Script No. 82

The French had trouble with the language of the Native Americans. To begin with, there were tribal names. Such as Ojibwe. It's literal Native meaning was to roast until puckered, referring to the method used to waterproof the seams of moccasins. Frenchmen in North America were always a bit lazy about long names, and soon dropped the beginning letter. Still cursed with a tin ear, they mispronounced "jibwe", making it Chippewa. The names are now used interchangeably, although Ojibwe is often preferred in Canada and Chippewa in the U. S. When the French encountered the Chippewa in the area around Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay, the bad ear turned up again. The Europeans enquired the name of a river just to the east, flowing north out of the Superior Upland. The Chippewa replied it was called the Swamp. The Indian word sounded like the French "mauvais" to the visitors and today we know it, in English translation, as the Bad River, site of one of the 15 Chippewa Reservations around lake Superior.

Who are the Chippewa? We'll be encountering them around the western Great Lakes, so now would be a good time to find out. Their origin is lost in the distant past, but it's believed to have been either Hudson Bay or the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. Sometime around the year 1400 the climate grew colder and it's probably at this point the Ojibwe and other northern tribes made their way south and west to the Lake Huron area and then, over the next 100 years, to St. Mary's River - the Sault Ste. Marie at the eastern end of Lake Superior. They continued spreading across the land, and by the time the French fur traders and missionaries arrived around 1630, the Ojibwe and their allies covered much of Michigan, northern Wisconsin and western Ontario.

The vast forested areas of the western lakes were not uninhabited when the Ojibwe/Chippewa arrived and the struggle between residents and newcomers see sawed back and forth through Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The Chippewa drove the enemy to the Mississippi River, then counterattacks caused them to retreat to the eastern end of the lake. There they ran into attacks from the Iroquois who had allied themselves with the French and were moving into the Illinois country. The Chippewa tide and fortunes turned in the west again and once more the tribes there such as the Missisagua, the Fox, the Dakota, and others, were driven to the Mississippi and beyond. Many forest tribes moved out onto the prairies in the heart of the continent and became Plains Indians.

The French continued in their old linguistic legerdemain. One of the displaced tribes was known as the Nadouessioux. Syllables at the beginning were lopped off one-by-one and the tribe soon became known to the Europeans as the Sioux.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.

© 1998 David Minor / Eagles Byte