Personal memoirs of a residence of thirty years with the Indian tribes on the American frontiers: with brief notices of passing events, facts, and opinions, A.D. 1812 to A.D. 1842
This is the autobiographical account of an explorer, government administrator, and scholar whose researches into the language and customs of the Chippewa and other Native American peoples of the Great Lakes region are considered milestones in nineteenth-century ethnography. After a childhood in Hamilton, New York, Schoolcraft gained attention for the reports and journals he wrote on trips west to explore mineral deposits in Arkansas, Missouri, and the old Northwest. Later, he joined the Cass expedition to the Lake Superior region, where he served as an Indian agent in St. Mary (Sault Ste. Marie) from 1822 to 1836. During that time, he continued to make regular exploratory journeys. On one of these, in 1832, he located the Mississippi River's source at Lake Itasca, Minnesota. From 1836 to 1841, Schoolcraft served as Michigan's superintendent of Indian Affairs and helped to bring about a treaty with the Ojibwa (1836), who as a result relinquished their claims to most of northern Michigan. Schoolcraft's memoirs are noteworthy for their detailed geographic, geological, political, military, folkloric, historical, and ethnographic information. Married to a woman of Native American background, he was sympathetic to certain aspects of the Indian societies he encountered. Nevertheless, he saw the sweep of new settlers into Indian lands as inevitable, and accepted as necessary the removal of Native peoples beyond the advancing boundaries of the Unites States. Schoolcraft believed that soldiers, diplomats, federal officials, and missionaries could do their jobs more effectively if they learned native languages and understood Indian customs. These motives, along with his literary aspirations, gave rise to his explorations of Indian cultural life. He discusses Indian myths and legends at length and talks about how he transformed them into his own Algic Researches (1839), the work that inspired Longfellow's "Hiawatha." Schoolcraft also corresponded or visited with Washington Irving, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Gallatin, and many of the era's other leading intellectuals, and details his conversations with them.
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