Three Fires Unity: The Anishnaabeg of the Lake Huron Borderlands

Three Fires Unity: The Anishnaabeg of the Lake Huron Borderlands

Three Fires Unity: The Anishnaabeg of the Lake Huron Borderlands

Three Fires Unity: The Anishnaabeg of the Lake Huron Borderlands

Synopsis

The Lake Huron area of the Upper Great Lakes region, an area spreading across vast parts of the United States and Canada, has been inhabited by the Anishnaabeg for millennia. Since their first contact with Europeans around 1600, the Anishnaabeg have interacted with-and struggled against-changing and shifting European empires and the emerging nation-states that have replaced them. Through their cultural strength, diplomatic acumen, and a remarkable knack for adapting to change, the Anishnaabeg of the Lake Huron Borderlands have reemerged as a strong and vital people, fully in charge of their destiny in the twenty-first century. Winner of the North American Indian Prose Award, this first comprehensive cross-border history of the Anishnaabeg provides an engaging account of four hundred years of their life in the Lake Huron area, showing how they have been affected by European contact and trade. Three Fires Unity examines how shifting European politics and, later, the imposition of the Canada-United States border running through their homeland, affected them and continues to do so today. In looking at the cultural, social, and political aspects of this borderland contact, Phil Bellfy sheds light on how the Anishnaabeg were able to survive and even thrive over the centuries in this intensely contested region.

Excerpt

From the swirling waters of the rapids at Sault Ste. Marie to the St. Clair River delta that gives rise to Walpole Island, the Lake Huron borderlands are a treasure trove of history and culture. Native people have lived in this area since the glacial waters subsided and the Great Lakes took on their present configuration — about twenty-five hundred years ago. the rich fisheries and abundant wildlife induced them to stay in the region after having migrated west from their ancient homeland on the Great Salt Sea in the land of the rising sun far to the east — the land of Gitchee Gumee of Longfellow’s Hiawatha fame.

The people of this area, collectively known as the “Anishnaabeg,” are made up of the Ojibway (or Chippewa), Ottawa (or Odawa), and Potawatomi tribes. They have thrived for millennia in the rich land of the Lake Huron borderlands, but when the Europeans (more specifically the French and British) arrived in the early seventeenth century looking for land and resources, the Native peoples were forced to adapt to an era of war and conflict as they tried to defend their homeland against the invaders. a way of life, little changed for generations, was now altered forever in a radically short span of time. Regional disputes became more intense, often fueled by European conflicts and their cruel methods of war. Conflict over the fur trade and access to trapping territories exacerbated ancient rivalries, and warriors often found themselves hundreds of miles from home fighting enemies they barely knew, for reasons they may never have fully understood.

Yet throughout these European proxy wars, the Native peo-

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