An indigenous heartland? Doug Kiel, James F. Brook, ‘Introduction: Reframing and Reclaiming Indigenous Midwests’, Middle West Review, 2, 2, 2016, pp. vii-x


Excerpt: Like the pictograph we feature on our cover, which speaks to ties among peoples and places in the region, this special issue of the Middle West Review explores a diverse range of Indigenous experiences in a variety of locations in what has come to be known as the American Midwest. “The Midwest,” however, is not an Indigenous marker of place, but rather a US spatial category that is defined, in part, by the national project of replacing Indigenous societies. Framing Indigenous peoples within this geographical construct, then, opens a discursive space for grappling with the issues of settler colonialism that lie at the heart of this collection of essays.

An Indigenous sense of place, by contrast, is expressed in the cover image of an Ojibwe pictographic petition, copied by artist Seth Eastman. The birch bark original was carried by a delegation of Lake Superior Ojibwe leaders to Washington, dc, in 1849. The delegation traveled from Wisconsin to the US capital to formally request that Congress and the president guarantee their right to remain permanently in their Wisconsin homelands. Each of the animal figures—the catfish, the man-fish, the bear, the three martens, and the crane—represents the Ojibwe clans to which members of the delegation belonged. The lines connecting the hearts of the other animals to the heart of the crane signify the clans’ unity, while the lines connecting their eyes to the crane’s eye indicate that the representative of the Crane Clan is leading the delegation. The pictograph also illustrates the strong connection between the Ojibwe people and Lake Superior as well as the wild rice lakes. The petition’s depiction of an Indigenous geopolitical reality helps to destabilize monolithic notions of the American Midwest by illustrating how one Native people visualized their relationship to their homelands.

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