all who may wish to inquire into our history and language.



The Ypsilanti Auxiliary of the Women's National Indian Association, by whose efforts this book is published, take this opportunity to express earnest thanks to those who have aided in this work.

Most generous donations of money from friends of Indians and equally valuable liberality from publishers and papermakers have made possible the preservation of this most rare and important history.

This is the only instance where a native Indian has recorded the story of his people and given a grammar of their language; thus producing a work whose immense value, as an account of a race and a language already passing into oblivion, will become even more inestimable with the lapse of time.

Ypsilanti, Mich., Oct., 1887.


History of the Ottawa of Michigan--Preliminary Remarks in Regard to Other Histories, Concerning the Massacre of the Old British Fort on the Straits of Mackinac--British Promise to the Ottawas--Ravages of Small Pox--First Recollection of the Country of Arbor-Croche and Its Definition--Uprightness and Former Character of the Indians.

I have seen a number of writings by different men who attempted to give an account of the Indians who formerly occupied the Straits of Mackinac and Mackinac Island, (that historic little island which stands at the entrance of the strait,) also giving an account of the Indians who lived and are yet living in Michigan, scattered through the counties of Emmet, Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Antrim, Grand Traverse, and in the region of Thunder Bay, on the west shore of Lake Huron. But I see no very correct account of the Ottawa and Chippewa tribes of Indians, according to our knowledge of ourselves, past and present. Many points are far from being credible. They are either misstated by persons who were not versed in the traditions of these Indians, or exaggerated. An instance of this is found in the history of the life of Pontiac (pronounced Bwon-diac), the Odjebwe (or Chippewa) chief of St. Clair, the instigator of the massacre of the old fort on the Straits of Mackinac, written by a noted historian. In his account of the massacre, he says there was at this time no known surviving Ottawa Chief living on the south side of the Straits. This point of the history is incorrect, as there were several Ottawa chiefs living on the south side of the Straits at this particular time, who took no part in this massacre, but took by force the few survivors of this great, disastrous catastrophe, and protected them for a while and afterwards took them to Montreal, presenting them to the British Government; at the same time praying that their brother Odjebwes should not be retaliated upon on account of their rash act against the British people, but that they might be pardoned, as this terrible tragedy was committed through mistake, and through the evil counsel of one of their leaders by the name of Bwondiac (known in history as Pontiac). They told the British Government that their brother Odjebwes were few in number, while the British were in great numbers and daily increasing from an unknown part of the world across the ocean. They said, "Oh, my father, you are like the trees of the forest, and if one of the forest trees should be wounded with a hatchet, in a few years its wound will be entirely healed. Now, my father, compare with this: this is what my brother Odjebwe did to some of your children on the Straits of Mackinac, whose survivors we now bring back and present to your arms. O my father, have mercy upon my brothers and pardon them; for with your long arms and many, but a few strokes of retaliation would cause our brother to be entirely annihilated from the face of the earth!"

According to our understanding in our traditions, that was the time the British Government made such extraordinary promises to the Ottawa tribe of Indians, at the same time thanking them for their humane action upon those British remnants of the massacre. She promised them that her long arms will perpetually extend around them from generation to generation,

History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan - 1/22

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