The Ojibwe

Really, they’re the Anishinaabeg (plural noun), which means First People, or Original People, or simply The People.  The adjectival form is Anishinaabe.  As in, “She’s Anishianaabe.”  Or “That’s an Anishinaabe trait.”  Some of the Anishinaabeg call themselves Chippewa, as do many whites, but that’s a name that’s fallen into disrepute among many in this particular culture, because the word is an English bastardization of “Ojibwe.”  Ojibwe means “to pucker.”  The most accepted explanation for how they came by this particular name is that it referred to the way in which they made moccasins, a technique that resulted in puckering around the stitches.  However, it’s also been reported that the name was given them because they had a penchant for roasting their enemies over a fire until their skin puckered.

I write a lot about the Anishinaabeg, and for good reason.  In the area in which I’ve set my series, their influence is ubiquitous.  Lakes, rivers, roads, landforms, even many of the towns still carry names first given to them by the Anishinaabe people.  Some of the words we commonly use originated in Anishinaabemowin, the language of The People, or with the Algonquin, from which the Ojibwe language developed, words like: chipmunk, moccasin, moose, toboggan, tomahawk.  The father of waters, the mighty Mississippi, got its name from the Ojibwe who called it Misi-ziibi, the Great River.

I write about the Anishinaabeg for other reasons as well.  I do it because I admire the richness of the culture, its history, and the tenacity of those who identify themselves as Anishinaabe.  Like so many other indigeous people, the Anishinaabeg have been ill-treated in every way imaginable, yet they’ve endured.  And one of the things I admire most about those Shinnobs (a kind of shorthand they use) I know personally is that their sense of humor is undiminished despite all the prejudice they routinely face and all the obstacles they constantly have to overcome.  (American Indians have the highest suicide rate of any ethnic group in the United States; Indians have the highest poverty level of any ethnic group in Minnesota and the highest rate of unemployment as well; Indians report the highest rates of alcoholism of any ethnic group—I could go on, but you get the picture.)

I get a lot comments on the fact that, in my stories, I don’t reinforce the stereotype many people continue to hold regarding the Ojibwe.  One of the things I try point out in my work is that there are, among the Anishinaabeg, doctors, lawyers, judges, plumbers, veterinarians, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and educators, just as there are in every other ethic group.  Here are a few well-known Ojibwe: David Anderson, of Famous Dave’s; Louise Erdrich, award-winning writer; Bill Miller, marvelous musician, poet, and raconteur; Jim Northrup, columnist and storyteller; Winona LaDuke, activist and writer; Clyde and Vernon Bellecourt, founders of AIM; Adam Beach, actor; Henry Boucha, Hall of Fame hockey player.  They are simply human beings who see the world in the context of their own cultural awareness, just like everyone else.

If you read my stories, please don’t read them as ethnography.  The Anishinaabeg are far more complex culturally, rich historically, and textured spiritually, than I will ever be able to adequately portray in my writing.  But if I’m able to give you a sense of the admiration I feel for them, then I’ve succeeded.

7 thoughts on “The Ojibwe”

  1. I recently purchased the book on the Ojibwa language written by Frederic Baraga. He was a Catholic priest who spent much of his time in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the early 19th century. I am one of your trillions of readers and am always pleased with the way you intertwine the language in your stories. But I noticed a difference in the old book and the style and words you use. Wondered if your source aren’t more to date. I have friends in the Keweenaw who are Anishinaabeg and although tempted, I never use their language in front of them.

  2. Have you read Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden? Boyden’s novel has a reference to how a tribe must deal with a Windigo–which helped me predict the outcome in Vermilion Drift. If you haven’t read Boyden, I highly recommend his writing.

    I thoroughly enjoyed Vermilion Drift–especially as I live not far from the Soudan Mine in Eagles Nest Township. When will you be coming to Ely?

  3. I have read all your Cork O’Connor novels and have enjoyed each and every one. Please don’t quit writing this series–am awaiting the next Cork O’Connor novel from you. Thanks!!!

  4. Wow,
    I love krueger’s ojibwe characters and indian lore. The writing is so smooth. I feel the winds off of Lake Superior, smell the woodsmoke and feel like I’ve been emersed in a Sig Olsen book with the added benefits of a fast moving wilderness adventure. The plots are carefully crafted,without loose ends. IT’S so nice to find a author who actually writes his own material. Thanks for a great read about my favorite state.

  5. I just read a preview of one of your books on my nook color and the epub version is not showing up well. The headings are spaced incorectly with words dropped from lines, title page headings squished in between other material etc. It seems that barnes and nobel still have a lot of problems with pubits formats for ebooks, and it looks like kindle is even more complicated.lulu appeats to have an easier conversion process,but they may hold authors rights. Good luck on getting your ebooks squared away because i love ereaders.

  6. Kent,

    Northwest Angle? Two words: Best. Ever.

    Reading (devouring) Northwest Angle and loving it. Two phrases stuck with my that I wrote them down, then thanked my l lucky stars that I both the book and weekend right in front of me. So here they are:

    1) (Jenny) Her father had once told her that life was always preparing you for what lay around some corner in the future; the smart people pay attention.

    2) Stars lay on the sky like sugar tossed on an onyx plate.

    Phrases like that cause me to come to a delighted skreeching hault in my gulp-fest of words, sigh blissfully then reach for a pen.

    Kent, dude, you rock.
    ~ Elizabeth

  7. Kent,
    I love your writing! I read This Tender Land and Ordinary Grace— and thought they were fabulous! I’m on Lightening Strike now, and already looking forward to your Cork O’Connor series. Who could not!
    Thank you, thank you!

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