Book Review of People of the Three FiresThe book, People of the Three Fires, is written by three different people each describing a tribe in detail.The book is very well written and relatively easy to understand. It is informative and was written to be used as a teaching tool for schools. The book discusses the relationship between the groups that lived in Michigan and surrounding areas. James M. McClurken writes the first section, which deals with the Ottawa people. McClurken tells about the Ottawa peoples relationship with the environment they lived in and how they adapted to change when contacted by Europeans.
One thing I found interesting about the Ottawa is their beliefs. The Ottawa believed in respect for the individual. Their leaders represented the people much like our elected officials represent us when a decision is needed for the whole of the country. They are in tune with nature and consider the earth and animals part of their family, addressing them with father, mother, brother, sister.
The Ottawas also amazed me at their ability to believe in the supernatural, the spirits that told what sickness a person has and the healing power of the firewalkers is a leap of faith. I am always amazed that people survived without Advil and Tums, and they didnt just survived they thrived! The Ottawa were great traders, in fact they traded all over northern Michigan. A surprising fact I read in the section was of the fleecing of the Indians out of their lands by the Mason County government. In the past year however the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians have reclaimed land in Mason County. This worries me somewhat because I think the house in which we live was part of the land given to the Ottawa in the Treaty of 1855. While I feel bad that the Ottawa were cheated out of their land, I dont think I should have to give up my house to right a 150 year-old wrong. Dr. James A. Clifton wrote the Pottawatomi section of People of the Three Fires. Clifton discusses the same aspects of Potawatomi life as McClurken for the Ottawa. An interesting group of people the Potawatomi held a certain advantage as they moved south from northern Michigan. Because they were neighbors of the Chippewa and Ottawa they had the knowledge that tribes further south did not have. The Potawatomi knew how to build birch bark canoes so trade was far easier for them than for the Sauk or Fox. They thrived on the Mexican Trinity of beans corn and squash. They were also accomplished hunters and fishermen. In the beginning they were farmers but they soon became interested in the herds of buffalo that roamed the plains just south of them. Then no meal was complete without some red meat. A description that I took to heart was that on page 50 explaining the balancing act preformed by the leaders of the groups and the French. I can just imagine the stress that the Wkama went through trying to please everyone at once. During the French and Indian War the Potawatomi made a great capture of many English horses. Trading their canoes for horses the Potawatomi gave up their sailing culture and eventually forgot how to even build canoes. With the greater mobility of the horse some of the western Potawatomi became nomads like the prairie Indians, but some remained in the settled life they had built. Though once united the Potawatomi were now regionally and culturally split. The Potawatomi as a people signed more treaties with the united states than any other tribe. The Potawatomi have survived. Dr. George L. Cornell wrote the Ojibway section of the book. The section starts out by describing the first contact the Ojibway had with outsiders. The Norse were believed to have landed on the North American continent around A.D. 1000 bringing with them diseases that made the native people move westward. After the move into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the surrounding areas the Ojibway lived a good life. Food was abundant and the social scene was busy. Dances and festivals to celebrate the Creation among other things helped to keep the people happy and optimistic. A child was raised by the whole village and was not viewed as property of the parents, but as a gift to all. I think this is a very important part of their society helping the child to feel loved and cared for wherever they were. They were skilled healers using medicinal plants and herbs around them to treat illnesses. The Ojibway also received unfair treatment when the government was making treaties with them. They were given land then it was taken from them, the classic story. The right to fish commercially was given to the Ojibway by the Fox decision in 1979, as judge Noel Fox looked to an 1836 treaty with the Ojibway. The Ojibway are now using the resources of the Great Lakes to better themselves, and their culture. The book overall was very informative, and while I enjoyed Mountain Wolf Woman more I learned more from People of the Three Fires. I think the assigned books have been very helpful in my understanding the issues of different tribes and groups of Native Americans.
Bibliography:Clifton, James A., George L. Cornell, James M. McClurken. People of the Three Fires. Grand Rapids MI: Grand Rapids Inter-Tribal Council. 1986
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