Thursday, January 18, 2007

Saving Jane Johnston Schoolcraft

Posted By on 01.18.07 at 12:21 PM

Hot off the presses at the University of Pennsylvania is what might be a Midwestern blockbuster, The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign English prof Robert Dale Parker has edited the writings of Bamewawagezhikaquay, AKA Jane Johnston, AKA Mrs. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft.

She's "the first known American Indian literary writer," says Parker in a U of I press release, comparable to "Anne Bradstreet, the first known American poet, or Phillis Wheatley, the first well-known African-American poet." I haven't seen the book, let alone read it, but those are standards that might be hard to live up to.

As the early midwestern history geeks among us struggle to reach their reference books, yes, she was married to that Schoolcraft, the famous Indian agent and early ethnographer. In fact, Jane's writings, translations, and transcriptions are apparently one of the reasons her husband became famous--he used her material and offered "only enough credit as he needed to bolster the supposed authenticity of his own work," says Parker. Schoolcraft's work in turn was used by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his much more famous epic poem "Hiawatha."

Jane herself was born in Sault Ste. Marie in 1800, the daughter of a Scotch-Irish trader and an Ojibwe woman whose father was a celebrated Ojibwe chief. It doesn't sound like her life in the middle ground between two cultures was very happy. Maybe now she'll get the credit she was due all along. 

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Harold Henderson

  • The Recyclable House

    The Recyclable House

    If Ken Ortiz has his way, no one in Chicago will ever simply "demolish" a building again.
    • Jul 24, 2008
  • Sympathy for the Devil?

    Sympathy for the Devil?

    Progressive scribe Rick Perlstein made his reputation finding the good in conservatives. Then they really started screwing up the country.
    • Jan 24, 2008
  • Dynamic Flash for Democrats

    Dynamic Flash for Democrats

    Wanna raise funds to run for office? Nag Schwarzenegger about health care? Or just make fun of Bush? Call Articulated Man.
    • Jan 10, 2008
  • More »

Agenda Teaser

Food & Drink
MAC & Cheese Cook-Off Second Unitarian Church
March 25
Music
Lyric Opera's Carmen Civic Opera House
February 11

Tabbed Event Search

The Bleader Archive

Popular Stories