To Be the Main Leaders of Our People: A History of Minnesota Ojibwe Politics, 1825-1898

By Rebecca Kugel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
"[W]e Can Get Along Better Than You Think": The Ojibwe Adapt to Changing Times, 1880-1900

T he Ojibwe did not immediately recognize that their goals and expectations regarding their experiment with Christianization and agriculture differed markedly from those of their Euro-American allies. Although events in the late 1870s and early 1880s could be seen to carry within themselves the seeds of future conflicts, the Ojibwe were not expecting to find hints of future trouble and so did not look for them. At White Earth, the Mississippi Ojibwe civil leaders faced the decade of the 1880s with confidence. They felt secure in their alliance with Euro-American Episcopalians, because it seemed founded on the principles that had historically governed relations between the peoples of the Great Lakes region. The relationship was based on mutual interests, but even more critically, it was initiated via gift exchanges and it was reanimated regularly by continuing reciprocal exchanges. By the opening of the decade, the civil leaders had identified a series of problems confronting their people. Their communities were disorganized and demoralized. This social disruption stemmed in part from internecine conflict between the civil leaders and the warrior-Métis-trader coalition. It could also be traced to Ojibwe inability to maintain equitable political relations with the United States. In the early 1880s, the civil leaders embarked on a series of initiatives which suggest that they felt optimistic about addressing each of these problems. Instrumental to resolving each problem was their new alliance with the Episcopalians.

The example that best proved how well the alliance with the Euro-American Episcopalians was working could be seen in the civil leaders' dealings with the Federal government. In the early 1880s that relationship afforded the Episcopal Ojibwe much greater satisfaction than the ambiguous circumstances surrounding the vindication of Agent Lewis Stowe in 1877. Clear-cut progress on a number of long-standing issues suggested to the Ojibwe that their confidence in their Episcopalian allies had not been misplaced. Backed by the lobbying efforts of their

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