top of page

the real america

Nuqman Tehuti El: The indigenous people of what is now the state of Michigan and the Great Lakes region of North America have always referred to themselves as the Anishnaabeg, loosely translated into English as “The People,” or “The Original People.” The Anishnaabeg are commonly known today as the Ojibway (or Chippewa), the Odawa (or Ottawa), and the Bodowadomie (or Pottawatomie). Anishnaabeg creation stories trace their origins to the beginning of time, and the people believe that the Creator gave them a special relationship with the land on which they live. It is undisputed that American Indian peoples have lived in Michigan for much longer than non-Indian peoples, who have inhabited the area for just over 350 years (Cleland, 1992:11 In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the People of the Three Fires, the Chippewa, Odawa, and Potawatomi, collectively known as the Anishinaabeg, negotiated a series of treaties with representatives of the United States government. These treaties continue to have force today. They affect the rights and privileges of both Indians and Euro-Americans One of the most fundamental differences separating Indians and Euro-Americans was in how they thought about land ownership. For the Anishinaabeg land was something “owned” by no one particular person. Like the air breathed by Indians or the water in which a canoe floated, the land was simply there to be used. Basil Johnston, a contemporary teller of traditional Ojibway stories, illustrates this sense of possession in his book Ojibway Ceremonies. In this volume he relates a story called “The Council” a speech made by Chief Mishi-Waub-Kaikaik. The Council had been called to discuss whether or not to sign treaties with the Whites. Mishi-Waub-Kaikaik told his fellow chiefs: To control and possess the land as the White Man wishes does not make sense. Can man possess a gust of the North Wind or a measure of flowing water? Can he control a mass of clouds or a herd of moose? No. Do not mistake the truth. It is not man who owns the land; it is the land that owns man. And we, the Anishnabeg, were placed on this land. From beginning to end it nourishes us; it quenches our thirst, it shelters us, and we follow the order of its seasons. It give us freedom to come and go according to its nature and its extent–great freedom when the extent is large, less freedom when it is small. And when we die we are buried within the land that outlives us all. We belong to the land by birth, by need, and by affection. And no man may presume to own the land. Only the tribe can do that.” [Basil Johnston, Ojibway Ceremonies, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982); 1990 edition, p.169-170] Mishi-Waub-Kaik could not understand the White man’s concept of property ownership, American law had only the most limited way to incorporate Mishi-Waub-Kaik’s views. American law divided property rights into two types: usufructuary and fee simple. Usufructuary rights, or the rights to harvest the “bounty” of the land such as wild animals or wild plants without regard to personal ownership, is as close a match as American law held to the Indian concept of ownership. Usufructuary rights, however, were in American law always secondary to the concept of fee simple ownership. The concept of fee simple conveys to the owner a right to do with the land as the owner chooses. The land is held exclusively by the individual owner and can be used without regard to the wishes of the community. Although in the twentieth century fee simple ownership has been somewhat limited in practice, for example communities may pass zoning ordinances that control the type of land use or buildings that may be put up in a particular location, the concept of fee simple ownership remains the basic way American law discusses the land Just as there was a fundamental conceptual difference between the Anishinaabeg and the Euro-Americans over the concept of land ownership there was also a fundamental difference over the process through which an agreement was to be reached For the Indians, the most fundamental issue was finding a way to stay in their homeland and retain its use. Continual western settlement by Euro-Americans created a crisis among Indians. Treaty negotiations were a tool that could be used by Indians to attempt to hold the land, delay settlement, or when faced with inevitable White immigration, protect the tribe insofar as possible from the consequences of settlement. For the United States government treaties in the Great Lakes region had two goals. Prior to 1815 the basic objective was to maintain the peace. At a minimum treaties sought to assure the Indian tribes neutrality in the ongoing rivalry between the Americans in the Old Northwest Territory and the British in Canada. For a brief period Indian tribes were able to play off American and British interests in order to obtain favorable agreements. However, with the conclusion of the War of 1812 the Indians’ ability to play the British against the Americans all but vanished. In this new environment treaties were transformed from a mechanism to maintain peace to a means through which to obtain the land. Government negotiators sought to “extinguish” such claims as the Indians might have to the land. This action prepared the way for the entry of white settlers into a particular area and the legal and orderly transfer of land ownership, as Euro-Americans understood this process, from the government to settlers. In general the negotiations held between Indians and the United States government were not conducted on a level playing field. The most obvious difference was that negotiations frequently followed a military defeat of the Indians or took place within a framework in which the Indians understood that, if necessary, the United States government would resort to military force. For example, The Battle of Fallen Timbers, which occurred in northern Ohio in 1794 represented a major military setback for the Indian tribes of the Great Lakes. It preceded and set the tone for the Treaty of Fort Greenville in 1795

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


king james

King James IV (1473-1513) and the European Muurs – Jide Uwechia King James IV (1473-1513) and the European Muurs – by Jide Uwechia King James IV of Scotland came to the throne in 1488. He was an able

the constitution

The Constitution came from our ancient laws and Hebrew laws, the Iroquois Confederacy also known as the Continental Congress. The Moors was the majority in all those groups, including the Union. Co


Post: Blog2 Post
bottom of page