The lumber frontier is a settler frontier: Theodore J. Karamanski, ‘Settler Colonial Strategies and Indigenous Resistance on the Great Lakes Lumber Frontier’, Middle West Review, 2, 2, 2016, pp. 27-51

05Aug16

Excerpt: The geographic and economic setting of the nineteenth century Upper Great Lakes region created unique challenges to American settler colonialism and encounters with the Indigenous people of this land of lakes and forests. Many Anishinaabeg bands responded creatively through the use of Christianity, education, and American law in an attempt to fortify their presence in the region. European Americans, who sought to appropriate the wealth of the Upper Midwest’s vast stands of hardwood and pine forests, only seldom needed to resort to guns to take control of the land. Instead of a war of conquest they entangled Anishinaabeg property owners in a bewildering legal and extralegal thicket that facilitated the plunder of the region’s most marketable resource. The initial phase of pine logging laid waste to Anishinaabeg property rights but left the Indigenous population remaining on their traditional lands. The ill treatment of Anishinaabeg landowners should have been a warning signal to policymakers in the 1880s seeking to reform national Indian policy through severalty.

In his 2012 study of Great Lakes Indian history in the colonial and early national periods, historian Michael Witgen emphasizes the transregional society shared by the Anishinaabeg while at the same time documenting the “flexibility” and autonomy of action reserved to local bands. This essay is concerned with the Indigenous response to the lumber frontier’s variation of settler colonialism in the Upper Great Lakes region—the heartland of the Anishinaabeg.



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