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Blackbird's Song

Andrew J. Blackbird and the Odawa People

Theodore J. Karamanski

Publication Year: 2012

For much of U.S. history, the story of native people has been written by historians and anthropologists relying on the often biased accounts of European-American observers. Though we have become well acquainted with war chiefs like Pontiac and Crazy Horse, it has been at the expense of better knowing civic-minded intellectuals like Andrew J. Blackbird, who sought in 1887 to give a voice to his people through his landmark book History of the Ottawa and Chippewa People. Blackbird chronicled the numerous ways in which these Great Lakes people fought to retain their land and culture, first with military resistance and later by claiming the tools of citizenship. This stirring account reflects on the lived experience of the Odawa people and the work of one of their greatest advocates.


Published by: Michigan State University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-xi

The river that runs through the heart of my career has been public history. Most books and articles I have written began as projects in which an individual, corporation, or government agency needed help with an issue of historic preservation, heritage interpretation, or legal history. . . .

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pp. xiii-xix

A gray-haired man sat at a table, pen in hand. He wrote several lines then paused, looking up from the white page and out the adjacent window. In the pale, dull light of a winter afternoon he stared at the still, leafless limbs of lifeless trees. This had always been a good time of year to tell the old . . .

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1. A Forest Youth: Son is Born to Mackadepenessa

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pp. 1-21

Before he was born, before he was even conceived, the soul of Andrew Blackbird had been placed by the Great Manitou in his mother’s womb. In a dome- shaped wigwam the body and the soul became one when his mother, kneeling on a mat of woven reeds, her arms clutching the smooth . . .

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2. The Crisis

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pp. 23-76

In the fall of 1835 on the shores of Little Traverse Bay, near the present city of Harbor Springs, Michigan, a large group of Ottawa gathered on the warm sands of the beach. The old women, draped in bright red . . .

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3. A New World

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pp. 77-107

On March 14, 1836 Mackadepenessy finally met the “American father.” He and twenty- three other Anisanabeg were ushered into the White House, where they were received by Andrew Jackson. White haired, grave, and tall, the president in his black suit cut an impressive figure. . . .

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4. We Now Wish to Become Men

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pp. 109-144

Andrew Blackbird was in a hurry. He swept into his father’s village on the shores of Little Traverse Bay, and with barely a bozhoo for friends and family he was gone again within a few hours.1 For the five years he was at Mission Point he had thought about going east for an education . . .

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5. Citizen Blackbird

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pp. 145-165

During the protracted winter of 1850-51 Andrew Blackbird spent much time with his father. The son cut timber to build a new house for the old man and in the evenings it is likely they sat by the fire while Mackadepenessy spun out stories about his own adventures in the white man’s world. They may have talked of Andrew’s mother and of the many . . .

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6. Doing Good amongst My People

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pp. 167-207

As his ship edged into Little Traverse Bay Andrew Blackbird had not seen its familiar waters for nearly three years. Many times over those years he had returned in his mind’s eye to its shores. He had an abiding attachment to the waters and woods of L’Arbre Croche. In his writings he . . .

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7. Light and Shadows

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pp. 209-234

On a late summer afternoon in 1895 a high- spirited group of tourists from Detroit ambled down Main Street, Harbor Springs. They made their way to a small frame house where they were met at the door by Elizabeth Blackbird. The visitors thought her “very handsome in spite . . .

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pp. 235-240

Andrew Blackbird’s hometown of Harbor Springs remains a beautiful place. Walking down the hill from Blackbird’s grave in Lakeview Cemetery, the visitor’s eye is drawn equally to the sight of the beckoning blue bay and the picture- postcard town, with vintage veranda- graced cottages, the . . .


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pp. 241-274


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pp. 275-284


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pp. 285-293

E-ISBN-13: 9781609173371
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611860504

Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Blackbird, Andrew J., b. 1810.
  • Ottawa Indians -- Michigan -- Biography.
  • Indian authors -- Michigan -- Biography.
  • Ottawa Indians -- History.
  • Ottawa Indians -- Social life and customs.
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