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In compliance with the oft-repeated request of a number of literary friends I present this volume to the public. In doing so there is another motive that has influenced me, and I may be pardoned, if here, at the commencement of my task, I briefly record it.
In thus giving a sketch of my nation's history, describing its home, its country and its peculiarities and in narrating its traditionary legends I may awaken in the American heart a deeper feeling for the race of redmen and induce the pale-face to use greater effort to effect an improvement in their social and political relations.
You must know that my advantages have not been very great for the attainment of knowledge ; that, in common with my forest brethren I have, as the saying is, “ been brought up in the woods.” I feel incompe
tent for my work, but, am impelled forward by the thought that the nation whose history I here feebly sketch seems passing away and that unless a work like this is sent forth, much, very much that is interesting and instructive in that nations actions will with it pass away.
Though I cannot wield the pen of a Macaulay or the graceful wand of an Irving with which to delineate an Indian's life, yet I move a pen guided by an intimate knowledge of the subject it traces out, the joys and the sorrows it records.
It is not many years since I laid aside my bow and arrows, and the love for the wild forest, born with me, I yet retain. Twenty months passed in a school in Illinois has been the sum-total of my schooling, save that I have received in the wide world, During my residence of six years among the pale-faces I have acquired a knowledge of men and things, much, very much more I have yet to learn, and it is my desire that my brethren in the far west may share with me my crust of information ; for this end I have labored and do labor, and will continue to labor, till success crowns my efforts or my voice and hand are silent in the home of the departed.
To the Christian and the Philanthropist, I present
in these pages an account of the rise and progress of events which have greatly advanced the moral elevation of my nation. Should they see in it anything to stimulate them to greater action, now is the time, the hour to act. It can be proved that the introduction of Christianity into the Indian tribes has been productive of immense good. It has changed customs as old as any on the earth. It has dethroned error, and has enthroned truth. This fact is enough to convince any one of the unjustness and falsity of the common saying, that, “the Indian will be Indian still."
Education and Christianity are to the Indian what wings are to the eagle that soar above his home. They elevate him; and these given to him by men of right views of existence enable him to rise above the soil of degradation and hover about the high mounts of wisdom and truth.
To the man of letters I would say, that in compliance with your request I am aware how far short I have fallen from satisfying you with a recital of the Ojibways' history.
Much has been lost to the world, through a neglect of educating the red-men who have lived and died in the midst of educationary privileges but have not been allowed to enjoy them. They hold a key which will
unlock a library of information, the like of which is not. It is for the present generation to say, whether the last remnants of a powerful people shall perish through neglect and as they depart bear with them
Give the Indian the means of education and he will
avail himself of them. Keep them from him and let me tell you he is not the only loser.
The Indians at present mingle with the whites. The intercourse they have had together has not in all instances elevated the character of the former. The many hundreds of rude careless, fearless whites who have taken up their abode in frontier regions have induced the red-men to associate and unite with them in practices of dissipation. To the Americans at home I look for an antidote for this evil, which they as well as myself must most sincerely regret.
Friends, Christians, your love for mankind extends beyond the border. Your love for mankind has penetrated the forests, and is to-day shedding its holy influence on many a happy group assembled around a birchen fire. May you not tire or grow faint.
The history of the Ojibways like that of other InJian tribes is treasured up in traditionary lore. It has peen passed down from age to age on the tide of song,
for there is much poetry in the narrative of the old sage as he dispenses his facts and fancies to the listening group that throng around him.
As the first volume of Indian history written by an Indian, with a hope that it may in some degree benefit his nation, and be the means of awakening an interest for the red-men of America in those whose homes are where they once lived and loved, this work is sent forth tremblingly, yet with hope by its Author.
April 25, 1850.