The geographic and economic setting of the nineteenth century Upper Great Lakes region created unique challenges to American settler colonialism and encounters with the Indigenous people of this land of lakes and forests. Many Anishinaabeg bands responded creatively through the use of Christianity, education, and American law in an attempt to fortify their presence in the region. European Americans, who sought to appropriate the wealth of the Upper Midwest’s vast stands of hardwood and pine forests, only seldom needed to resort to guns to take control of the land. Instead of a war of conquest they entangled Anishinaabeg property owners in a bewildering legal and extralegal thicket that facilitated the plunder of the region’s most marketable resource. The initial phase of pine logging laid waste to Anishinaabeg property rights but left the Indigenous population remaining on their traditional lands. The ill treatment of Anishinaabeg landowners should have been a warning signal to policymakers in the 1880s seeking to reform national Indian policy through severalty.
In his 2012 study of Great Lakes Indian history in the colonial and early national periods, historian Michael Witgen emphasizes the transregional society shared by the Anishinaabeg while at the same time documenting the “flexibility” and autonomy of action reserved to local bands. This essay is concerned with the Indigenous response to the lumber frontier’s variation of settler colonialism in the Upper Great Lakes region—the heartland [End Page 27] of the Anishinaabeg. The bulk of the essay, however, is anchored in northern Lower Michigan with the inclusion of some examples from northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi in Lower Michigan—sometimes known as the Three Fires Confederacy and who all embraced the native name Anishinaabeg—did not respond to the intrusion of lumbering in the same way as bands in other parts of the region. Yet the impact of the logging frontier on the Indigenous people was, with rare exceptions, strikingly similar.1
© University of Nebraska Press 2016
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/theodore_karamanski/42/