The University Record, June 4, 2001

Book on Ojibwe tells story of survival

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Neither poverty, cultural repression nor deep racial prejudice could keep the Ojibwe people of Michigan’s Bay Mills Indian Community from survival. They have persevered as a people and a community through reliance on the bond of kin, the ability to reap and share the abundance of nature, and a strong belief in their identity as a native people.

That perseverance led to a unique history of this community that Charles E. Cleland has chronicled in The Place of the Pike, published by the University of Michigan Press.

Drawn from the oral accounts of tribal elders, Cleland’s book provides the perspective of the people themselves, whose view of the past is not cast in terms of federal Indian policy, academic theories, national economic trends or the personages of typical American political life. But it is told in the life struggles of the people’s own tribal heroes. It is a history woven around both stories and images—as is the Ojibwe tradition—with more than 130 illustrations bringing to life the chronological account of the Bay Mills Community from the early 17th century to the end of the 20th century.

“It is very hard to imagine that 25 years ago, the people of Bay Mills were mired in deep and seemingly hopeless poverty,” Cleland writes. “In fact, for the first two-thirds of the 20th century, they were truly an oppressed people—people deprived of the economic, social and political benefits shared by most other members of American society.”

From the battle of Iroquois Point and the coming of the French, through numerous treaties and the founding of Bay Mills, these Ojibwe weathered world wars, the Great Depression, the rise of the Catholic Church and the rebirth of self-reliance.

“The success of the people of Bay Mills is not just a tribute to their own perseverance, energy and optimism,” Cleland says, “but a lesson to us all in the power of hope for the future and faith in the traditions of the past.”

The Place of the Pike (Gnoozhekaaning): A History of the Bay Mills Indian Community by Charles E. Cleland is available in local bookstores or through the U-M Press at $27.95 for cloth and $18.95 for paper. Contact the U-M Press at P.O. Box 1104, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1104; by phone at (734) 764-4388; by fax at (734) 936-0456; or by e-mail at um.press@umich.edu.