The Border Difference: The Anishinaabeg, Benevolence, and State Indigenous Policy in the Nineteenth-Century Great Lakes Basin

Susan E. Gray


After the War of 1812, British and American authorities attempted to sequester the Anishinaabeg—the Three Fires of the Ojibwes (Chippewas), Odawas (Ottawas), and Boodewadamiis (Potawatomis)—on one side of the Canada-US border or the other. The politics of the international border thus intersected with evolving federal/state and imperial/provincial Native American/First Nations policies and practices. American officials pursued land cessions through treaties followed by removals of Indigenous peoples west of the Mississippi. Their British counterparts also strove to clear Upper Canada (Ontario) of Indigenous title, but instead of removal from the province attempted to concentrate the Anishinaabeg on Manitoulin and other smaller islands in northern Lake Huron. Most affected by these policies were the Odawas, whose homeland was bisected by the international border. Their responses included two colonies underwritten by missionary and government support, one in Michigan and the other on Manitoulin Island, led by members of the same family intent on providing land and educational opportunities for their people. There were real, if subtle, differences, however, in the languages of resistance and networks of potential white allies then available to Indigenous people in Canada and the US. The career trajectories and writings of two cousins, sons of the brothers who helped to craft the Odawa cross-border undertaking exemplify these cross-border differences.


Canada-US borderlands; Anishinaabeg; state Indigenous policy; citizenship; landownership

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ISSN: 0044-8060
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