Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Kawbawgam Cases

Last year's Michigan Historical Review published Rebecca Mead's "The Kawbawgam Cases: Native Claims and the Discovery of Iron in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan" (also here). The article begins:
Charlotte Kawbawgam (Superior View)
The southern shore of Lake Superior is a beautiful but rugged and isolated region that inhibited early Anglo-American settlement and still poses significant challenges for its inhabitants. In 1840, seasonally nomadic groups of Algonkian-speaking Natives and the mixed-race peoples of the fur trade occupied the area, but after the discovery of valuable mineral resources the situation changed rapidly.... When the first Anglo-American surveying and prospecting parties came to the area, local Natives guided them to the fabulously rich deposits of the Marquette Iron Range but the prospectors shared little of the subsequent wealth. Charlotte Kawbawgam's story reveals, however, that Anglo-Americans did not always appropriate Native resources without gratitude or payment. Kawbawgam's efforts to obtain compensation from Jackson Iron Company for services rendered by her father Matji-gijig ("Bad Day") in locating the Marquette Iron Range culminated in three Michigan Supreme Court cases in the 1880s and a landmark decision.

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