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Reviewed by:
  • History of the Ojibway People: Its History and Construction
  • Linda Robyn
William W. Warren. History of the Ojibway People: Its History and Construction. 2nd ed. Edited and annotated with an introduction by Theresa Schenck. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2009. 448 pp. Paper, $22.95.

That all men are equal is a proposition which, at ordinary times, no sane individual had ever given his assent.

Aldous Huxley (1894–1963)

As a criminologist who teaches students about corporate, government, and environmental crimes, I always stress that we cannot know why events happen today without knowing what has happened in the past.

Great power and great crimes are inseparable. It is only those with great political or economic power who can, with the stroke of a pen, the utterance of an order, or even a knowing nod of the head send thousands to their deaths or consign millions to lives of unrelenting want and misery.1 [End Page 259]

Modern history gives us many examples of physical and cultural destruction of Indigenous peoples worldwide stemming from decisions made by those in a position of power, economic and otherwise. Theresa Schenck’s excellent, informative introduction and her work editing and annotating Warren’s History of the Ojibway People affords the reader a compelling example of early historic attempts to eliminate a people who were impeding the efforts of those with political and economic power in their attempts to orchestrate a complete land grab.

This important work demonstrates how lives are changed when two different races of people come together. During the course of history these interchanges can sometimes be for the better, but more often than not these meetings are for the worse, as is demonstrated in Warren’s work. Writing from a very heartfelt point of view with clarity and accuracy, Warren takes the reader on a journey into the past and allows us to be “in the moment” with him during times of extreme transition and change for the Ojibwe people.

Theresa Schenck’s excellent work editing and annotating Warren’s work gives the reader an idea of how the early Europeans’ search for lands rich in resources demonstrates the adverse effects of these historical meetings, which transformed a region and people through social conflict that is still occurring today. Of course, there were many people of European descent who lived among and helped the Ojibwe as much as possible (232). However, the reader is made aware that economic advancement of the dominant culture (i.e., those who exercised powerful political and economic control) meant that the Ojibwe and their lands would be shaped and changed as part of colonial struggles. If we look back historically, as is shown in Warren’s work, the French who came to the Great Lakes region during the sixteenth century, followed by the British and then American settlers, did not fully respect or really understand the culture and ways of the Indigenous peoples they encountered. “The history that developed between (politically and economically powerful) Europeans and tribes from the Great Lakes region led to the perception of Native people being an exploitable group, or disposable resource.”2 The cultural genocide that resulted from these interactions between the government and Ojibwe people is one reason why exploitation and struggles continue to this day.

Warren’s work clearly demonstrates the cultural genocide perpetrated against American Indian tribes since the first Europeans landed on Turtle Island. Warren’s research uncovered the reality of these types of crimes committed by the U.S. government against the Ojibwe, although he was unaware at the time that his work would have this result. To be certain, many criminologists today would not consider these types of interactions between the government and Ojibwe people to be a crime. Although these types of actions by governments, which continue to this day on most American Indian nations, certainly skirt the definition of “legal,” they are not right from a social harms perspective. [End Page 260]

To explain this point further, in the introduction Schenck writes that Warren struggled with disparities between Christian thought and the Indians’ beliefs about the origin of people (xvii). Even so, he thought Indians’ beliefs were equal to...


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