Indian Perspectives

This site highlights published research by both Native and non-Native scholars. But Native people without academic standing as professional historians also have reflected on and told their own history and they continue to do so in oral history; memoirs; newspaper articles; novels, short stories, plays, and poetry; and more.

What do Native people in the Midwest think about the moundbuilder sites? Many of the sites have interpretive centers, museums, and public programs in which Native people are involved. For example, at Angel Mound in Indiana, in the summer Native people from the region organize and participate in a reconstructed village where they demonstrate various skills and interact with the public while providing information and perspective on aspects of their history and culture.

Native people also have expressed their views in oral history projects. Interviews done by the Ohio State University Newark Earthworks Center’s Oral History Project generally reveal that Native people today feel a sense of awe and respect for these sites, which they consider sacred and that they regard these sites as part of their heritage. For example, these are some comments by Mark Welsh, from the Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio.

“The 18.6 year moonrise cycle marked by the Octagon Mound is much more than marking the passage of the moon. The 18.6 year cycle is equivalent to an entire generation. It requires one to learn from the elders. It requires sharing and teaching with the children. It requires one to understand our interrelationship with all of God’s creation. I believe that the ancient ones with God’s intervention have left us a roadmap that will help us to regain our Spiritual center and help us to avert future global disasters.”

Native peoples’ understanding of their history is bolstered by stories handed down from generation to generation.

LISTEN TO THE HO-CHUNKS DISCUSS THE MEANING OF THE EFFIGY MOUNDS ON THEIR LAND. Help

7:08 mi.

Video Transcript

LISTEN TO THE OJIBWA STORY OF HOW THEY ENTERED THE MIDWEST. Help

2:52 mi.

Video Transcript

Native people also were interviewed about their perspectives on contemporary events. For example, Black Hawk told the interpreter Antoine LeClaire about the conditions that led to the “Black Hawk War.”

READ BLACK HAWK’S VIEWS (in bold):

“Our people were treated badly by the whites on many occasions. At one time, a white man hurt one of our women cruelly, for pulling a few suckers of corn out of his field, to suck, when hungry!” Black Hawk could not understand why the kindness that the Sauk had shown the Americans was not reciprocated. He went on to explain, “I was resolved to remain in my village, and make no resistance, if the military came, but to submit to my fate…. Our women had planted a few patches of corn, which was growing finely, and promised a subsistence for our children—but the white people again commenced ploughing it up!” The Sauk chiefs tried to negotiate, but the United States officials would not budge. Black Hawk recalled, “I was not much displeased with the answer brought by the war chief, because I would rather have laid my bones with my forefathers, than remove for any consideration. Yet if a friendly offer had been made, as I expected, I would, for the sake of my women and children, have removed peacefully.” Black Hawk as a war leader was inclined to fight, but as a leader of a village, he had hoped that the United States would allow his village to remain and live in peace with Americans, trading and working for hire as they had done from the time the first Europeans arrived. From Donald Jackson, ed. Autobiography of Black Hawk, 1990, pp. 102, 109-12.

Charles Round Low Cloud (1872-1949), a Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) from the Black River Falls settlement, wrote a newspaper column in the Black River Falls Banner-Journal, in which he provided his perspective on contemporary events. During World War II, he made it a point to highlight the contributions of the Ho-Chunk.

WHAT WERE CHARLES ROUND CLOUD’S VIEWS? (In bold)

October 16, 1940. As we understand, that some boys are going to volunteer in army, defense of the coast . . . . This is all real Americans Indians will defense all their own country. They are not immigrants.

November 4, 1942. The rationing of coffee, tea, sugar and meat. The Indians don’t mind the rationing because the woods are full of tea and meat . . . . When meat rationing comes around the red man will be happy because his meat is in the woods.

January 13, 1943. One our soldier boy was wounded in action, William White Bear at New Guinea, and another boy was missing, George Green has been kill or capture. These two boys volunteer early part this second world war. They are helping United States army, and at the same way when they fought confederate and union. Help the Union, and the same when 1861-3 fought out west Indians and same way 1917-18 at first world war and several wounded and some killed and some poison gas after they come home, and Winnebago tribe always help the United States army.

March 28, 1945. The Indians during war time they are always keep them in front line, and then when they come back, sit in the back seat, and every Indians told me to write these kind stories. In William Leslie Clark and Walker D. Wyman, ed. Charles Round Low Cloud: Voice of the Winnebago, 1973, pp. 77-87.

Today most tribes in the Great Lakes region have tribal newspapers that continue to provide perspective on events. Native writers also use poetry, short stories, plays, and novels to reflect on the Native experience. In the 19th century, Simon Pokagon wrote a novel about his Potawatomi people (Queen of the Woods, 1890) and Andrew J. Blackbird wrote about his people (History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan, 1887). Ojibwa writer William W. Warren based his history of the Ojibwa on oral history (History of the Ojibwa People, 1885). Charles Eastman (Dakota) was a popular writer in the early 20th century. Ignatia Broker (White Earth Chippewa) wrote Night Flying Woman (1983), which is largely autobiographical. Here is a brief excerpt (in bold) about her life in Minneapolis.

I got off the city bus and walked the short one-and-a-half blocks home as I have been doing for years around five o’clock each evening. Because this evening was warm, I walked slower than usual, enjoying the look and feel of the early spring. The earth that had been white was now brown, left uncovered by the melting snow. This brown was turning to green and the air was fragrant with the opening of spring. . . . I reached my doorstep and sat enjoying the good day and remembering the past. It was funny, really, when I think about it. That day thirty years ago when we moved here, me and my children, we were the aliens looking for a place to fit in, looking for a chance of a new life, moving in among these people, some of whose ‘forefathers’ had displaced my ancestors for the same reason: looking for a new life. Their fathers were the aliens then, and now they the children, are in possession of this land. . . .Thirty years in this neighborhood. My children went to school from here, they went to church from here, they were married from here and even though they are in faraway places they seem to have their roots here, for they had lived no other place while growing up. . . . I came to the Twin Cities in the year 1941 . . .. I remember living in a room with six others. . . . We sometimes shared our one room with others who had no place. . . . As long as our landlady did not mind, we helped and gave a place of rest to other Ojibway people. . . .Our paydays were on different days and so whoever had money lent carfare and bought meat and vegetables.

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