A Little History of My Forest Life: An Indian-White Autobiography
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Written in 1894 and recently recovered from the archives of the University of Minnesota, this incredible autobiography tells the story of a Chippewa-Scots French woman from Madeline Island in Lake Superior. The child and grandchild of fur traders, Eliza Morrison tells of a difficult and beautiful life carved out of the wilderness—the "starving time" with her husband John on a homestead in northern Wisconsin; her travels by boat, dog sled, and on foot; and the joy of making maple syrup in the spring. Generously illustrated with photographs, drawings, and maps, Métis culture comes alive as Native American lore and history are blended with homesteading stories in true mixed-blood fashion, giving a 19th-century woman's view of the Wisconsin Death March, the Dream Dance, and the Chippewa-Dakota War as well as a personal look at the daily life of a fur trading family. Also included is a glossary of Chippewa words.
as speculating in land or timber, and the pressure to open Indian lands to white development was intense. The Amer- ican Fur Company, the last in a long line of companies that had operated at La Pointe since the 1600s, declared bankruptcy in 1842 when Mrs. Morrison was a child. It had earlier tried diversifying into shipping salted fish in addition to furs, but was caught oversupplied with both in a recession and could no longer pay its creditors. Fish would be its salvation when business picked
will be dissatisfied, but most readers will benefit, since Mrs. Morrison’s lovely, lilting voice and her unique syntax, a product of two languages and two cultures, remain intact and yet the readability of her narrative is enhanced. Those who wish to read the original in its entirety can order copies from the North- west Architectural Archives, Elmer Anderson Library, University of Minnesota, 222-21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455. To further aid readers I have included several glossaries.
french when it comes to that. He was brought up catholic. He was taught the catechism, all about the commandments of God and the commandments of the church and rules and regulations of the church. I of course was brought up in Presbyterian doctrine. We neither one of us forgot where we belong. Not that I want to say we are good christians but only to show that people can live in the woods and remember what they know. Two years after we left Ashland, we [were] living in the woods. During that time
good deal of time writing about Indians and Indian lifeways, and in its form incorporates the traditional seasonal round even as she relates a linear history, she tells us little beyond what an astute observer living in the region could have seen. She alludes early on to the catastrophic events at Sandy Lake, but she does not dwell on them, either because she is distancing herself from traditional Indian culture, or from public life as a white woman writer might, or because she is employing a
hundred-years war between the Chippewa and the Dakota that affected nearly all Indian lives near the present-day Wisconsin and Minnesota border and that was fueled by revenge. As John Morrison related to the Grays, the beginnings of that war might have been “about a murder. If the dead man’s friends took vengeance, then the friends of the man who was accused would take vengeance, and when that was started, it never could stop. There would always be vengeance on both sides.”111 Ningoiou’s story