Date of Award
Master of Arts
Dr. Charles R. Starring
Masters Thesis-Open Access
I work very slowly on my lecture. My strength is failing and my eyes are so that I cannot use them by candlelight. I have many pages written with pencil and when I can get them copied in ink, I will send them to you.
My object in trying to have this printed is that it might live after I am dead and finally be adopted as the plan or means to bring about the true development of American Indians.
My days are numbered, as I am entirely unable to do any manual labor, not only from old age but from ill health, also. Whether I shall see next summer or not, I am somewhat doubtful.
I have many other things written, beside this which I am sending you, which I hope may be heard by civilized people long after I am dead. 1
The old Indian whose gnarled hands labored over this letter in 1900 lived until September 8, 1908. In those last seven years he saw his eldest son sentenced to a year in prison for repeated disorderly conduct, and found himself removed from his home in Harbor Springs, Michigan, to the county poor farm at Brutus.
To those who know the American Indian only in terms of his baser qualities, or who can picture the red man only as a drunken, uneducated burden to society, such a finale may not seem unusual. But this brief glimpse is incomplete and misleading, for, until the closing years of his life, Andrew Jackson Blackbird had not been a burden to society. It is the story of his struggle to succeed in a white man's society that I intend to record.
The reader may ask why an obscure Indian deserves this attention - why he merits research among voluminous government documents that contain materials for the clarification of more important matters. The answer is that as I delved into Michigan Indian history, Andrew Blackbird came alive as a unique personality of the time when the white man's culture was beginning to overwhelm the Indian culture of northern Michigan. Here was a man who did not retreat from this strove to attain a measure of respectability in a culture strange to his nature. His struggle to find a place in the white man's world deserves attention.
Andrew Jackson Blackbird2 was the son of Mack-a-te-pe-nessy, an Indian chieftain of the Arbor Croche band of Ottawa. Though a more accurate translation of Mack-a-te-pe-nessy was Black Hawk, at some point the name was corrupted into Blackbird and that translation was accepted by the family from Andrew's time ot the present.3
The land of the Arbre Croche Ottawas reached along Lake Michigan from Cross Village on the north to Little Traverse on the south. The eastern side of their land was unmarked, but the Ottawa usually lived within five or six miles of the shore of Lake Michigan.4 The Ottawa, members of the Algonquian language group, has settled here about 1750, pushed westward from the Manitoulin Islands by the Iroquois.5 About 1828 the Arbre Croche Indians made northern Michigan their year-round home. Until that time they had done their winter hunting and trapping farther south, sometimes as far as the valley of the St. Joseph River.6
Walz, Grace, "Andrew Jackson: Blackbird of L’arbre Croche" (1964). Master's Theses. 3857.