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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

From the Ironwood Daily Globe, 11/13/03:

County apologizes to tribe

Published Thursday, November 13, 2003 2:16:14 PM Central Time


Globe Associate Editor

BESSEMER "Certainly there is no intent here. The apology is from the heart," said Gogebic County commissioner Don Pezzetti, speaking for his fellow county board members Wednesday.

The board unanimously voted to write and individually sign a letter of apology to the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

At issue was a posting on the county Web site regarding the county's history, particularly that of its native people.

The board was responding to a letter from giiwegiizhigookway (formerly Elizabeth) Martin, who described herself as "a very hurt, angered Lac Vieux Desert tribal member."

The author of the Web item entitled "The Evolution of the Indians" is unknown, according to county clerk Jerry Pelissero. He offered a forthright explanation of how the item landed on the county Web site.

"They grabbed the county 'history file' from the clerk's office and typed the material in," he said.

Richard Adams, prosecutor and corporate counsel to the board, wrote a Nov. 7 letter of apology and explanation to the tribe.

"The project of creating our county's home page was taken on by a volunteer," Adams said. "He put a lot of time into it and had summer workers enter data from this historical folder as part of the project. We were negligent in not reviewing the text before it was posted."

George Beck, economic development officer for the tribe, said there was no small amount of anger. He read the Martin letter to commissioners.

What is clear is that the document was written decades ago. It portrays the people of Lac Vieux Desert as wards of the government, discusses Native American spiritual beliefs in a condescending way and accuses the tribe of "inflicting unheard of cruelty upon ... white settlers."

It further portrayed the Chippewa as a "weaker race."

Beck said he had raised the issue some time ago and had believed the item was removed from the Web site. Since then, more than 20,000 individuals have visited the site, Beck said.

Adams asked the tribe to contribute appropriate historical material for display on the site. The county board concurred.

The original posting

The Evolution of the Indians

In the history of this state, the Indian was the first settler. They were here when Columbus discovered America. After a period of 500 years, there still remain a few remnants of that once powerful race. In Gogebic County on the eastern limit, there is a small band of Indians, originally belonging to the Ojibway tribe. They reside at Lac Vieux Desert near Watersmeet, and like all other Indians on Reservations, they are taken care of at government expense.

When the Jesuit Missionaries found the Indians on the shores of the Great Lakes and along St. Mary's river, they were free and independent dwellers of the land. They believed in the Great Manitor, and were sincere in their belief that after death there was a "happy hunting ground" where those who journeyed hence, would never be hungry or cold or want for anything; that all would be provided for by the Great Spirit who lived in the land beyond the setting sun.

While the teaching of the Indians by the missionary priests was done in all sincerity for the good of the red men on the part on their instructors, their teaching had been allowed to continue uninterrupted by the advent of the trappers, fur traders and the military, which followed in the footsteps of those who came to teach the Indians the Christian religion. There can be no doubt, but they would have greatly benefited by the efforts of the missionaries in their behalf.

The first step in counteracting the good work of the missionaries among the Indian tribes of this section was taken by the Jesuit Missionaries, themselves. Information was sent back by them to France from whence they came telling of the great riches of the now country in valuable fur bearing animals, mineral deposits, and the advantages of exploiting these great possibilities by colonizing the new country. The first attempt at colonization was in October 1535 by Jacques Cartier. He, armed with two sailing vessels with 122 men, arrived at the present site of Montreal. He found there an Indian village and in back of this village, a mountain which he named "Mount Royal," which was eventually shortened to the present "Montreal". Cartier and his men remained there during the winter and suffered great hardships, twenty-five of their number dying of scurvy. He returned to France a year later, taking with him nine if the lesser chiefs of the Indians who were induced by deceit to enter the ships. This and worse acts by the French, were the entering wedge in arousing the distrust and hatred of the white men of the old world by the original inhabitants of the new. Other attempts to colonize the new country followed, and each one left a find refugees in the new country to shift for themselves the best they could. These refugees were of a lone class of humanity, having as the most part, been recruited from the undesirable in the old country, and being left to their own resources in a country where the restraint of the law was then unknown. Who naturally their attention to praying upon the Indian Inhabitants. It was the descendents of this element who became the trappers and traders of the country, and who first induced the strong drinks among the Indian tribes in exchange for the valuable bales of fur possessed by the latter. The bringing of whiskey to the Indians was the first step in the downfall of the red men. Followed by the cheating of the Indian in his transactions with the white men, egged on by the greed of fur companies to secure the valuable furs of the Indians. Other countries were attracted by the possibilities of wealth in the new country. England and Spain became contenders for a share of the wealth to be obtained on this side of the Atlantic. Contention for lands in the new world followed in the next few centuries and engendered bitter and bloody strife between the contending nations.

The advent of the armies of the nations contending for possession of this portion of the new country brought to no protection or relief to missionaries who had come in the dawn of time to teach religion to the Indians and thereby lead the way to a higher and better life for them and their decedents. On the contrary, the military which represented the only law there was to be found in this country at that early day, refused the earnest requests of the missionaries to stop the traders giving whiskey to the Indians in exchange for furs and their attitude toward the missionaries.

As a natural consequence, the work of the Jesuit priests came to naught and had to be abandoned.

During the next century, the Indians of the lake region were left to their own devices -- -as far as being offered any assistance to better their condition.

In the meantime, having learned the evil existing in the world through association with the white men, their simple faith in the beliefs which living close to nature had engendered in their lives, was lost to them and could never be regained. Their heritage from the people who had come among them from across the water was despoliation of their hunting grounds, false promises as to rewards to be given for their assistance in the struggles for acquisition of territory from those competing nations from across the ocean. What wonder is it then, that in the years that followed, they turned upon their destroyers and retaliated in the only way their nature dictated to them by inflicting unheard of cruelty upon those who fell into their hands in their raids upon unprotected white settlers of the country.

The passing of the Indian is but another evolution in the lapse of time; the retreat of a weaker race before the advance of a stronger.

The Menominees, which tribe seems to have gained more attention from the early historians of this section than any other tribe of Indians inhabiting the Upper Peninsula, were spoken of by Jean Nicolet as having finer general characteristics and a more pleasant appearance than any other tribe encountered. They were not warlike people, staying close to their lands and not going on forays against distant tribes. But they shared in the unrest stirred up by the great Pontiac, who shrewdly foresaw the downfall of the Indians through the advent of the white soldier and trader and strove in his own savage fashion, to stay the coming disaster to the Indians of the Upper Peninsula.

Related links
Uncivilized Indians
Savage Indians

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