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My Grandfather's Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation

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When Ojibwe historian Brenda Child uncovered the Bureau of Indian Affairs file on her grandparents, it was an eye-opening experience. The correspondence, full of incendiary comments on their morals and character, demonstrated the breathtakingly intrusive power of federal agents in the early twentieth century.

While telling her own family's stories from the Red Lake Reservation, as well as stories of Ojibwe people around the Great Lakes, Child examines the disruptions and the continuities in daily work, family life, and culture faced by Ojibwe people of Child's grandparents' generation—a generation raised with traditional lifeways in that remote area. The challenges were great: there were few opportunities for work. Government employees and programs controlled reservation economies and opposed traditional practices. Nevertheless, Ojibwe men and women—fully modern workers who carried with them rich traditions of culture and work—patched together sources of income and took on new roles as labor demands changed through World War I and the Depression.

Child writes of men knocking rice at wild rice camps, work customarily done by women; a woman who turns to fishing and bootlegging when her husband is unable to work. She also recounts that one hundred years ago in 1918-1919, when the global influenza pandemic killed millions worldwide, including thousands of Native Americans, a revolutionary new tradition of healing and anti-colonial resistance emerged in Ojibwe communities in North America: the jingle dress dance. All of them, faced with dispossession and pressure to adopt new ways, managed to retain and pass on their Ojibwe identity and culture to their children.

ISBN-13: 9780873519243

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Publication Date: 12-01-2014

Pages: 248

Product Dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

Brenda J. Child, is also Red Lake Ojibwe and Northrop professor of American studies and American Indian studies at the Universityof Minnesota, and curator of the new exhibit at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum, "Ziibaaska’ iganagooday: The Jingle Dress at 100". She is the author of the critically acclaimed children's picture book, Bowwow Powwow illustrated by Ojibwe artist, Jonathan Thunder which features a jingle dress dancer. She has been featured in Indian Country Today, Native America Calling, Minnesota Public Radio, and has lectured at the National Museum of the American Indian.