Contested Futures: Anishinaabeg and American Societies in the Great Lakes, 1790-1840

Lantz, Katie, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Taylor, Alan, Department of History, University of Virginia

This essay explores the rival narratives of the Anishinaabeg told by Indian Agent Henry Schoolcraft and the American-born Anishinaabe hunter John Tanner. The two men lived as neighbors in the Michigan Territory town of Sault Ste. Marie during the 1820s. Schoolcraft believed that Native societies would—and should—disappear. By contrast, Tanner believed in the long-term viability of Anishinaabeg culture. Born to an American family, he became a captive while a child, and grew up to embrace his identity as an Anishinaabe hunter. Tanner scorned American society as individualistic and greedy, and opposed Schoolcraft’s push to assimilate natives. Tanner believed that the Anishinaabeg would thrive if Americans ceased to meddle in their affairs. But his narrative clashed with Americans’ expansionist ambitions, and his refusal to integrate into American culture alienated him from his neighbors at Sault Ste. Marie. Schoolcraft crafted his narrative of Anishinaabeg decline to promote his own ascent in American society, while Tanner’s insistence on Anishinaabeg vitality left him marginalized on its lowest rung.

MA (Master of Arts)
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