| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (Ojibwa)
Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (Bame-wa-was-ge-zhik-a-quay) was born in
1800 at Sault Ste. Marie, the daughter of John Johnston, an Irish fur trader,
and Ozha-guscoday-way-quay (Susan) Johnston, daughter of the Chippewa chief
Waub Ojeeg. Johnston met Ozha-guscoday-way-quay when he ran a trading post on
Lake Superior near La Pointe, Wisconsin; after their marriage, the pair moved
to the Sault. Jane, like her seven brothers and sisters, received her early
education at home. She learned literature, history, and the classics from her
father and read extensively in the large family library. In addition, Jane and
the other children were educated in Ojibwa lore by their mother. They learned
traditions, customs, and legends of their people and were well versed in the
exploits of their grandfather, Waub Ojeeg, and great-grandfather, Ma Mongazida.
Jane and the others were also taught the Ojibwa language. The young woman’s
well-rounded education was supplemented by travel with her father to Detroit,
Quebec, and Montreal. Because there were no schools at Sault Ste. Marie at the
time, Johnston took his daughter to Ireland in 1809 to complete her formal
In 1823 Jane Johnston
married Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, the famous explorer, writer, and scholar.
Schoolcraft’s major interest was the American Indian, about whom he wrote over
twenty volumes and hundreds of articles. The young Schoolcraft had come to the
Sault in 1822 as Indian agent for the tribes living in the northern sections of
Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. It was here, with the help of Jane and her
family, that he began his lifelong study of Indian languages, customs, and
traditions. Jane was Schoolcraft’s research assistant until her death in 1841;
she interpreted descriptions and accounts from native sources and helped him in
his studies of the Ojibwa language.
In December, 1826, the
Schoolcrafts began a reading society at the frontier outpost to foster the
literary interests of the local inhabitants during the long winter. As an
adjunct to this activity, Henry Schoolcraft with his wife’s assistance began a
manuscript magazine called “The Literary Voyager or Muzzenyegun.” The magazine,
which circulated in Detroit and New York as well as in Sault Ste. Marie,
contained Ojibwa history, legends, and lore, as well as biographies of and
speeches by contemporary Chippewas. Linguistic studies also appeared, as did
essays on Ojibwa traits and customs. The magazine contained information on
other Indian groups and on issues affecting all Indians, such as temperance.
Finally, the “Literary Voyager” carried original poems and essays, many of
which were written by Jane Schoolcraft, using the pen names Rosa and Leelinau.
For the most part, her
style and diction are that of contemporary writers in the East. She does at
times, however, experiment with rhyme and meter. One of Schoolcraft’s main
values as a writer is her ability to use her considerable literary skills in
English to depict with accuracy and empathy the traditional lore of the Ojibwa.
James W. Parins|
Arkansas at Little Rock
In the Heath Anthology
Mishosha, or the Magician and His Daughters
The Forsaken Brother
Character of Aboriginal Historical Tradition
Invocation to My Maternal Grandfather on Hearing His Descent from Chippewa Ancestors Misrepresented
Lines Written Under Severe Pain and Sickness
Moowis, the Indian Coquette: A Chippewa Legend
Origin of the Miscodeed or the Maid of Taquimenon
Say Dearest Friend, When Light Your Bark
The Origin of the Robin—An Oral Allegory
To My Ever Beloved and Lamented Son William Henry
To Sisters on a Walk in the Garden, After a Shower
Mishosha, or the Magician and His Daughters: A Chippewa Tale or Legend
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Native American Authors Project
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