This book is written from an Ahnishinahbæótjibway (pronounced änish-e-nä´-bee-ot-chi´-pwe)[i] perspective, which is different from the Indian or Euro-American point of view. "We, The People" is a part of the meaning of Ahnishinahbæótjibway, who are among the Aboriginal Indigenous people who have been a part of the land on this Continent since the beginning of Aboriginal time. This is how we have been explaining who we are for more than a century, but nobody could understand or interpret what we were saying. Part of the problem is that the Europeans see themselves as the discoverers of the land here, and in seeing their history this way, simultaneously define the Aboriginal Indigenous people as being an inconsequential cipher. The leaders of the European colonization of this Continent recognized our land and resources as wealth beyond their wildest dreams, and saw the Aboriginal Indigenous people as a barrier to the Europeans taking this wealth. The Ahnishinahbæótjibway and other Aboriginal Indigenous people have always lived harmoniously, and did not have the Europeans' cultural and linguistic traditions of war and peace. Because we did not speak the Europeans' language of war, the Europeans had to add on to their old tradition of "rights of conquest," and develop new strategies for taking Aboriginal Indigenous peoples' immensely valuable property. These are explained throughout this book.
This book is based on the oral tradition of the Ahnishinahbæótjibway, and on what my people are saying. It is supported by ten years of intensive research into the White man's[ii] own documents relating to the history and genealogy of Red Lake Reservation, and by my lifetime of striving to understand the social fabric, values, ideals, language, and economic system of the people who call themselves Americans.
Some things in this book may not be comfortable for some readers, although I expect that there will be others who will say, "yes, I've been saying that for years." Social engineering is never comfortable when seen from the other side. The how and why of what has been, and continues to be, done to my people and to all Aboriginal Indigenous people, needs to be brought out into the open. The world is changing, and in order to make this a better world, the reality of the Europeans' history on this Continent must be addressed.
The Ahnishinahbæótjibway say, "the Circle comes around," with the understanding that everything is connected and has consequences. As long as the people who call themselves Americans remain ignorant or in denial about who they are and about the historical foundations of their own society, the things that they are trying to ignore or hide will continue to fester, erupting in social pathology, ecological devastation, and an inexcusable waste of what all human beings have to contribute to this world.
My people did not invade Europe and try to crush the Europeans' religion, destroy their ecosystem, and socially engineer their lives. We have never harmed the Europeans. But, this land is my land. I have not only the right, but also the obligation, to speak out from my family, from the Bear Dodem, about what is being done on our land.
I am not an "Indian;" the Indian identity is an ugly caricature, created by the European immigrants to this Continent to discredit and stereotype the Aboriginal Indigenous people of this land. If the reader is looking for an "Indian Book," put this back on the shelf, because this book debunks the racist mythology of the Chippewa Indian identity. The word Indian is a European word of Latin derivation. "Indian" portrays Western European projections, and has no connection to the Aboriginal Indigenous peoples of this Continent. The mythology of Indians is crucial to Euro-Americans: to steal Aboriginal Indigenous peoples' land and resources, to hide the genocide committed against my people, and to re-define the context of European occupation of this land in ways that suit their leaders. The European category of Indian is presently being used in this way. At Red Lake, the Chippewa Indians are a completely different group of people than the Ahnishinahbæótjibway.[iii]
I am Ahnishinahbæótjibway; I was born into the Bear Clan and Dodem. Dodem is a word in my language, also inflected as Dodemian, the most accurate English-language translation of which is "our extended family." Our patrilineally inherited Dodems are an important part of the identity of the Ahnishinahbæótjibway. Some people who identify themselves as Chippewa Indians admit, "we don't use Dodems any more," and others try to claim so-called Indian Clans on their maternal line, through their great-grandmothers. These Chippewa Indians know that they have White fathers or grandfathers.
My patrilineal ancestors have lived on the shores of Red Lake for millennia. According to the birchbark scrolls and stone inscriptions of my people, this land has been the land of my ancestors since the beginning of humanity about a million years ago--long before Adam and Eve were conceived of, before Eden, before the Pyramids, before Christianity. My daughter, Nee-gah-nee-benais-eke, has a spear point made by her ancestors here. By Euro-Americans' own scientific documentation, this spear point was made more than 150,000 years ago.
The seven birchbark longhouses on the south shore of Red Lake, mentioned by an early English explorer, were those of the Bear Dodem of Be-kwa-kwan. These people are my great-grandfather's family.
My great-grandfather was known by his Midé title Bah-se-nos, which cannot be translated precisely into English. Bah-se-nos was born about 1819 or 1820 at Red Lake. He was a spiritual man and spokesman for the Bear Dodem. He spoke the consensus of our family, the people of the Bear Dodem. The other Dodems (families) had their own spokespeople. He did not tell anybody what to do, because personal Sovereignty, respect for others, and good manners are an inherent part of Ahnishinahbæótjibway values. The Western Europeans did not know how to deal with our egalitarian society, so they created Blood Quantum Indians and appointed hierarchical Indian Chiefs, and put their Indians under Trusteeship in order to keep them under control.
My great-grandmother, Bah-se-nos' wife, was Nay-bah-ne-cumig-oke, born about 1820. It is against Ahnishinahbæótjibway religion, and it is considered incest, to marry anyone who is even remotely related, either by blood or through the Dodems. Ahnishinahbæótjibway men traditionally brought their wives from someplace else, because of the kinship ties within the local community. Nay-bah-ne-cumig-oke was born into another Dodem, but because of her marriage to my great-grandfather, she became a Clan Mother of the Bear Dodem.
Bah-wah-we-nind, the son of Bah-se-nos and Nay-bah-ne-cumig-oke, was my grandfather. He was born about 1857, and was also a Midé religious and spiritual man of the Bear Dodem. Bah-wah-we-nind never touched alcohol, and refused to speak English. I spent most of my formative years with my grandfather, until he died in 1935[iv]. He was six feet six inches tall in his moccasins, and embodied the Traditional Ahnishinahbæótjibway values. He lived his religion in every moment of his life. I never saw him raise his hand in violence, and never heard him raise his voice in anger. He lived an active life until he was more than eighty years old, and on his death-bed he sang with his Dodemian in the spirit world, the whole day before he died. His Death Song is a part of Ahnishinahbæótjibway religion and philosophy, our understanding that life and death are part of the same harmonious reality.My grandmother was Ke-niew-e-gwon-ay-beak, born about 1848, baptized Catherine. She came from Leech Lake, and like my grandfather, had lost earlier families to the Europeans' diseases. She died when she was about 72 years old, before I was born. My father was born in 1903, a change-of-life baby born when his mother was in her fifties, and was her only child with Bah-wah-we-nind. My father, along with his older half-sister, was randomly assigned the surname Blake, in order to civilize them. My English name is Francis Blake, Jr., and I am the second generation with an English surname.
[ii].I use the term White in observance of the self-description of people of European ancestry as White, or as Webster's New World Dictionary, 1988, defines it, "of, controlled by, or restricted to Caucasoids, [see also] notions of racial superiority." I use the word "man" in accordance with the (admittedly sexist) English-language usage of "man" as "a human being;" but also with the observation that women and non-Europeans have had very little influence on the formation of the White man's policy and actions toward Aboriginal Indigenous people. The author is also aware that only a minority of White men comprise the policy-making élite--although all those who benefit from the system share responsibility for that system.
[iii].Red Lake genealogies; computer database compiled by the author and described in Appendix IV of this book.
[iv].I remember clearly when my grandfather died, in 1935, although some of the B.I.A.'s records list the year of his death as 1937. This inaccuracy does not surprise me. In 1985 the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe records in Cass Lake, Minnesota, listed me as "deceased," although due to the impact of my newspaper column among the Indians and in the Ahnishinahbæótjibway community, the Bureau has researched my genealogy and grudgingly acknowledged that I and other Ahnishinahbæótjibway are still alive.