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           Jane Johnston Schoolcraft: Writing Within the Middle Ground



Introduction

       The rise of...
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use the intelligence to gauge the feasibility of trade and harvest of resources from and

through those peop...
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that Native American culture was dying or receding before the westward movement of

Euroamerican colonizatio...
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edited by Robert Dale Parker, who compares her to Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley

(Parker 2).

       ...
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The indigenous author, rather than being rendered as voiceless and an object of

observation or research, e...
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Le Pays d’en Haut and the Contact Zone: Negotiation, Accommodation, and the

Birth of a New Culture

       ...
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a work of imagination and a worldview, inviting readers to experience the writer’s own

inner visions and co...
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parity (White x). John Johnston, Johnston Schoolcraft’s father, was himself an Irish

trader who became both...
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Euroamerican ideology helps explain why Johnston Schoolcraft’s husband often

dismissed her ability to adequ...
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“subjugated subjects engage, and seek to engage, the metropolis’ constructions of those it

subjugates” (14...
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and belief to be passed on to future generations, like the so-called “wampum belts” which

were in fact wri...
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same critical standards, perhaps because Warren admitted in his narrative that there were

things he had no...
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readership (Fast 513). The border is a site for bilingual speech, though for Native

Americans the idea of ...
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to escape. Nature (and by extension, the Sault) is positioned as pure, innocent, joyous,

representative of...
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the popular Euroamerican view that Indians were “simple” and “natural” (see the next

poem, “The Contrast”)...
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describes the friendships of her youth “in terms endearing, kind” (7), but moves quickly

to describe her o...
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nature and the Ojibwe themselves are relegated to the past tense, to a mythic time that no

longer exists. ...
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pain this caused her could only be expressed in Ojibwe, in her poem “On leaving my

children John and Jane ...
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text. The children were routinely beaten for speaking their home languages at school, for

not understandin...
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translation: “My little daughter/My little son,” “I shall return,” “That is the way I am, my

being/My land...
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audience. Both poems employ the oral literary form of repetition (“Shing wauk! Shing

wauk!”) and attribute...
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physical beauty but in any cultural or emotional significance to her. She plays off on the

language that g...
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to the woman as to the golem-like “dirt man.” The coquette of the title is a young woman

of loose morals: ...
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united sexually, it was assumed they were “married” or joined in a union recognized by

the community at la...
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traditional Ojibwe culture, corporal punishment was practiced on children and women---

note Ozhaguscodaywa...
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wives while they lived in the area, never formalizing the relationship in a Christian

church or before a E...
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improvident, and unable to form true governments” (167). Since they had never created a

system of writing,...
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Schoolcraft’s use of her [Jane’s] knowledge reveal not only how Native people’s

authority for their knowle...
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                                   WORKS CITED

Allen, Paula Gunn. Voice of the Turtle: Native American L...
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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. The Literary Voyageur or Muzzeniegun. Ed. Philip P. Mason.
       Detroit: Michiga...
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Jane Johnston Schoolcraft Writing Within The Middle Ground

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Masters thesis, 2007

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Jane Johnston Schoolcraft Writing Within The Middle Ground

  1. 1. Taniguchi 1 Jane Johnston Schoolcraft: Writing Within the Middle Ground Introduction The rise of the Industrial Revolution and the colonization of the North and South American “wilderness” were accompanied by the birth of ethnography. Scholars, writers, and missionaries, some with little experience or formal education in science or social and political philosophy, began recording and documenting what they regarded as the “dying” peasant and indigenous cultures of the earth in the belief that they were “saving” them for study by future generations. They regarded their work as both scientific and humanist, their records impartial and scholarly, though as Edward Said has commented about “Orientalist studies,” this type of scholarship was never far from the idea of the Other: the ethnographic narrative was often shaped by an overarching belief that Euroamerican values and institutions were superior to those of the people being “studied” (Said 6-7). Under the guise of impartial scholarship, early scientists like Linnaeus categorized human races into different levels of human development with not only physical “types” but behavior, intelligence and even ability to govern or create laws (Pratt 32). Even if the information and data gathered were done with benign intent, they were often used by governments and social and commercial institutions to justify acts of conquest, conversion, and exploitation (Said 7). In the still emerging United States, the explorers Lewis and Clark and “Indian agent” Henry Rowe Schoolcraft were sent out by the federal government to record and describe the cultures of the Native American tribes they encountered, the intent being to
  2. 2. Taniguchi 2 use the intelligence to gauge the feasibility of trade and harvest of resources from and through those people (Jefferson, “Letters,” Parker 26). Both parties were instructed to take meticulous “scientific” notes, which survive today as valuable records of the indigenous peoples living in the western and Midwestern sections of North America. Their intent was to “open the West” for settlers who would enable the United States to expand its dominion across North America and help further American industrialization and development (Rowe 10). As scholars have begun to examine these documents in a critical light, it has been noted that the official recorders were heavily dependent on their indigenous guides and interpreters whom they rarely gave credit or attribution1. Even more interesting is the recent attention paid to the written texts produced by the “objects” of the ethnographer’s scrutiny, early Native Americans: more specifically, early Native American writers who consciously describe themselves and their peoples to Euroamerican audiences in order to correct misconceptions and misrepresentations by non-Native writers and observers. As Maureen Konkle posits in Writing Indian Nations, Native Americans discovered in encountering Euroamerican political and economic systems that they were engaged in a conflict not only over land, but knowledge, “what counted as true and real” (Konkle 4). Anglophone-literate and assimilated Native Americans in particular became conscious not only of widespread popular perceptions of “Indians” through texts like Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans, but of social and political attitudes that were being systematically used to disenfranchise their people. If Euroamerican settlers and governments could prove that indigenous peoples were “intellectually and morally incapable of forming true governments,” they could justify their disregard for native claims to land and resource rights (4). Also, if it could be shown 1 See Parker, “Introduction,” The Writings of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft
  3. 3. Taniguchi 3 that Native American culture was dying or receding before the westward movement of Euroamerican colonization, it was then easier to incorporate them into mainstream culture and discourse. Ethnography and anthropology, as observed by Fatimah Tobing Rony, worked hand in hand with colonialism and imperial expansionism by legitimizing, making “scientific” the belief “that indigenous non-European peoples were inferior and at the bottom of the evolutionary ladder of history” (Rony 29). The half-Ojibwe half-Irish poet and writer Jane Johnston Schoolcraft lived and worked as both subject and object of the ethnographer’s gaze. Though her own work was until recently overshadowed by that of her husband, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Johnston Schoolcraft was his informant and source for much of what he wrote. She was a native speaker of Ojibwe and English, being the child of an influential and respected daughter of an Ojibwe chief and an Irish fur trader with aristocratic roots. She was also herself a cosmopolitan reader and writer, as her father had conscientiously built a large library for his children’s education and at one point brought her to Ireland to complete her education (Parker 14-15). Much of her work was published locally in a literary journal started by her husband and herself as a distraction from the long winters in Sault Ste. Marie: yet, she attracted the attention of other writers outside of the pays d’en haut, “the Middle Ground” of the Great Lakes region and northeastern North America, including British authors Harriet Martineau and Anna Jameson. After her early death at the age of 42, her poems and stories were placed with the papers of her husband, and they remain among them at various archives, though the Library of Congress holds the largest collection. Only within this year has a major anthology of her work been published, collected and meticulously
  4. 4. Taniguchi 4 edited by Robert Dale Parker, who compares her to Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley (Parker 2). What is notable about her work is that she wrote primarily about Ojibwe culture within the discipline and literary structure of early 19th century Euroamerican poetry and prose, specifically romantic poetry. She also wrote in Romanized Ojibwe (the Ojibwe language, not having an alphabetized script2, was approximated or phonetically rendered in the Roman alphabet) which was sometimes “loosely” translated by her husband, particularly after her death. Her authorship was largely effaced by Schoolcraft, who frequently did not identify her as a source for his own research and transcriptions of Ojibwe stories: even 20th century editions of Schoolcraft’s books do not give Johnston Schoolcraft any credit or citation for what was often her own writing. Jane Johnston Schoolcraft’s writing, I want to suggest, is a product, and expressive of what historian Richard White calls “the Middle Ground,” or what Mary Louise Pratt would call contact zone culture: rather than claim that one linguistic tradition or culture has dominated the other, or even that the purity of one has been compromised by the other, Johnston Schoolcraft’s poetry and prose addresses Euroamerican culture on the latter’s terms while representing Ojibwe culture out of her firsthand experience, her birthright. Her oeuvre is remarkable in that it is not only art, but what Pratt calls “autoethnography,” “instances in colonized subjects undertake to represent themselves in ways that engage with the colonizer’s own terms (author’s emphasis). If ethnographic texts are a means by which Europeans represent to themselves their (usually subjugated) others, autoethnographic texts are those the others construct in response to or in dialogue with those metropolitan representations (Pratt 7). 2 There has been some discussion about whether the Ojibwe had a system of writing: Basil Johnston asserts they did, on birchbark scrolls (wiigwaasabak) and “teaching stones.” (Johnston, Basil, 2001, 24).
  5. 5. Taniguchi 5 The indigenous author, rather than being rendered as voiceless and an object of observation or research, enters into or creates a dialogue with the colonizer and the scholars, artists, and writers who have constructed representations, often false and/or meant to support the argument for conquest and dispossession . What I aim to show in this essay is that Johnston Schoolcraft’s poetry and translations of Ojibwe folktales are transcultural texts, her response to the representations created by Euroamerican observers and writers of Native American and specifically Ojibwe culture. Using her poems, particularly those which express her attachment to the Sault and Ojibwe language and culture, “Lines written at Castle Island, Lake Superior,” the two versions of “The Contrast,” “On leaving my children John and Jane at School…” and “To the Pine Tree,” and her translation of “Moowis, The Indian Coquette,” “The Origin of the Robin,” and the song “The Ojibwe Maid,” I will demonstrate how Johnston Schoolcraft used the stylistics of early 19th-century Anglophone Romantic poetry and Ojibwe storytelling as strategies by which to address a Euroamerican audience and the literate Ojibwe and Métis communities of the Sault. Part collaboration, part appropriation, her writings were meant to present her own experience of Ojibwe culture and the pays d’en haut in the first person to a metropolitan audience. Her work cannot be readily classified within a simplified binary of “authentic” vs. “assimilated” expression--- terms that were coined by Euroamerican ethnographers and anthropologists. Instead, it would be more useful to address Johnston Schoolcraft’s work as heterogeneous and dialogical, breaking down the romantic clichés and stereotypes of Native Americans using the very means by which these images and representations were constructed.
  6. 6. Taniguchi 6 Le Pays d’en Haut and the Contact Zone: Negotiation, Accommodation, and the Birth of a New Culture Native American literature is often discussed in critical texts such as A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff’s American Indian Literature and A. Robert Lee’s Multicultural American Literature using the terms liminality, hybridity and heteroglossia, because it is a literature written by a once marginalized culture using “idioms of the conqueror” (Pratt 7). Even if the author writes as a representative of Native culture, s/he must use non-Native literary forms and language in order to be read by the non-Native audience. In addition, the writer faces the often not-so-subtle pressure from her/his own community and Native American critics to “get it right,” to represent one’s culture accurately or at least in a favorable light (Lee 12). Whether s/he intends it or not, the Native American writer is often forced into a position of being a spokesperson for or even instructor in her/his tribal culture. As David Treuer warns however, it is distorting to read literature as “culture, that is, as products of difference rather than as attempts to create it” (Treuer 26). Treuer is particularly critical of those scholars and critics who examine any work of literature written by a Native American author for traces of Native American culture, as if a text of the imagination were like an archaeologist’s dig. No thought is given to the fact that the indigenous writer is attempting, like Euroamerican writers, to create a holistic, convincing work of fiction or poetry, as if the Native American author was always a representative of a people and never of her or his individual experience, emotions, imagination. It is a fallacy, Treuer asserts, to assume that Native American writers are not attempting to do the same things Euroamerican writers try to do in their writing: experimenting with language, constructing character and plot to create a text that is both
  7. 7. Taniguchi 7 a work of imagination and a worldview, inviting readers to experience the writer’s own inner visions and consciousness. “It is important to remember that we are entering textual fantasies here, not a sweat lodge,” Treuer writes, with the insistence that Native American literature be allowed to be examined as literature and not as cultural documents (Treuer 6). While Jane Johnston Schoolcraft consciously recorded Ojibwe stories as works of ethnography under her husband’s aegis, to be presented to a predominantly white audience, a great deal of her poetry makes no references to Ojibwe culture (61). She writes about themes common to Euroamerican female poets of the time as well: the death of a child, seeking comfort in faith during illness, yearning for family members or her husband during periods of absence. Richard White argues that in the case of the Middle Ground, le pays d’en haut, two cultures, Native and Euroamerican, met, with the former actually having the advantage. From the mid-17th century when they first traveled into the Great Lakes region, the early French and British explorers, missionaries and traders were dependent on the indigenous peoples for both survival and for knowledge about the land they wanted to map and claim for their respective nations. Later, as European men intermarried with Native women and relations of both familial and economic exchange were established, a third culture was formed, sometimes using French as the common language, sometimes Michíf, the mixed language combining French and Cree or Ojibwe that was used by the Metìs, the mixed blood communities along the Red River Valley and in Canada. This new culture was neither indigenous nor white; the balance of power could shift from generation to generation, but for almost 200 years Native and Euroamerican peoples lived alongside each other connected by blood and economic
  8. 8. Taniguchi 8 parity (White x). John Johnston, Johnston Schoolcraft’s father, was himself an Irish trader who became both economically successful and socially important through his marriage to Ozhaguscodaywayquay, the daughter of a prominent Ojibwe chief and herself a respected member of the community. Later Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, who came to Sault Ste. Marie as a U.S. government-appointed Indian agent, would himself become part of this culturally-mixed community by marrying the Johnstons’ oldest daughter, Jane. Eventually she, her mother and her mother’s extended family would give Schoolcraft most of the information on Ojibwe traditions and stories he would use to write Algic Researches (published in 1839), which in turn would be used by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as background to his epic poem, “The Song of Hiawatha.” (Parker 7). Mary Louise Pratt’s well-known and widely cited concept of the contact zone aptly captures the historical dialogical dynamic reflected in Jane Johnston Schoolcraft’s writing. For many indigenous cultures encountering European culture for the first time, the initial engagement in many cases collapsed into a transaction of slavery, colonialism, and on occasion, cultural and/or tribal genocide, which describes in part what often happened between Native Americans and Euroamericans, according to Pratt (6). As Pratt also notes, the contact zone also produces its own language and culture which is often dismissed by the colonizing or dominant culture as somehow illegitimate, “broken,” or “improper.” Métis (which comes from the French word for ‘mixed’ or mongrel) culture falls into that category, and it was often regarded, even by white men who had married Native American women, as fallen: that the Métis were less moral, less ambitious and less intelligent than “pure” Euroamericans or Native Americans (Parker 19). This
  9. 9. Taniguchi 9 Euroamerican ideology helps explain why Johnston Schoolcraft’s husband often dismissed her ability to adequately and accurately represent her culture to Euroamerican audiences, specifically to the academics and artists whom Schoolcraft addressed in his books. She could be quoted as a source either anonymously or under a pseudonym, but even then Schoolcraft often edited, rewrote and sometimes outright bowdlerized the stories related to him (27). Schoolcraft studied Ojibwe, but the Johnston family and Jane served as his principle interpreters and sources; in his Indian Legends and the Algic Researches, however, he frequently undertook a “free” translation of Johnston Schoolcraft’s poems and stories written in Ojibwe, not to mention the stories he gathered from the Johnston family. Johnston Schoolcraft and her family did occupy a privileged position, both economically and socially, within the community of Sault Ste. Marie and were educated primarily in British/Anglophone culture and particularly in literature. She had ready access to books from England and Ireland and was one of the few Métis residents of the Sault who had traveled to the British Isles (Parker 14-15). Later in life she would encounter racism and anti-Native American sentiment on the East Coast, but her early life and work reflected the more egalitarian culture of the Middle Ground rather than the experiences of Native Americans in the latter half of the 19th century. Her position within the contact zone was transcultural, as was her writing, presented both in Ojibwe and English. Yet her husband’s representations and appropriation of Ojibwe culture created a conflict not only within her personal life but in the practice of her art. Within this context, Johnston Schoolcraft’s work operates as an “autoethnographic gesture,” “a self- affirmation designed for reception in the metropolis” (Pratt 143). As Pratt remarks,
  10. 10. Taniguchi 10 “subjugated subjects engage, and seek to engage, the metropolis’ constructions of those it subjugates” (143). When the indigenous peoples write in “the conqueror’s idiom” about their own culture and history, they challenge assumptions Euroamerican culture has made about them and their culture. Johnston Schoolcraft was doubly empowered by her having mastered the structure and forms of English Romantic poetry and by being a fluent Ojibwe speaker and the daughter of Ozhaguscodaywayquay, herself a famed storyteller who spoke only Ojibwe at home to her children and was a primary source to Henry Rowe Schoolcraft for many Ojibwe stories and songs. Johnston Schoolcraft’s first hand knowledge combined with her art allowed her to give voice to her experience: but given the position of both women and Native Americans within the increasing hegemony of Anglophone male Euroamerican culture not only over the Sault but over published American literature and academia, it was difficult if not impossible for her to be heard as an individual, separate from her husband’s work. Poetry of the Pays d’en Haut Prior to Euroamerican colonization, the Ojibwe did not write poetry such as it was practiced in Europe. Native American songs, which were primarily oral3, are now included in American literary anthologies alongside Puritan poetry like Anne Bradstreet’s: but according to Brown Ruoff, Paul G. Zolbrod, Basil Johnston, and other critics, early Native American literature had specific functions. They were expressions of the people’s beliefs about the nature of the physical world; of their beliefs about social order and appropriate behavior; and beliefs about human nature and the problem of good and evil (Ruoff 8-13). They were fundamentally spiritual or were records of tribal history 3 See Basil Johnston, previous footnote.
  11. 11. Taniguchi 11 and belief to be passed on to future generations, like the so-called “wampum belts” which were in fact written records of a tribe’s history (B. Johnston 24). Most Native American songs were not transcribed on paper until they were “discovered” and collected by ethnographers in the 19th century, though even as early as the 16th century missionaries and priests from Spain translated and classified Aztec and Mayan texts for use by the Church to develop strategies for conversion or for integrating Catholic ritual with early Mexican culture (Ruoff 18). While a number of Ojibwe writers began publishing in English in both Canada and the United States beginning in the 19th century, among them Peter Jones, Maungwudaus, George Copway, William W. Warren and Annette Leevier, most of their work was in the form of memoir, history, or conversion narrative. Jane Johnston Schoolcraft’s work was primarily original poetry and translation/transcription of traditional Ojibway legends and myths: she was the earliest Ojibwe writer of English- language texts using Euroamerican literary-aesthetic forms. As Pratt notes about 18th- century slave narratives, these early Ojibwe texts “undertook not reproduce but to engage western discourses of identity, community, selfhood, and otherness. Their dynamics are transcultural, and presuppose relations of subordination and resistance” (Pratt 102). In their own time these writers were often scrutinized for authenticity or accuracy, as Native Americans were thought not to be able to accurately represent themselves: William Warren, for instance, who wrote The History of the Ojibwe Nation in 1851, was questioned even by his publisher as to how he came to know “Ojibwa myths” (Konkle 198-201). Perhaps not surprisingly, white ethnographers like Henry Rowe Schoolcraft who claimed complete authority over the object of their study were not subjected to the
  12. 12. Taniguchi 12 same critical standards, perhaps because Warren admitted in his narrative that there were things he had no knowledge of, and because Warren’s history makes no mention of Euroamericans, asserting that Ojibwe history and culture had been established long before the coming of whites (201). When such texts like Johnston Schoolcraft’s and Warren’s “are read simply as ‘authentic’ self-expression or ‘inauthentic’ assimilation, their transcultural character is obliterated and their dialogic engagement with western modes of representation lost” (Pratt 102). Distrusted by whites who felt Native Americans could not write “unbiased” accounts, these texts ironically lose their ability to speak to the non-Native audience. Unfortunately, within her own lifetime, very little of Johnston Schoolcraft’s work was published, at least under her own name. A hand-written magazine published by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, The Muzzeniegun, or Literary Voyager (Muzzeniegun is the Ojibwe word for ‘book’) was the principle vehicle for publication of Johnston Schoolcraft’s work, and though it was distributed to Mackinac, Detroit and to friends in New York, very few copies of the journal exist today. Some of her stories appear in Schoolcraft’s Algic Researches and later in another publication put out after her death, Oneota, as well as his memoirs (Parker 33-34). The re-emergence of Johnston Schoolcraft’s poetry in this century brings her into a shared space with contemporary Native American poets like Louise Erdrich, Gerald Vizenor, and Wendy Rose, in that Johnston Schoolcraft’s work was created within a border/la frontera/contact zone and practices a heteroglossia as noted by Robin Riley Fast: that is, a conscious resistance to dominant white mainstream culture even as the poet observes the forms and language of that culture and addresses a predominantly white
  13. 13. Taniguchi 13 readership (Fast 513). The border is a site for bilingual speech, though for Native Americans the idea of “bilingual” may be more metaphorical than literal, and heteroglossia may be practiced not only in one language but both, as Native American poets are “more likely to be engaged in reclaiming or affirming aspects of traditional culture” and may even attempt to set up boundaries as “a way of asserting and defending cultural integrity” (511). Johnston Schoolcraft’s circumstances were different from say, later Native Americans who were removed to reservations, in that she lived on a border that was porous and transcultural. She was indeed bilingual and her autoethnographic stance reaffirms Ojibwe culture, though some critics, specifically Parker, doubt if she was ever open in her resistance to Euroamerican culture (Parker 93). In a few of her poems Johnston Schoolcraft shows resistance, expresses anger about the manner in which the Ojibwe are treated, such as in the closing to “Lines written at Castle Island, Lake Superior”: Ah, nature! here forever sway Far from the haunts of men away For here, there are no sordid fears, No crimes, no misery, no tears No pride of wealth; the heart to fill, No laws to treat my people ill. (11-16) “Castle Island” was first written in Ojibwe by Johnston Schoolcraft, then later translated into English, either by the poet herself or by her husband. Parker wonders if the last few lines were added by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, though there is no evidence that he did so (Johnston Schoolcraft 93). A casual reading of “Castle Island” might suggest that it is a conventional paean to nature, praising the blue skies and waters of Lake Superior. These scenes of natural splendor however are spiked with references to nature as refuge and succor---“From pain and sickness” (line 2) and human settlement, the narrator seeks
  14. 14. Taniguchi 14 to escape. Nature (and by extension, the Sault) is positioned as pure, innocent, joyous, representative of goodness as long as “men” have not touched it, a typical Romantic trope: but the last line, “no laws to treat my people ill” turns the trope into a sharp rebuke of not simply human corruption and evil but specifically of a political government, of Euroamerican men and in particular of the Americans who were moving into the Sault in the 1820s and writing up treaties that were little more than mortgages imposed upon the Ojibwe for their own land, mineral and water rights (lines 11-16). The word “No” is repeated as in resistance, a negation or rejection of those laws and the values introduced by the new government, while nature is held up as exemplary, a standard by which to shame this government of men. The poem’s positioning of nature versus the corruption of human governments suggests that the original Ojibwe version was meant to be critical of Euroamerican settlement. The loss of the original manuscript that Johnston Schoolcraft wrote in Ojibwe is grievous---what she said to Ojibwe speakers and readers would have shed a great deal of light on her own political opinions---but perhaps the English translation, as traditionally rendered as it is, reflects Johnston Schoolcraft’s own conflicted feelings over having married an American “Indian agent” and participating as a member of the increasingly segregated upper class community in Sault Ste. Marie. One might also easily fall into inserting into “Castle Island” the stereotype that the Ojibwe are “children of nature” and therefore represent goodness, primeval innocence, etc.: but the English Romantic structure of the poem and its obvious delight in its descriptions of the island suggest that Johnston Schoolcraft was writing with an eye towards readers familiar with Shelley and Keats, and not, for example, Longfellow and his “Legend of Hiawatha.” Johnston Schoolcraft might have occasionally succumbed to
  15. 15. Taniguchi 15 the popular Euroamerican view that Indians were “simple” and “natural” (see the next poem, “The Contrast”), but her own craft as a poet never succumbed to tom tom cliché. Her own tastes in writing were informed by British poets, not by the stereotypes set up by her contemporaries in New York or Massachusetts. Johnston Schoolcraft could also be very open in her feelings towards the changes she saw in the Sault, however mixed they were in her own position as a Métise, a former British citizen, and later, wife to one of the American “invaders.” “The Contrast, a Splenetic Effusion, March, 1823” was Johnston Schoolcraft’s response to the changes in the Sault brought on by the increased presence of the U.S. federal government and American settlers following the takeover of Michigan territory from the British in 1822. The Johnstons, British subjects, were forced to take American citizenship in order to continue practicing trade in the area, even though their first home and Johnston’s business had been sacked and burned by American troops during the War of 1812. The family never recovered from the financial loss, though they spent years trying to claim compensation against both the American and British governments (Parker 13). Yet Johnston Schoolcraft’s own husband was part of the new “invasion” of Americans in the Sault, an irony that likely was not lost on her: after her marriage, she wrote a revised version of “The Contrast” that alternates between welcoming the “new dominion” and expressing doubt and dismay over its presence in her community. Both the original poem and its revision are written in rhymed couplets, but the first is anguished and looks back on the past with sorrow and despair, while the second is more measured and contemplative. In the original version, Johnston Schoolcraft contrasts the present coldness of old friends with the intimacy and kindness of older times. She
  16. 16. Taniguchi 16 describes the friendships of her youth “in terms endearing, kind” (7), but moves quickly to describe her own blamelessness in the changes between herself and her friends. But ah! how soon the scene has chang’d, Since I have in love’s mazes rang’d. Oft in tears I sigh and languish, Forc’d to bear in silent anguish--- Looks strange---expressions oft unkind--- Without an intercourse of mind. (“The Contrast” version 1, 24-30) At the time “The Contrast” was written, Sault Ste. Marie was going through ominous changes. The racially mixed community of the Sault, which before had encouraged marriages between white men and Native American women and whose population prior to the American takeover had been primarily Métis, was taken over by the Americans, who brought in their white wives and daughters and who discouraged further intermarriage between the races. They created in essence a segregated community where before there had been an open and egalitarian relationship between indigenous and white peoples (Parker 43). Johnston Schoolcraft would not feel the effects of this change for many years---when she married Henry Rowe Schoolcraft in 1823, it was regarded as an ideal match (23). However, the old intimacy within the village had disappeared, and with it, the political, economic and social balance of the Middle Ground. The revision to “The Contrast,” was written after her marriage. In it the poet’s anguish is more abated, and the focus is now upon the change of the community from a small town to a city where strangers dominate the streets and rapid growth ravages the natural beauty of the area. Again Johnston Schoolcraft grieves for the loss of friendship, but the focus is upon the changed appearance of what she remembers as “The long rich green, where warriors played” (“Contrast” 2:38). Like “Castle Island” the natural landscape is equated with an idyllic refuge, though there is a significant change: Edenic
  17. 17. Taniguchi 17 nature and the Ojibwe themselves are relegated to the past tense, to a mythic time that no longer exists. Another odd feature is that for the first time one sees a reference in Johnston Schoolcraft’s poetry to “the simple Indian” (42). She addresses a white audience in her inferences and descriptions, a troubling change in her voice that reflects not only the upset in the balance of power within the pays d’en haut, but the tension inherent within her own marriage and class position. Gender, race and class intersected, creating a difficult position that the poet struggles with, and not entirely with success. …with the star flag, raised on high Discover a new dominion nigh, And half in joy, half in fear, Welcome the proud Republic here. (“The Contrast,” version 2, 51-54) Parker’s doubt that Johnston Schoolcraft would be open about her political views seems misplaced in light of “The Contrast.” Here she expresses her concerns that the new order will not benefit the people of the pays d’en haut. The joy brought by her then recent marriage to a representative of the new order seems overshadowed by this new balance in power, one that favors the invaders over the indigenous residents of the Sault. Johnston Schoolcraft’s fears were played out in her marriage: Henry Rowe Schoolcraft would later deride her lack of a formal education and her mother’s cultural background (Parker 38), even as he used and depended on both women for information and interpretation of Ojibwe culture for his ethnographies and collections of Ojibwe stories. He also used his increasing religious fervor following the death of their first child to insist that his wife submit to him in decisions about their household. Johnston Schoolcraft, though never raised in that manner in her own family, acquiesced to her husband’s wishes, including the decision to send their two younger children, Janee, then 11, and Johnston, aged 9, at boarding schools on the East Coast. The intense emotional
  18. 18. Taniguchi 18 pain this caused her could only be expressed in Ojibwe, in her poem “On leaving my children John and Jane at School, in the Atlantic states, and preparing to return to the interior.” The title was supplied by Schoolcraft, who also wrote a “free” interpretation of the poem in 1851, nine years after his wife’s death. Schoolcraft’s interpretation is very free indeed, written in conventional rhymed couplets at five verses. Johnston Schoolcraft’s original poem is written in four verses, and there is no attempt to keep a conventional English métier or rhyme. The lines are terse and written in five syllables each, structured almost like haiku, a literary form that has found favor among contemporary Ojibwe writers like Gerald Vizenor4 and Kimberly Blaeser. Parker supplies a contemporary translation more fitting of the original: As I am thinking When I find you My land Far in the west My land (“On leaving my children….” 1-5) Again Johnston Schoolcraft links herself and her family to the land, the Sault: only this time, she must return home without her young children, tainting the homecoming with profound sadness. The boarding school is a painful trope in Native American literature and history, as it is linked to the forced separation (some historians use the word “abduction”) of Native American children from their families and their placement in institutions where they were divested of all indigenous culture, from their language to their clothing and even hair. Native American writers from Zitkala-Sa to Leslie Silko have written about the practices of such institutions that observed the motto “Kill the Indian, save the man”---as descriptive of cultural genocide as an entire history 4 Gerald Vizenor has likened haiku to Anishinaabe dream songs in their naturalist imagery (66). Vizenor and A. Robert Lee. “Haiku Scenes,” Postindian Conversations. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
  19. 19. Taniguchi 19 text. The children were routinely beaten for speaking their home languages at school, for not understanding commands made in English, even for weeping in the dormitory at night. (Allen 12-13). Death rates were scandalously high as overcrowding, poor nutrition, and exposure to infectious diseases not present in the children’s home villages took their toll. Native American parents who refused to give up their children to the schools were threatened with imprisonment and cutoff of government rations. The practice had already begun at the time the Schoolcraft children were sent off, though the schools at that time were primarily run by missionaries who sought to convert Native Americans by re- educating the children. (Later boarding schools would be run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the federal department created to administer the duties once performed by Schoolcraft and other Indian agents.) Schoolcraft however was motivated more by his desire to see them educated at elite prep schools rather than from any desire to do away with their Native American roots (Parker 45). Nonetheless, from the later translation provided, the mother’s grief at parting with her children is palpable, almost a murmur spoken through tears: My little daughter My little son I leave them behind Far away land (“On leaving my children….” 6-9) And yet, almost defiantly, she rallies: [emphatically] But soon It is close however To my home I shall return That is the way that I am, my being My land (10-14) One notable difference between Schoolcraft’s “free” translation and the later one provided by Parker is the powerful presence of the first-person pronoun in the direct
  20. 20. Taniguchi 20 translation: “My little daughter/My little son,” “I shall return,” “That is the way I am, my being/My land.” The mother is torn away from her children, but the act cannot negate what is rightfully hers, whether it is her children or her homeland. Repetition of sound is employed here to give emphasis to both possession and identity and gives the poem the structure and rhythm of a chant. But homecoming cannot make up for what is lost. The poem closes like a sigh: I begin to make my way home Ahh but I am sad (17-18) Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s own translation throws in at the end a mention of “duty” and references to “my Master above,” the Christian god: in his interpretation the poet supposedly has resigned herself to leaving her “dearest gifts” to the boarding schools. Johnston Schoolcraft’s Ojibwe original makes no mention of these, reflecting only a determination to go home, to “her being.” This closing is by far the sadder of the two poems (for Schoolcraft’s is decidedly a different text altogether), for Johnston Schoolcraft’s only comfort in all this is returning to the Sault, to the only refuge she has known. As noted, Johnston Schoolcraft’s intense attachment to the land she was raised in often translated into an intense love for Ojibwe culture and language. “To the Pine Tree” is based on Johnston Schoolcraft’s reaction as a young girl to returning home to the Sault from Ireland, where her father had hoped she might finish her education. The poem, though undated, was written in retrospect, when Jane was an adult. It is written first in the Ojibway, followed by an English translation, which Parker notes is not literal, word for word, and has different meters and rhyme schemes (Parker 90). They are almost two separate poems by themselves, one for Ojibwe speakers, the other for an Anglophone
  21. 21. Taniguchi 21 audience. Both poems employ the oral literary form of repetition (“Shing wauk! Shing wauk!”) and attribute human-like traits to objects of nature, which according to Ruoff are prominent features of early Native American writing (Ruoff 21). The English poem is written is in heroic sestets with the familiar ababcc rhyme scheme characteristic of most romantic poetry; the Ojibwe poem is written in free verse with no rhyme scheme, and when spoken aloud is almost like a chant. Her description of the pine tree as a friend who “greets me on my native stand” (“To the Pine Tree” 8) may be indigenous personification of an object of nature, but no more so than Wordsworth speaking to the English meadows and sky. Again, there is always a danger in stereotyping the work of a Native American writer (who Parker argues is also Irish American and a romantic female poet, [Parker 71]) by overuse of comparisons with “Native American literary motifs”---as if the term ‘Native American’ referred to a monolithic canon instead of a people that actually is comprised of hundreds of different languages, belief systems, and cultural practices. “The land” is referred to as “my own dear bright mother” (“Pine Tree”10), which is consistent with Ojibwe spiritual belief, but it is also a trope found in European Romantic poetry, which also equates nature with the female body and maternity. The poem however flips away from European modes by comparing the northern landscape to that which she saw in England and Ireland: Not all the trees of England bright, Not Erin’s lawns of green and light Are half so sweet to memory’s eye, As this dear type of northern sky (13-16) Johnston Schoolcraft gently holds up the English and Irish landscapes, those so glorified by English Romantic poets, against those of the Sault and find them lagging not only in
  22. 22. Taniguchi 22 physical beauty but in any cultural or emotional significance to her. She plays off on the language that gives her the means to address a Euroamerican Anglophone audience but denies that it is superior or even equal to Ojibwe culture, which is primary to her. Her poem, initially affectionate and filled with praise, is actually a critique. Self-Ethnography and the Struggle for Representation As mentioned previously, Johnston Schoolcraft’s work was continually overshadowed by her husband’s, who frequently took credit for her writing or simply gave her work no attribution and published it as his own or as an “anonymous” source, a fate typical of most indigenous informants to early anthropologists. She did however translate a number of Ojibwe folktales and songs under her own name, with very little commentary and, unlike her husband, without any moralizing or “higher purpose” in the re-telling of these stories. While many of the stories do carry lessons, Johnston Schoolcraft made no attempt to reshape these stories to serve the projections or to anticipate the reactions of a non-Ojibwe audience. Her own rendering of these stories preserves the original sexual and scatological references within the constraint of her time (it is unlikely she would have or could have given the direct translations for some of the Ojibwe terms for sexual intercourse or excrement, see below). Some of the traditional stories have a troubling, sometimes haunting air to them: “Moowis, The Indian Coquette” for instance, is charged with sexual and scatological undertones, and is a tale of supernatural revenge. “Moowis” is a “highly derogative term” and “derives from the term for filth or excrement” (Johnston Schoolcraft 175). That the title places the word directly next to the “Coquette,” suggests that term refers as much as
  23. 23. Taniguchi 23 to the woman as to the golem-like “dirt man.” The coquette of the title is a young woman of loose morals: she flirts with and brings home men to spend the night with her, which even in the more sexually tolerant Ojibwe culture is disapproved of. When she physically as well as emotionally hurts a suitor, the suitor takes revenge by gathering the excrement left by the departing village and uses it to form a manikin dressed in fine clothing. This “dirt man” is then used by the suitor to draw the coquette’s attention, and eventually to lead her out into the woods where she will be abandoned and will likely die. Johnston Schoolcraft makes no additional comment to the action of the story but retells it faithfully, as it was told to her by her mother. The dirt man in the course of the story is brought to the coquette’s wigwam to spend the night with her (mentioned as “he had succeeded” [166], a detail that places the story beyond the typical Victorian fairy tale anthology. That the coquette doesn’t notice the odor that the others in the communal lodge had picked up when the dirt man sits next to the fire suggests she cannot distinguish excrement from a “real” man, an inferred commentary on her morals as well as her tastes. The final punishment is brought upon herself when she insists on following the dirt man into the woods. As the day progresses, the sun causes the excrement to melt and fall apart, and the young woman finds parts of her lover’s clothing along the trail, covered in filth. She continues to run after him until nightfall, when she realizes she no longer knows where to go and is lost in the woods. The story closes with her cries: “Moowis nin ge won e win ig,” “Moowis has led me astray” (167). “Moowis” is a common story that runs through many cultures, a lesson aimed specifically at young women and girls: a kind of adult “stranger danger” tale. It may be interpreted as a call for chastity, though in traditional Ojibwe culture, once a couple was
  24. 24. Taniguchi 24 united sexually, it was assumed they were “married” or joined in a union recognized by the community at large (Parker 7-9). Fidelity was the more valued asset in Ojibwe culture, though in the coquette’s situation she seems more guilty of being incapable of distinguishing between the real value of a husband and a “dirt man,” someone that is nothing more than excrement in fine clothing. “The Origin of the Robin” is at its base a primal origination myth, but it also is a story that teaches appropriate behavior, this time to parents. A father with great ambitions for his son pressures the boy to fast for 12 days during his vision quest, in order to surpass “those persons known for their great power or wisdom, whose fame he envied” (Johnston Schoolcraft 163). The boy at first is obedient, but as the fast goes on, he begs his father to allow him to quit, as “my dreams are ominous of evil” (163). The father refuses however, and the boy becomes “skeleton-like” and deathly in appearance. At the end of the 12 days the father brings food to the boy, but is startled to find him talking to himself, saying, “My father has ruined me, as a man” as he paints his chest with vermillion (164). The Spirit, taking pity on the boy, frees him from his human form and changes him into a robin, which promises the father out of love for him he will always stay near the dwellings of human beings. The lesson of the story is straightforward: the father has abused his role as his son’s spiritual guide and not only failed to protect his child from harm, but actually brought it upon him. The fast did not bring the boy the usual helper-visions, but ones of darkness and ill will. The inference of the story is that the father killed his son, if not physically, then spiritually, and as punishment for the father and release for the child the Great Spirit has changed the son into a bird, no longer beholden to the father’s will. In
  25. 25. Taniguchi 25 traditional Ojibwe culture, corporal punishment was practiced on children and women--- note Ozhaguscodaywayquay’s own beating by her father when she ran away from her arranged marriage with John Johnston---but parents were expected to be judicious and not abusive. Parents were entrusted with the well-being of their children and were expected to teach their children the values of the community, ensuring cultural survival and continuity. While there were no specific laws or punishments applicable if they failed in this task, it was regarded as a detriment to the community at large if the parents “killed” their children, physically or emotionally. Alongside the stories, Johnston Schoolcraft also translated Ojibwe songs, a few which still survive in both their transcribed Ojibwe form and in the English translation. One popular song that was contemporary to her time was “The O-jib-way Maid” which came out in nine different versions. Johnston Schoolcraft chose to translate the version sung by her sister Charlotte, and later the music was set to a printed, notated score. Johnston Schoolcraft’s version is structured so that there are seven syllables per line in five stanzas, with a chorus of seven syllables repeated twice. What is striking about the song is that the Ojibwe maid is the narrator: she asks why the young American man leaves with tears in his eyes, then answers her own question by observing he is in love with her. But following sharp and quick is her rejoinder: “but he will not sigh long for her, for as soon as he sees her out of sight, he will forget her” (Johnston Schoolcraft 201). The song addresses an issue in the Sault community that had been present since Euroamericans had been coming to the region: white men would often take Native American women as wives à la facon du pays, “in the manner of the country:” that is, they would take Native American women into their homes and recognize them as their
  26. 26. Taniguchi 26 wives while they lived in the area, never formalizing the relationship in a Christian church or before a European or American authority as a civil union. As soon as their tour in the Sault was over, the Euroamerican men would leave their wives, sometimes with children, and never return; if the marriage had never been recognized by the church or the Euroamerican state, the wife had no claim upon the husband for support (Sleeper-Smith 28). Ozhaguscodaywayquay’s father feared as such when John Johnston asked him for her hand in marriage and had to be assured through gifts and Johnston’s own persistence that his daughter would not be abandoned. Johnston in turn would fear for his daughters’ fates when they became adults and white suitors began to visit the Johnston home (Parker 15). So the Ojibwe maid’s opinion of her suitor is not cold or cynical, but simply realistic. Having seen other men pass through the Sault, she realizes that hopes for a longstanding relationship with the American youth are doomed. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s own telling of these stories is at best charming, but for the most part are padded or filled with addenda that pressed forward his famous overbearing moral tone. The ethnographer found himself unable to translate directly Ojibwe ideas into English, much less the far more open attitudes towards sexuality and bodily functions that the Ojibwe had prior to the introduction of the Christian church to North America. For example, in his own translation of “Moowis” in Algic Researches, he turns the dirt man into a rag-and-bone man and excises the sexual references (Konkle 177-178). As with Johnston Schoolcraft’s poetry, Schoolcraft often misinterpreted, added, or re-invented the stories his wife translated and/or transcribed for him. Schoolcraft twisted and used the Ojibway narratives he collected through his wife to support his own conclusion that “Indians” were “childlike, incapable of reason,
  27. 27. Taniguchi 27 improvident, and unable to form true governments” (167). Since they had never created a system of writing, they had in Schoolcraft’s opinion no concept of past and present, and were incapable of understanding or creating valid histories. Schoolcraft even fabricated (according to Konkle) a letter supposedly written by his mother-in-law and “translated” by Jane pleading for a “man in black to instruct us poor Indians” so that the history of their people does not become “wholly fabulous” (172). Though Schoolcraft credits his wife with “a strength of intellect above the common order,” he also tells her that she was “Brought up in a remote place, without any thing which deserves the name of a regular education, without the salutary influence of a society to form your mind….” (178). That is, she is inferior to him, even though she acted as his translator and assistant even before their marriage, and he admitted to friends that he was unable to carry on his work during his wife’s periods of illness. Some of this may be attributed to Schoolcraft’s Victorian sexism and evangelical Christian belief that women were “the weaker sex,” but his treatment of the Ojibway narratives entrusted to him by the Johnstons and other Ojibway families in Sault Ste. Marie suggest that Schoolcraft’s judgment of his wife was driven by racism. The Ojibwe could be trusted as a source for information about their own culture, but could not be trusted to convey this information “accurately” to Euroamerican audiences because of their ineptitude and lack of cosmopolitan sophistication (though the Johnston family was repeatedly praised by visitors for their manners, wit and ironically, cosmopolitan sophistication). It is no surprise to find that when Schoolcraft finally turned in his report on the Ojibwe of Sault Ste. Marie, the governor of Michigan used the information to conclude that Native Americans should be removed “for their own good” to what would be the beginnings of the reservation system. Writes Konkle, “…Henry
  28. 28. Taniguchi 28 Schoolcraft’s use of her [Jane’s] knowledge reveal not only how Native people’s authority for their knowledge is effaced in Euroamerican writing but also how Native historicity is effaced and, in particular, how the fact of Native writing itself is denied, which has been and continues to be a problem in the criticism of Native literature” (179). In short, until Ojibwe writers were allowed to represent themselves without adapting a pleasing persona for Euroamerican audiences or having their work “interpreted” by Euroamerican ethnographers, they were effectively silenced, their existence denied and their work and culture misrepresented. While Pratt claims that autoethnography empowers its writers, Ojibwe writers in the 19th century did not have the ability to publish their own work without being doubted, censured, or edited by Euroamerican “experts” in Ojibwe culture. They also did not have a receptive audience in the 19th, or for that matter, most of the 20th century; and as a result, their voices were lost, their representations of their own experiences and culture ignored. Fortunately, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft’s writing has finally been brought to the attention of both casual readers and scholars. As the first consciously literary writer of Native American origins in North America, her work deserves to be studied, discussed and placed within the canon of American literature. But her multifaceted position as Romantic poet, autoethnographer, and representative of a historically and culturally unique region, the pays d’en haut, demands that she be studied on many different levels, literary, historical, linguistic, and theoretical. It is my hope that this essay is the beginning of such an enterprise.
  29. 29. Taniguchi 29 WORKS CITED Allen, Paula Gunn. Voice of the Turtle: Native American Literature 1900-1970. “Introduction.” New York: Ballantine Books, 1995. Crawford, John C. “What is Michif?: Language in the métis tradition.” The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Métis in North America. Ed. Jacqueline Peterson and Jennifer S.H. Brown. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2001. Fast, Robin Riley. “Borderland Voices in Contemporary Native American Poetry.” Contemporary Literature. Autumn 1995. 36.3. 508-536. Jefferson, Thomas. “Instructions to Captain Lewis June 20, 1803.” Letters of Thomas Jefferson: 1743-1826, Expedition to the Pacific. From Revolution to Reconstruction…and what happened afterwards. <http://grid.let.rug.nl/~usa/P/tj3/writings/brf/jefl155.htm> Johnston, Basil. The Manitous: The Spiritual World of the Ojibway. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2001. Konkle, Maureen. Writing Indian Nations: Native Intellectuals and the Politics of Historiography, 1827-1863. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004. Lee, A. Robert. Multicultural American Literature: Comparative Black, Native, Latino/a and Asian American Fictions. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003. Parker, Robert Dale. Introduction. The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky: The Writings of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft. Philadelpia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. New York: Routledge, 1992. Rowe, John Carlos. Literary Culture and U.S. Imperialism: From the Revolution to World II. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Ruoff, A. LaVonne Brown. American Indian Literatures: An Introduction, Bibliographic Review, and Selected Bibliography. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1990. Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.
  30. 30. Taniguchi 30 Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. The Literary Voyageur or Muzzeniegun. Ed. Philip P. Mason. Detroit: Michigan State University Press, 1962. Schoolcraft, Jane Johnston. “The Contrast, a Splenetic Effusion. March, 1823.” The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky: The Writings of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft. Ed. Robert Dale Parker. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. 116-118. -----“Lines written at Castle Island, Lake Superior.” 92-93. -----“On leaving my children John and Jane at School, in the Atlantic states, and preparing to return to the interior.” 141-143. -----“Moowis, The Indian Coquette.” 166-168. -----“The O-jib-way Maid.” 201-204. -----“The Origin of the Robin.” 163-165. -----“To the Pine Tree.” 89-90. Sleeper-Smith, Susan. Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001. Trachtenberg, Alan. Shades of Hiawatha: Staging Indians, Making Americans, 1880- 1930. New York: Hill and Wang, 2004. Treuer, David. Native American Fiction: A User’s Manual. Saint Paul: Graywolf Press, 2006. White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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