On indigenous emancipation: Michelle K. Cassidy, “Both the Honor and the Profit”: Anishinaabe Warriors, Soldiers, and Veterans from Pontiac’s War through the Civil War, PhD Dissertation, University of Michigan, 2016


Abstract: From 1863 to 1865, one hundred and thirty-six Anishinaabe men served in Company K of the First Michigan Sharpshooters. In order to understand why these Odawa, Ojibwe, and Boodewaadamii men fought in the Civil War, this project examines changes in Anishinaabe masculinity, leadership, and status from Pontiac’s War (1763) through the early 1900s. Anishinaabe history disrupts the dominant narrative about indigenous peoples during the nineteenth century centered on removal. Military records, missionary correspondence, battlefield memoirs, and family letters suggest that Christianity and service in the Civil War provided some Ojibwe and Odawa men with multiple strategies to acquire or sustain leadership positions, maintain autonomy, and remain in their homelands. They claimed the rights and responsibilities of male citizenship—voting, owning land, and serving in the army—while also actively preserving their status as Indians. This history complicates the binary of black and white racial categories that dominates many discussions of the Civil War and citizenship. Anishinaabe men joined the Union army due to the influence of social and political networks, as well as religiously-inspired antislavery ideology. While they shared reasons for enlisting with white and African American soldiers, they had particularly Anishinaabe motivations as well. Their history—significant encounters with missionaries; their warrior past, including the not-so-distant War of 1812; their treaty relationship with the United States; and their conceptions of alliance and reciprocal relationships—affected decisions to enlist. From the beginning of the war, they were marked as different. Many reports concerning Company K glossed over the soldiers’ individual identities in favor of depictions of “Indianness.” After the war, the Anishinaabeg took advantage of U.S. pension officials’ preconceptions of Native peoples to negotiate payments. Anishinaabe testimonies also illuminate relationships and living practices that suggest the ways in which parts of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula remained an Anishinaabe place after the Civil War, one that often dealt with settler colonialism through negotiation. Embracing the military and its bureaucracy for indigenous purposes, the Anishinaabeg made claims to resources and recognition through their identities as veterans, family members, and Indians. 

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