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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor

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 education.

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
University of Arkansas at Little Rock

In the Heath Anthology
Mishosha, or the Magician and His Daughters (1827)  [n.b., 1839]
The Forsaken Brother (1827)  [n.b., 1839]

Other Works
Character of Aboriginal Historical Tradition (1827)
Invocation to My Maternal Grandfather on Hearing His Descent from Chippewa Ancestors Misrepresented (1827)
Lines Written Under Severe Pain and Sickness (1827)
Moowis, the Indian Coquette: A Chippewa Legend (1827)
Origin of the Miscodeed or the Maid of Taquimenon (1827)
Otagamiad (1827)
Resignation (1827)
Say Dearest Friend, When Light Your Bark (1827)
Sonnet (1827)
The Origin of the Robin—An Oral Allegory (1827)
To My Ever Beloved and Lamented Son William Henry (1827)
To Sisters on a Walk in the Garden, After a Shower (1827)
Mishosha, or the Magician and His Daughters: A Chippewa Tale or Legend (1827)  [n.b., 1839]

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