Andy Favorite and Larry Aitken on Ojibwe Blood Quantum at White Earth Tribal College

Andy Favorite lived on the White Earth reservation and taught Ojibwe history at the White Earth Tribal and Community College. As Andy explains, The Treaty of 1855 established first reservations for the Mississippi and Pillager bands of the Anishinaabeg. White Earth reservation was established in 1867 with the ominous designation as being the place to which the federal and state authorities intended to remove all of the Anishinaabeg people in the region. White Earth is, therefore, a place deeply familiar with the sorrow and sadness associated with ningaabii’an.

Throughout the 19th and well into the 20th century, the Anishinaabeg (‘Ojibwe people’) would suffer a relentless series of attacks on their land, resources, and their very identity. As Andy Favorite points out, the Treaty of 1855 compelled the Ojibwe to sell 10 million acres for 10 cents per acre. In another part of the interview, not in the above video, Andy Favorite explains the ideology behind the creation of the White Earth reservation:

the idea is referenced as "The Great Experiment", and the Great Experiment was to Christianize us, civilize us, and make us agrarian. And once they did it here at White Earth, they were going to replicate it on other reservations.… White Earth was earmarked as late as the 1840s to be a, the answer to the Chippewa problem in northern Minnesota. The plan was to concentrate all the Michigan bands, all the Minnesota bands and all the Wisconsin bands here at White Earth, as early as the 1840s…. So then what they did is a -- a controversial character in Chippewa history was Knute Nelson, who did a Congressional act called "An Act for the Relief and Civilization of Chippewa Indians in Northern Minnesota", and what that did is essentially dissolve the five Chippewa reservations east of us here, and it talks about the complete cession and relinquishment of all Chippewa lands except White Earth and Red Lake in the state of Minnesota. So the plan was to do allotment under the Dawes Act and double-whammy us with the Nelson Act and remove everyone to White Earth and Red Lake. Red Lake refused allotment; White Earth allegedly accepted allotment, and that's why our enrollment is over 20,000 now because of all the refugees, if you will, from the other reservations.

For more on this horrific moment when anthropologists attempted to steal valuable timber by changing full blood Anishinaabe to mixed-blood Anishinaabe see David Beaulieu’s article “Curly Hair and Big Feet: Physical Anthropology and the Implementation of Land Allotment on the White Earth Chippewa Reservation,” American Indian Quarterly, vol. 8, no. 4 (autumn, 1984), pp. 281-314

Andy Favorite on Manifest Destiny at White Earth

The idea of ningaabii’an offering a gift of sorrow is, perhaps, difficult at first to understand. It is, however, an integral part of the journey. Below, the former White Earth tribal historian, Andy Favorite, explains a painful part of Anishinaaabe history—the treaty era, when the Ojibwe in Minnesota lost ten million acres of land, were cheated out of millions of dollars of timber revenue, and endured “a forced dependence on government commodities and rations” that lasted more than half a century. In the second video, Andy Favorite explains how non-Native people even tried to steal the Ojibwe’s identity.

Andy Favorite, sadly, passed away in 2012. He was a brilliant historian and a fearless storyteller. We honor him and his wife, Mary, chi miigwech (‘we offer thanks’).

ningaabii'anong | west

Ningaabii’an means West, Ningaabii’inong or bangishmog means ‘to the west’ (the latter is the spelling from the Nichols and Nyholm dictionary). Ningaabii’an, as Larry Aitken explains, is associated with four legged animals like the mashkode-bizhikiwag (‘buffalo’ [plural]), bebezhigooganzhiig (‘horses’), and waawaashkeshiwag (‘deer’). As Larry Aitken explains, it is the place in the Anishinaabe cosmology where the manidoo (‘spirit’) associated with the West is in charge of sadness and sorrow. It is also a place where Anishinabeg change from physical to spiritual, and where animikiig (‘thunderbirds’) reside. It is said that when animikiig open their eyes, lightening flashes, and a small glimpse of the Creator’s power is revealed. [Click here to ask the elders about thunderbirds]

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