July 13, 2010

A gift that keeps on giving

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft discovered the headwaters of the Mississippi on this date in 1832. He was pretty sure he’d found it on a previous expedition in 1820, but he was wrong.  Got it right the second time around, however.

Schoolcraft was fascinated by Native Americans, learned to speak Ojibwe and married a woman who was half Ojibwe.  He considered himself a friend to the tribes whose welfare he looked after as Indian agent on Mackinac Island in Michigan.

Regrettably, Schoolcraft was completely a man of his time.  He truly believed that a happy future awaited the natives if only they would abandon their culture and settle down to an agrarian life.  With that goal in mind, he worked  (at that point he was Indian Commissioner) to get their agreement to the Treaty of Washington in 1836.  He was successful and, in exchange for government subsidies and supplies to help their transition to farming, the Chippewa and Ottowa traded about 14 million acres of land.

In exchange they received $30,000 a year for twenty years, plus $2,000 a year for provisions, plus some money for vaccines and farm implements.

Areas ceded by Native Americans in yellow. Royce map, Smithsonian Institution

As you can see from the map, the land comprised about half the Upper Peninsula and more than half of the mitten — the Chippewa and Ottawa gave the government more than a third of what is now the state of Michigan.

* * *

A moment’s pause to remember the great New York Blackout of 1977 – it caused real difficulty for some, but for most of us it was a rather exciting break in routine, although climbing fourteen flights of stairs to your apartment was a challenge.

It was extraordinary to see the city pitch black at night, with the only light emanating from  buses, every one of them packed until late into the night. They slipped by on the dark streets, the faces inside harshly lit,  like an Edward Hopper painting.

Many happy returns to Patrick Stewart, Paul Prudhomme, Harrison Ford and the always charming Giancarlo Giannini.



  1. Good – entry this! Very interesting stuff here =P


    Comment by ninachat — July 13, 2010 @ 4:51 pm | Reply

  2. i read the whole thing i might add…


    Comment by ninachat — July 13, 2010 @ 4:52 pm | Reply

  3. your usual charm,humour,and good judgement. bravo!


    Comment by GALYA TARMU — July 13, 2010 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

  4. Thank you, Constant Readers!


    Comment by jchatoff — July 14, 2010 @ 10:50 am | Reply

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