The Central Upper Peninsula’s Native Americans – Part Three

DALL·E 2023-12-27 17.46.55 - A wide-format image featuring Native American Ojibwe canoes. The image should beautifully illustrate traditional Ojibwe canoes on a serene lake or riv

“Rural Voices” shares cultural, educational, economic and artistic views of people who have lived and thrived in the Upper Peninsula. Each of our authors in Rural Voices may be living here in the U.P. or living someplace around the globe, but the U.P. is an important part of who they are and what their beliefs and values are today. Rural Voices wants to share the voices of our neighbors and friends about life and experiences in the UP. 

The following is the third and final part of our three-part series featuring local historian Russell Magnaghi’s piece “The Central Upper Peninsula’s Native Americans.”

As we have seen, there was a Native community at the mouth of the Carp River and another near the Chocolay River farther to the south. Neither seems to have been very large as the main Ojibwa community was on Grand Island. In the city of Marquette there was a community at Lighthouse Point at the end of Ridge Street and another in the vicinity of Presque Isle.

The fourth community was located in south Marquette in a delightful environment between Whetstone and Orianna Creeks along Lake Superior bound on the west by South Front Street/US-41. A mile in the hills to the west were their maple groves or orchards. Here the community lived in log cabins and traditional bark lodges.

A German visitor, Friedrich Karl Koch (1799-1852) visited Marquette in early August 1850. It is interesting to get his perspective of the Native community. He reported that it looked like a camp of European gypsies/Romani. This community remained intact until the early 1880s when the Detroit, Mackinac & Marquette developed in Marquette and later merged with the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railroad. They needed land for a rail yard, drove the Native American away, filled the land with 20 feet of rubble, and laid their track. Today below the surface are the remains of the Ojibwa village, which has been left untouched. 

We can trace the Ojibwe community in Chocolay Township and Marquette through a small number of Indian and metis families. Names that appear in the censuses include: Cadotte, Cameron, Coffman, Durand, Johnston, Kantway, Kawbawgam, Lettusier, Mangoose, Nolan, Pereau, Perew, and Tibbo. In 1900 there were twenty-nine Indians in Chocolay Township and this number remained constant through the years. There might have been more Native People but we cannot rely on the accuracy of the census takers and there might have been more Native People who merely identified themselves as French Canadians or “born in Michigan.”

Through the years Native Americans went from traditional to non-traditional occupations. At first even when they worked for white employers they were working out of doors where they knew the environment. In 1850 the deputy postmaster, Amos Harlow of Marquette employed Jimmeca to carry mail to L’Anse during the winter at the rate of ten dollars per trip. Later, Native mail carriers and Peter White traveled over the Native Carp River trail to Flat Rock/Escanaba, went farther south and returned with bushel loads of mail from Green Bay.

At Marquette there were a number of white fishing companies and they found that they could hire skilled Native fishermen. The employers paid them in netting material. This allowed them to continue traditional net making and in their free time they could fish for themselves. They sold the surplus whitefish and lake trout from door to door thus blend traditional and non-traditional lives.

In 1860 and into 1880 most of the Native heads’ of families were hunting, fishing, and trapping. As the decades passed this changed. By the end of the century some older adults were living on rations but the younger man were laborers in the woods, at the Pioneer Iron Company and as day laborers; others did odd jobs, were teamsters at saw mills, and did street work in Marquette. A few had skilled positions as carpenter, tailor, and lathe maker in sawmill.40

These Native People found new homes in north Marquette near Presque Isle. They were isolated from the community by dense forests and the Dead River delta and the only way to approach Presque Isle was by boat. Once Presque Isle Avenue went through the White population looked down upon the community as will be seen.

Native women played the biggest role in maintaining traditional work styles. Blueberries and maple sugar two important foods in the Ojibwe diet now became items for sale door-to-door in Marquette. In 1878 during the blueberry season, a considerable number of Native women and children gathered blueberries for commercial shippers who operated out of Ishpeming and shipped to Chicago.

Moccasins were also made sold both from house to house and through shops in Marquette. In 1900 Jane was making baskets along with two daughters, another making snowshoes and a neighbor Mary Parrow was also making baskets. As late as the spring of 1920 eighty-year old Jane Madosh was weaving baskets along with sixty-year old Anne Johnston.41

This continued until the road was developed by 1854 using the Native trail south. Later the Chicago & Northwestern Railway was built to the east of the route of the Native trail. Throughout the United States most major highways follow Native trails and routes as this one did with the railroad and M-35.42

The Native population found employment throughout Marquette. Men found jobs as stevedores loading and unloading ships. In 1864 Ojibwas and metis packers assisted the survey of the Marquette & Ontonagon Railway west of the city. The timber cruiser, John M. Longyear in the 1870s and 1880s hired Native men as packers as he searched the land for the best trees to sell.

In October 1877, Henri St. Arnauld, a metis traveled with Longyear from Marquette to the Crystal Falls area. “During the trip St. Arnauld one day showed his wonderful endurance and strength.He carried a pack weighing 85 pounds from noon until 4:00 p.m. without stopping, through the deep woods, some of it rough traveling.” There is no evidence that they became miners but some of Native American worked in foundries; others worked as teamsters, lathe-men, and laborers in sawmills.

Although a record does not remain, it is very likely that during Kawbawgam’s life time at Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette the two leaders Kawbawgam and Father, later Bishop Frederic Baraga met. Baraga spoke fluent Ojibwa and Kawbawgam was his parishioner. This would have continued in Marquette where Baraga visited, conducted services and met with parishioners and after 1864 permanently resided there.

From 1860 through 1900 we have the career of Charles Kawbawgam to review. In 1860 he and his family lived in Marquette Township where he hunted and fished with a personal estate valued at $40. A decade later they were living in Chocolay Township where he was a farmer and one of his boarders was his brother-in-law, Jacque Le Pique, a trapper. It is interesting to note that in the 1899 Marquette city directory, Kawbawgam is listed under “occupation” as “Chippewa chief.” 

At the North Marquette Addition in 1900 there were twenty Native Americans living there including Charles and Charlotte Kawbawgam, the branches of the Madosh family and members of the Parrow family. The men were hired as laborers (9), lumber work (1) and a tailor. Three of the women were basket makers and one was making snowshoes.

Around 1882 when Kawbawgam was 82, Peter White and Alfred Kiddder built the Kawbawgams a home on the south side of Presque Isle and they were provided for by Marquette County and Peter White. One of the Whiteman’s diseases that the Native Americans feared – typhoid – brought an end to Kawbawgam. He was a patient in St. Mary’s Hospital, located on the northeast corner of Rock and South Fourth Streets, for several months before he succumbed on December 28, 1902 at 2:00 p.m. 

Peter White made the arrangements for his funeral. The proper clothes were provide along with a fine coffin. Being “a faithful member of the Catholic church, for a great many years” he was buried from St. Peter Cathedral at 9:15 on Wednesday morning December 31, 1902. A solemn high Mass was said for him, which was well attended.

At the completion of the Mass the splendid funerary cortege moved down Baraga Avenue (then Superior Street) to Front Street. Here a train of streetcars took the body to Presque Isle where he was buried on the bluff overlooking his beloved Lake Superior. Father Joseph G. Pinton (pastor 1899-1915) blessed the grave site and conducted the burial ceremony and a splendid funerary cortege brought his body to Presque Isle where he was buried overlooking Lake Superior. Charlotte died two years later in 1904. 

The St. Peter funeral record has a surprising detailed entry, which honors Kawbawgam and is Catholic recognition of the man. It gave recognition to his status: “He is the last chief of Sault Chippewa Band between Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie.” It also noted that he was the son of Shau-wau-no-nodin (South Wind).43

The Native arts and crafts were maintained and found a market. In 1869 the general merchandise proprietor, M. Meads was selling “Indian curiosities, India Tanned Deer Skin, Indian Photographs.” Six years later it was noted that besides carrying out his regular duties, the Marquette postmaster was selling Native American curios and other articles as a sideline. He offered these articles “ . . . to visitors who were anxious to carry souvenirs back home with them to exhibit as testimonials that they had been in the wilds of Marquette and vicinity.”

Moccasins were sold from door to door. Some Native scholars have noted that although these “curiosities” were made as souvenirs the demand kept these traditional crafts alive among the Native population. As we shall see some of the women continued to weave baskets and make snowshoes into the 1920s.

Homer H. Kidder conducted the first and only Native stories from the area by interviewing Charles and Charlotte Kawbawgam and Jacques Le Pique. The resulting collection of fifty-two narratives present a fresh view of an early period of Ojibwa thought and ways of life along the shore of Lake Superior. As we have seen by the late nineteenth century, typical Ojibwa life had been disrupted by the influx of white developers. These tales reflect a nostalgic view of an earlier period when the heart of Ojibwa semi-nomadic culture remained intact.44

Spiritually, some of these Native Americans continued to practice their traditional religion. However others became Catholics through the early efforts of the Jesuit missionaries and later by nineteenth priests at St. Mary church at the Sault. Their faith followed them to Marquette where a number of them were buried at the Old Catholic Cemetery on Pioneer Road and later at Holy Cross Cemetery.

Peter Q. White (1830-1907) was a founder of Marquette, banker, businessman, real estate developer and philanthropist and a person you would think would have little time for Native Americans. However as a teenager, Peter White learned both French and Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) and worked with Natives bringing in the mail during the winter. With this linguistic facility he was sent on a number of missions to deal with delicate problems, as he was the only person of his stature to speak Anishinaabe.

On a number of occasions Natives sent out to rescue him and saved him from a frozen winter death. Charles Kawbawgam first met Peter While when he arrived in Marquette and the two men remained close friends over the years. In a thankful gesture he provided the Kawbawgam family with a home on Presque Isle and contributed to their well-being. Newspaper accounts reported that soon after Kawbawgam’s death Peter White signed a contract with the Italian-American sculptor out of Milwaukee, Gaetano Trentanove (1858-1937) to sculpt a bronze statue of Kawbawgam to be placed in Presque Isle Park over his gravesite.

A fund raising drive was undertaken but the necessary monies were never realized. As a result instead of the statue a large granite boulder found in Lake Superior was raised, inscribed and placed on the site in 1912. This was a more meaningful memorial to the man and his wife than an elaborate statue. The Marquette National Bank created a special medal honoring Kawbawgam for sale.

In Peter White’s papers in the University of Michigan’s Bentley Library is a note where White declared his concern that Native Americans, both in Michigan and nationally, had been poorly treated by the government and businessmen during the course of American history. This is a rare acknowledgment by non-Native businessmen of his stature in the nineteenth century.45

The first orphanage in the Upper Peninsula for Native American and parentless children was built in Marquette in the 1870s. Then in 1881 a Catholic home named after St. Joseph was opened in Assinins. By 1903, the two orphanages were overfilled. Bishop Frederick Eis, bishop of the Sault Ste. Marie-Marquette Catholic diocese raised funds and a new and the biggest orphanage in the region opened in 1915. Originally it was intended to serve white children, but some of the first residents included sixty Native American children transferred from the Catholic home in Assinins.

Exact numbers are difficult to come by, however in all of America’s wars Native Americans served. At the outbreak of the Civil War Company C of the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters was organized to be commanded by Colonel Charles V. Deland. Numerous Ojibwa from Grand Island, L’Anse, Sugar Island enlisted. The Sharpshooters received national acclaim for gallantry in action at: Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Spotsylvania, The Crater and Petersburg. Although George Madosh (1824-1926) eventually lived in Marquette he joined a Michigan regiment out of Sault Ste. Marie in 1861 and served as an army scout with the U.S. Army.46 Marquette Native Americans also served in the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unfortunately the ugly head of prejudice was raised, which cannot be found in records but is learned through stories. We have seen how the railroad removed the Native Americans from south Marquette and were forced to relocate to the North Marquette Addition which was bound by Hawley Street to the north, Presque Isle Avenue on the east, Wrights Street to the south and Wilkinson Street and swamp to the west. In 1910 the census taker did not have streets for residences and merely listed “no street” and “outskirts of the city.” 

Here the children attended a segregated school, which is now part of the St. Vincent de Paul complex. In the early 1960s the Federal government came close to bringing the Marquette Public School Board to court to force them to close the segregated school. Simultaneously to this action the School Board was in the process of closing the school and incorporated the Native children  into the city schools. Many streets in the North Addition remained unpaved until around 2010 when they were probably the last streets in Marquette to be paved.47

One story was recounted that in the 1940s a Native woman was attending Northern Michigan University, She remembered standing in a cafeteria line and a male student telling the other students to let “the squaw go through the line.” A very liberal professor at Northern Michigan University Robert McClellan recounted a story. In the 1990s a Native fishermen had to dock his boat in Big Bay and drive the 30 miles to it from Marquette. A spot opened at the Marquette Yacht Club, north of the ore dock and the club took his fee and let him dock close to home. Suddenly an anonymous letter arrived warning the club that if the let the Indian dock his boat there the club would be physically damaged. They decided to return the fee and the Native fisherman had to make the trip to his boat in Big Bay. These are tiny collections of stories that could be expanded by interviewing Native People.

Northern Michigan University led the way to bring the Native American heritage into the academic orb. In the past a small number of Native Americans were enrolled but they met with prejudice. Native speakers were invited to campus and talked to the weekly assembly or at public lectures. For instance, in January 1936, Charles Eagle Plume came to Northern and presented a program titled, “Making Medicine,” in which he interpreted Native life through song and dance. Unfortunately, there is little information available about the early days.

Jim Carter, who was in the Office of Research and Development, was interested in developing a special Indian culture and education program. 

Jim Carter, who was in the Office of Research and Development, was interested in developing a special Indian culture and education program. Carter wrote to Senator Robert P. Griffith in 1970 concerning the development of an Indian educational program geared to the Indian cultural heritage, interests and abilities, “rather than force them into our educational mold.” The concept was discussed with a number of faculty members who were interested in the project and the idea of a Center for Chippewa Education or a Chippewa Studies Center emerged.

The three basic courses would be: native language, folklore, history and anthropology. A possible fourth concentration would be in the arts and crafts. On June 29, 1970, there was an important meeting with the NMU Chippewa Education and Culture Program Committee and the Michigan Inter-Tribal Councils (MIC). The latter group represented all the tribes. Many Native Americans from all over the state attended. 

By the fall of 1971, there were twenty-three Native students on campus. By 1977, there were forty-six students enrolled in the Native American Program. Northern received a grant of $50,000 for training fifty Native Americans in office occupations in what was called the American Indian Management Training Project. During the decade ending in 1990, the average number of Native students on campus was 136.

As time passed, there were a number of developments in this area. At first, Carter was director as part of his R&D duties until Robert Bailey arrived. The Office of American Indian Programs was created, and Bailey became director (1972-1979). Over the years this position was gradually incorporated into the Diversity Programs and the directorship changed. Rosemary Gemill Suardini, 1979-1981; Nancie Hatch, 1981-1995; Rose Allard, 1995-1997; and Michael Teesdale-Sherman, 1997-1998 served in various leadership roles.

Special courses in anthropology were developed by Dr. Marla Buckmaster and in history by Dr. Russell Magnaghi. Soon after, a Native American Studies Program was developed on paper, but was not approved. 

Between 1971 and 1983, Carter and the Native students developed the very successful Nishnawbe News (See). There were a variety of cultural programs and lectures presented on campus. “Indian Awareness Week” which began in 1971 was held annually and speakers and programs were featured. Later, there were lectures by Native American speakers funded through the Martin Luther King, Jr.- César Chávez-Rosa Parks lecture series. Seminars, workshops and courses were also presented on reservations in the Upper Peninsula. On a number of occasions, several Native Americans were awarded honorary degrees from Northern: Beatrice Medicine (Humane Letters, 8/79), Vine Deloria, Jr. (Humanities, 5/1991) and LaDonna Harris (Humanities, 4/1994). The last two individuals were commencement speakers.

It was not until 1991 that Dr. Melissa Hearn began to discuss the possibility of having a Center for Native American Studies. The Center was developed on paper and was housed in the English Department where Hearn, and later Dr. Lillian Heldreth, were faculty, taught in the program and directed two advisory boards. An interdisciplinary Native American Studies minor was established. In 1993, the Center received a $100,000 grant from the Phillip Morris Foundation for three years. The Center for Native American Studies, which had informally existed in the past, was officially approved by the Board of Control on December 13, 1996.

By 1996, the following courses had been developed centered around Native American topics: AD 200 Native American Art and Architecture of the Great Lakes, AN 320 Native People of North America, AN 330 Indians of the Western Great Lakes, EN 314 Traditional Oral Literatures: Selected Native American Cultures, EN 315 Native American Literature: 20th Century, HS 233 Native American History, HS 334 Latin American Indian History, MU 325 World Music (with a Native American focus, OJ 101-12 Elementary Ojibwa Language, and UN 204 Native American Experience. In Nursing, Cheryl Reynolds Turton focuses her studies on Native Americans and health care. 

Although Native American people had directed the Office of American Indian Programs on campus, they had never been hired as tenure-earning faculty.  The first full-time Native American faculty member was Don Chosa (Keweenaw Bay Indian Community) hired in 1993 to teach Anishinaabemowin followed closely by Dr. James Spresser (Keweenaw Bay Indian Community), Department of English, 1994-1996.  He was followed by Dr. Dennis Tibbetts (Wind River Shoshone/White Earth Anishinaabe), named the first Director of the Center for Native American Studies, School of Education, Leadership and Public Service, 1996-2000.

During Dr. Tibbets’ time at NMU, began the tradition of a “Moccasin Blessing” in the fall of 1996.  The gathering’s purpose was to introduce students to administration, faculty and staff who worked at the CNAS.  President Bailey had also started at NMU in 1996.  The CNAS presented her with a Pendleton blanket.  The Moccasin Blessing was also designed to start the academic year off in a “good way” specifically for new Native students.

Tibbetts also worked to create the first “Academy of Distinction” ceremony to recognize the efforts of outstanding NMU Native American Alumni.  The first “Academy of Distinction” awards ceremony took place in the spring of 1997.  Following the first “Academy of Distinction” ceremony, the NMU Native American Alumni Association was formed.  The name of the group was Gekendaasijik or “Learned Ones.”  This group started to meet in the winter of 1999 with the first meeting consisting of the following members; Bill Boda, Lori Boulley, Shirley Brozzo, April Lindala and Tom Miller.

Student empowerment was extremely important to Dr. Tibbetts.  Under his direction, the CNAS sent students to several conferences.  Dr. Tibbetts also started the first Indian Law Day forum at NMU which was held in the winter of 1999.

Tibbetts also created the first Native American Admissions Counselor position in the fall of 1998.  The position was filled by NMU alumnus April Lindala (Six Nations Mohawk/Delaware.  Lindala represented the Center at college fairs and schools in Michgan, northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota.  During her time at the CNAS, Lindala also taught “Culture and Community of the Great Lakes Anishinaabe.”  Lindala was also the advisor to the Native American Student Association.

After Dr. Dennis Tibbetts resigned from his position in 2000 Liana Loonsfoot (Keweenaw Bay Indian Community) took over as the Interim Director of the Center until Martin Reinhardt (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa) was hired to fill the position in 2001 as the first full time director of the Center for Native American Studies.  One of Reinhardt’s first actions was to expand the NAS minor to include courses in Education, Tribal law and government, and a service learning component.

Dr. Reinhardt was instrumental in establishing a new outreach initiative for the center that focuses on working with tribal education departments, tribal schools, and Indian education programs at public schools to develop standards based on Native American Inclusion plans.  He also brought Anisinaabe News back in an internet only form.  Dr. Reinhardt left the position as Director in January 2005.  However, he continued to maintain connections by teaching on-line courses.

In 2002, Traci Maday (Bad River) was hired as the first Assistant Director for the Center.  This was made possible through collaboration between the Center and the NMY Charter Schools office.  Maday was a liaison between the Center, the Charter Schools office and the two tribal charter schools at Hannahville and Sault Ste. Marie.  With her background in education, she was vital to the continued growth and development of the Center’s outreach efforts on Native American Inclusion.  Ms. Maday left NMU in June 2005.

In August of 2003, the Center moved from Magers Hall to the newly renovated Whitman Building.  Included in the renovation was the creation of a fire site in the wooded area adjacent to the Whitman parking lot.  The fire site is intended for academic, ceremonial and cultural purposes.  In January 2005 April Lindala accepted the Interim Director position when Dr. Reinhardt relocated to Tempe, Arizona.

Throughout the years, several contingent faculty have served the CNAS including Shirley Brozzo (Keweenaw Bay Indian Community), Grace Challier (Rosebud Sioux), Louis Councillor (Rainy River Ojibwe), Aimee Cree Dunn (Metis), Violet Friisvall (Keweenaw Bay Indian Community), Jon Magnuson, Leann Miller (Oneida), Penny Olson (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa), and Helen Roy (Ojibwe).

The CNAS Advisory Board created the Faculty Affairs Committee, made up of full-time faculty from various departments at NMU in the fall of 2005.  The Faculty Affairs Committee was designed to serve as a department’s executive committee.  Since the Center was not an Academic Department, it was necessary to add such a component to the already existing CNAS Advisory Board.

Since 2005, the Anishinaabe News has returned as a student-run paper and offered in a print format with additional availability through the internet.

In May 2007, it was announced that April Lindala would serve the Center as the permanent Director.  In Fall of 2007, Dr. Adriana Greci Green and Ken Pitawanakwat (Odawa) joined the full-time faculty at the Center for Native American Studies both having three-year term appointments.

Former NMU student and current chairperson of the Chippewa Indian Tribe of Sault Ste. Marie, Aaron Payment has been appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education.  He earned a B.S. in sociology and a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from NMU.  During his time at NMU, Payment worked as a dean’s assistant in the Dean of Students’ office and as minority retention corrdinator at NMU from 1989-90.  He helped to start the Initial Retention Program on campus and was an academic student advisor for Alpha Kappa Phi.        

Under Ms. Lindala’s direction, Native American Studies has introduced several new courses such as “Kinomaage:  Earth Shows Us the Way,” Indigenous Environmental Movements,” “Native Cultures the Dynamics of the Religious Experience,” “Michigan/Wisconsin:  Tribes Treaties and Current Issues,” “History of Indian Boarding School Education,” “American Indians:  Identify and Media Images,” and “Issues of the Representations of American Indians”.  

The Native American Studies major was created, and effective Fall 2016. Marquette’s bar scene will play host to another “Science on Tap,” a monthly event that allows university and community members to come together and learn something new over a cold brew.  The theme for November 9 (2017) was:  “The Spirit of Science in American Indian Education”. There are many similarities between quantum physics and how American Indians think about spirituality. A person has to think about the core value of speciality from an American Indian thought process that incorporates scientific method and the pursuit of knowledge.  The event brings together a core group of participants but also welcomes new faces.

The “First Nations Food Taster” put on by the Native American Student Association of Northern Michigan University (NASA) brings diversity to the community and people can try Indigenous foods to this area and learn about the culture at the same time. The foods and recipes provided offer multiple health benefits.  These foods are also a great and popular choice because many of the recipes offered are gluten free, as well as vegan and vegetarian.

Northern received a nearly $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to launch a two-year pilot project designed to increase the number of American Indian and Alaska Native female college students, particularly in STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Two aspects of the program that will bring in new students:  Training Native American teachers to teach STEM subjects and  educating Native American high school students about STEM fields. 

Student Kayla Bell was selected as a Full Circle Fellow as part of the Sundance Film Festival’s Native Program. Kayla, an English major and Native American Studies minor, was in Park City, Utah, during the Festival to attend screenings, participated in film discussion and workshops, as well as to network with leader of the indigenous film community.  As a Full Circle Fellow, she will also participate in an internship in New Mexico and make a visit to Los Angeles to tour film studies and connect with others in the film industry. A $450,000 grant over three years from the Department of Justice, Office of Victims of Services  for the purpose of increasing Native American studies within the social work curriculum, developing recruitment and retention strategies of professional with the necessary expertise to serve tribal victim service programs in rural areas and increasing the number of American Indian university graduates, specifically in the social work fields. 

When Drs. Michael Loukinen, Russell Magnaghi, and Elda Tate retired in 2014, the Center honored them for their work over the years in film, history and music related to the  Native American experience. Several years earlier the Center had honored Jim Carter. (NCN 01/06/1936)(Revisions by Reinhardt and Lindala, 2003 and further revision by Lindala 2006-2009; NW 9/10/15; BM 12/15/17).48

The  Anishinaabe News, or Nishnawbe News  as it was then known, was first published by Northern Michigan University in July 1971. This first issue was only a four-page paper in tabloid form with a circulation of around 3,000. The newspaper quickly grew in size and readership. After only four issues, Nishnawbe News expanded to twelve pages using the common newspaper broadsheet form. It quickly gained the reputation of being one of the leading Native-American-run newspapers in the country, and its circulation eventually grew to more than 8,000, with issues sent worldwide.

The idea for the newspaper had origins in a meeting held in Zeba, Mich., a small tribal community on the southeastern shore of Keweenaw Bay, in the summer of 1970. At the time, a committee from NMU, led by Jim Carter, met there with the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, which included tribal officials from all over the state. Among other things, the ITCM recommended a Native-American-run newspaper because they felt that the non-Native press was very biased then.

Upon returning to NMU, Jim Carter, who worked in NMU’s office of research and development and served as the original director of Native American programs, struggled to find funding for this newspaper. Eventually NMU president John X. Jamrich gave a $10,000 grant to students to fund the first year of the newspaper’s production. This would be one of many contributions President Jamrich would make toward promoting Native American programs. During his tenure, NMU would gain a reputation for being one of the top schools in the country for Native American culture, with Native American enrollment doubling over a six-year period.

On April 19, 1977, six members of the Organization of North American Indian Students met to form the initial staff for the paper. They included Michael Wright, the newspaper’s founding editor, Cheryl King, who would publish a book of Ojibwa legends in 1972, and Robert Van Alstine, who would go on to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. These original staff members worked hard to produce a product serving Native American communities that continues with Anishinaabe News today. Student staff never shied away from controversial topics while also focusing on poetry and Native American heritage.

In just two years, Nishnawbe News would grow into the second largest Indian publication in North America, receiving national acclaim in publications like The New York Times and Time magazine. Still, despite the paper’s success, funding remained a constant problem. Again, Jim Carter sent out letters in hope of finding funding. He wrote to senators and congressmen, even U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew. Every avenue, big and small, was explored to keep the paper going. Throughout Nishnawbe News’s history, grant money came from a variety of sources.

From start to finish, the newspaper was a complete student effort, with Native American students doing all of the writing, editing, reporting and layout. Carter served as an advisor on the newspaper production. Students appreciated his time and efforts, and he was recognized with multiple awards for this service. One thing Jim always wanted to make clear was that he gained more from these students than he gave.

The original version of the newspaper would stay in publication until October 1983, when sharp cutbacks in higher education funding forced Nishnawbe News to publish its last edition.

When Dr. Martin Reinhardt was the Center for Native American Studies director, he brought Anishinaabe News back to life in 2002 as an online offering. The current CNAS director, April Lindala, pushed for a hard copy version and the newsletter we know now is entering its 9th year of publication. It is with the spirit of these founding members that we will continue to publish Anishinaabe News for as long as we can. Adapted from “The Beginning of Nish News,” by Gabe Waskiewicz from Anishinaabe News, Volume 9, Issue 1, October 2013 and NW 10/06/1983.

During the 1970s the question of Indian fishing rights was a prominent question appearing on television, in newspapers and daily conversation. The 1976 landmark case, People vs. Le Blanc further protected tribal fishing and hunting rights based on the treaty of 1836.  This decision impacted Native Americans in Marquette. However there was animosity among white sports fishermen in Marquette and elsewhere. Some pointed out to the author that Indians deliberately over-fished and then left dead and rotting fish on the shore to antagonize white sport fishermen. Fortunately since that time sports fishermen have come to understand that the Ojibwe gave up millions of acres of lands and in return were given fishing and hunting rights.

The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission in November 1989 advertised on Marquette television. Sue Erickson, the commission’s public information director stated, “It’s directed at asking people to stop and think about what bitterness and conflict do between races. It was a result of a lot of racism that has been leveled at the tribal population as they exercised their treaty rights here in Wisconsin” and in the Upper Peninsula as well. This particular racism arose over treaty fishing rights.49

In the closing year of the twentieth century there was growing interest in Native concerns by White and Native Peoples. In the spring of 1992, Glen Bressette led a movement to gain federal tribal recognition for the Marquette Native community. This was considered a difficult proposal.50

Fourteen years later Don Chosa, an instructor at Northern Michigan University developed a program to re-introduce wild rice to local streams and lakes. The damming of rivers and excessive logging had destroyed wild rice habitat. He was working on a three-year program for the reintroduction of this traditional food.51

The question of the insensitive Indian mascot – Redman and Redettes – at Marquette High School has been an ongoing issue since at least the 1990s within the larger community with individuals taking hard positions on both sides. 

The history of the mascot goes back to 1920 when Willard M. Whitmore, a Harvard graduate was hired. Harvard’s color is crimson and it seems that the school took on the color. In the early 1930s Marquette’s sport teams became known as the “Redmen.”  Student athletes wore sweaters with a large block “M” with the school colors that had changed from crimson to red. During the Depression the Work’s Progress Administration (WPA) designed a Native American logo for Gogebic county signs with a Native American chief in Plain’s headdress! It appeared to represent the Redmen and it became the high school’s mascot. At that time there was no sensitivity to Native Americans and thus there was no issue.52

By the 1990s the issue of insensitivity came forth and the community polarized around it. Since around 2009 the logo with Native American in headdress was phased out and the block letter, “M” replaced it but the name remained. The mascot issued returned in late 2019. In November Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) president, Chris Swartz brought up the matter in the KBIC newsletter:

I have always said, ‘Every Indian child should have the ability to receive quality education as everyone else. When there are these racist and mascot issues in the schools, the people tend to crawl into a little shell; we have all been there

He noted that there are funds available through the Native American Heritage Funds that have been successfully used in removing some mascots in Michigan. Furthermore at the October 21 board meeting Swartz indicated that was important to put timelines on removing the nickname and mascot.53

The effect of the use of the mascot is summed up by Native student, Anna Wheeler in a letter to the Mining Journal. On October she arrived at school excited to participate in homecoming activities. However some of her classmates decided to create their own senior shirts with the Native American icon wearing a headdress. School spirit drained from her. As she wrote:

I feel discriminated against because I shouldn’t have to walk down a hallway and see my ancestor’s face on a shirt worn by a student that doesn’t even want to understand our culture and how important the headdress is,” Wheeler wrote. “If someone can wear war paint and wear shirts that represent me, they should have to respect my decision to be offended by it.54

In early December, Megan Anderegg Malone a 1997 alumna of the school wrote, “the majority gets to decide what is offensive without regard for how those decisions affect marginalized populations.” She concluded her letter pointing out that those want to keep the mascot were on “the wrong side of history” and “the word has a dark history of discrimination, persecution and inequity that continues to this day. The Redman is akin to a Confederate flag in a Southern town; just because it is a part of our history doesn’t mean we have to continue to use it today.”

On behalf of the Justice and Peace Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan, church members, and other concerned citizens, Bishop Rt. Rev Rayford J. Ray sent a letter to the editor of the Mining Journal. He supported the change called for and ended with, “We hope the MSHS mascot and nicknames are changed soon as an first important step in educating one another about the history of the people whose lands we inhabit.”55

Dr. Joseph Lubig, chair of the Marquette Senior High School Nickname Research Committee recommended that the Marquette Public Schools discontinue the long-standing nickname Redmen and Redettes. The editor of the Mining Journal agreed with the Research Committee’s recommendation to drop the nickname and logo. However despite these statements and positions when a general public meeting was held local law enforcement decided that it would be wise to be on hand with uniformed and plain clothes officers, to see that trouble and possibly violence be avoided. This issue remains alive and polarizing at this writing.

In the contemporary world we have new views of the Native American community. By July 2018 of the 66,516 people living in Marquette County, 1,330 were Native People. They did not have their own tribal government but were connected to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) headquartered at Baraga, sixty miles northwest of Marquette. Originally known as the L’Anse Reservation it is the oldest and largest reservation in Michigan created by the treaty of 1854. Originally it was home to Native People at L’Anse and Ontonagon but today embraces Native people in Gogebic, Houghton, Keweenaw, Marquette, and Ontonagon counties in the western Upper Peninsula.

Its constitution, by-laws and corporate charter were adopted on November 7, 1936 pursuant to the terms of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act passed by Congress that re-established tribal governments as we know them today. Keweenaw Bay is one of the four original tribes in Michigan that founded the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan in 1966. It remains the most vital member since its creation.

Tribal government has fought for Native Americans to establish their fishing rights pursuant to the 1836 treaty in the 1970s. One of their own Fred Dakota, Baraga resident and local leader is the father of Native American casinos going back to 1982. Promoting the concept of tribal sovereignty he started in a UP garage and the rest of history.56

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community along with its Baraga casino, opened Ojibwa Casino Marquette in September 1994. It is located some fifteen miles east of Marquette in the suburb of Harvey off of M-28. It has grown from a small operation to a major expansion. On December 20, 2019 it had a soft opening of an expanded gambling facilities – 500 slot machines, a 1,200-seat amphitheater, a 400-seat convention space and expanded water facilities. In the next phase a hotel is planned. KBIC spent $34 million on the project. It should be added that the casino shares 2 percent of its gaming revenues with Chocolay Township.57

Historically as we have seen the Marquette Native American community of small villages extended to the Yellow Dog Plains. Since the development of the Eagle Mine (nickel) in that area, in 2002, the local community working through the KBIC has been concerned with the preservation of traditional native plants and food sources. In order to get answers to questions concerning this environment the Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP), the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and Superior Watershed Partnership are working in conjunction with Eagle Mine and the Community Foundation of Marquette to keep tabs on the environmental impacts of the mine including how it impacts traditional Native American food resources. KBIC has been signed into this compact in December.58

Today we find around Marquette County names of a river and two towns based on the Anishinaabe language. The Dead River in north Marquette is derived from Gaa-waakwimiigong-neyaashi-ziibi (recorded as “Kah way komi gong nay aw shay Sibi”), meaning “Peninsula by the Roads to the Land of the Dead River”) or Ne-waakwimiinaang (recorded as “Ne ko me non”) meaning “by the Peninsula for Road to the Land of the Dead”), both referencing its mouth being near Presque Isle Point, a cape on Lake Superior. Additionally, earlier maps record this river either in French as “Rivière des Morts“, “Rivière du Mort“, or “Rivière au Paresseux“, or in English as “Deadman’s River”. The current name for this river in Ojibwa is either Giiwe-gamigong-neyaashi-ziibi (Return-by-shore Peninsula River) or Niboowaagaming (“At the Death’s Shores”).

The name Negaunee comes from an Anishinabemowin word nigani, meaning “foremost, in advance, leading,” which was determined to be the closest Ojibwa translation for “pioneer”.   The name Ishpeming comes from the Anishinabemowin language ishpimingmeaning “on top” or “from above” or “upon high.” Ishpeming, in the Ojibwa dialect of the Anishinabemovin language, also means “Heaven”. A statue of a Native American figure has stood in the small town square since 1884 and is referred to as “Old Ish”. Although it commemorates Native Americans, it was nationally produced and found around the country.

Two last commemorations of the Kawbawgams remain to be highlighted. Soon after Charles Kawbawgam’s death the Marquette National Bank honored him with a medal. The gravesite of Charles and Charlotte is prominently marked in Presque Isle Park and is the only known commemoration of a Native leader in Upper Peninsula.


401880 Federal Census, Michigan, Marquette County, Chocolay, District 027, p 20; 1900 Federal Census, Michigan, Marquette County, Chocolay, District 105, pp. 19-20; 1910 Federal Census, Marquette County, Marquette Ward 5, District 0193, p. 57 and Chocolay, District 0173, p. 18; 1920 Federal Census, Michigan, Marquette County, Marquette, District 0238, p. 2.

411900 Federal Census, Michigan, Marquette County, Marquette Ward 8, District 0122, p. 16.

42Magnaghi. “On the Move: Traveling the Carp River Trail.” Michigan History (January-February 2020), 50-55.

43St. Peter Cathedral Parish Records, Marquette, Michigan, Funerary Journal, 1902.

44These tales are available: Homer H. Kidder, ed. Ojibwa Narratives of Charles and Charlotte Kawbawgam and Jacques Le Pique, 1893-1895. (Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 1994).

45Peter White Papers, Bentley Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

461890 Veterans Schedule Marquette, June 1890; Find A Grave, George Madosh.

47Interview with Russell M. Magnaghi, July 20, 2019 deposited at Central Upper Peninsula and University Archives, Northern Michigan University, Marquette.

48Magnaghi. A Sense of Time: The Encyclopedia of Northern Michigan University. Marquette: Northern Michigan University Press, 1999, pp. 290-291.

49Stateside’s conversations with Kathryn Tierney and Jacques Le Blanc, Jr. 05-30-2019. On-line -1-17-2020.

50Thomas BeVier. “Chippwas in Maquette Seek Recognition As a Tribe,” Detroit News 04-05-1992.

51Mining Journal 07-19-2006.

52The issue of the Marquette Senior High School mascots can be found in the following Mining Journal issues: 06-09-2013, 11-27-2017, 11-20-2019, 11-30-2019, 12-06-2019, 12-17-2019, 12-18-2019. An overview article on the large subject with a national score: John B. Rhode. “The Mascot Change Controversy: A Lesson in Hypersensitivity,” Marquette Sports Law Review 5:1 (Fall 1994): 141-160.

53Mining Journal 11-20-2019.

54Mining Journal 11-20-2019.

55Mining Journal 01-11-2020.

56Interview with Fred Dakota deposited in the Central Upper Peninsula and University Archives, Northern Michigan University, Marquette and Jeff Smith. “Fred Dakota Founded Native American Casinos – In a UP Garage,” Traverse (My North) (February 17, 2014).

57Lisa Bowers. “Place Your Bets, Ojibwa Casino Expansion to Open in December,” Mining Journal (August 26, 2019).

58Cecilia Brown. “KBIC Becomes Part of the Most Recent CEMP Agreement,” Mining Journal (January 13, 2020).

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Russell Magnaghi

Russell Magnaghi was born in San Francisco in the middle of World War II, but has lived in Michigan's Upper Peninsula since 1969. Magnaghi received his education at the University of San Francisco (BA 1965) and at St. Louis University (Ph.D. 1970). Magnaghi has had a 45-year teaching career at Northern Michigan University and also served as director of the Center for Upper Peninsula Studies. He has written many journal and newspaper articles and books and has given talks on local heritage and regional history.


  1. Sara Basso on November 2, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    Excellent series! Thank you.

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