Native American History Month Archives

November 20, 2013

We Call It 'The Stick'


Ball-play of the Choctaw--Ball Up by George Catlin

So you're sitting there, watching the hit MTV series Teen Wolf, and suddenly you're struck with the most pressing question. "Where exactly did lacrosse come from?" you wonder, momentarily distracted from the cornucopia of drama and angst associated with juvenile lycanthropes. Well here you are now, your question about to be answered. And for those of you who have no idea what lacrosse even is, well we might just answer that too.

Lacrosse has its origins with the Native Americans of the Algonquin tribe, though there are many tribes that played similar sports and so an exact origin is hard to pin down. Early forms of the sport were played with balls of wood (eventually deerskin), goals of natural origin (often trees), and open fields that could be as large as a few miles (suddenly football stadiums seems quite small). The first written historical account came in the 1630s when a French missionary, Jean de Brébeuf, witnessed the game being played by members of the Huron tribe. Jean is the one who actually labeled the game lacrosse, from 'la crosse' in French which means 'the stick'.

Yes, the game is literally just called 'the stick', based on the fact that the game is played with sticks with nets on the end, used to move the ball about the field (hands are not permitted to touch the ball, like in soccer). Lacrosse (or in actuality, the variety of names the sport had among individual native tribes, as none of them were referring to it by the name the white Frenchmen came up with) actually played an important role in the lives of these tribes, as a sport that trained young men for battle, as well as recreation, religious reasons, and even gambling (much like the role professional sports play in American society today).

Popularity amongst other people began in the 1800s in Canada after a demonstration by the Caughnawaga Indians in Montreal, and lacrosse eventually became an Olympic sport in 1904. The sport continues to spread and grow in popularity today. A sport, originating with the natives of the land, labeled forever with a name from the first white guy to write about it, and now seen more often on MTV than actual musical videos. So why not check out any of the numerous books we have in the library system to learn more about this American tradition that goes back even before our Thanksgiving favorites, the Plymouth Pilgrims?

November 25, 2013

Native American Heritage Month: Essential Readings from the First Nations Development Institute

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is a Native American-controlled nonprofit organization who's mission is to strengthen American Indian economies to support healthy Native communities. First Nations plays an important role in advocating for and providing training and grant support to Native community organizations.
First Nations.pngFor Native American Heritage Month, the staff at First Nations have compiled a list of essential reading for those interested in the Native experience. The list includes categories such as History, Politics, Culture, Imagery, Novels/Fiction, Reference Books, Academic Journals, Legal Resources and more.

To view the Native American Heritage Month Reading Recommendations by First Nation click here.

November 18, 2013

Statistics to Know for Native American Heritage Month

native american census.jpg
In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, the U.S. Census Bureau has released the following statistics for American Indians and Alaska Natives:

5.2 million
The nation's population of American Indians and Alaska Natives, including those of more than one race. They made up about 2 percent of the total population in 2012.

11.2 million
The projected population of American Indians and Alaska Natives, alone or in combination, on July 1, 2060. They would comprise 2.7 percent of the total population.

Number of states with more than 100,000 American Indian and Alaska Native residents, alone or in combination, in 2012. These states were California, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Washington, New York, North Carolina, Florida, Alaska, Michigan, Oregon, Colorado and Minnesota.

Number of federally recognized Indian tribes.
Data courtesy of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Percentage of American Indians and Alaska Natives alone or in combination 5 years and older who spoke a language other than English at home in 2012.

The number of single-race American Indian and Alaska Native veterans of the U.S. armed forces in 2012.

View all Census statistics for American Indians and Alaska Natives here.

November 2, 2013

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month: Learn About Wisconsin Tribes

wisconsin tribes.pngWisconsin is home to eleven tribes: the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, the Sokaogon Chippewa Community, the St. Croix Chippewa Community, the Forest County Potawatomi Community, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, and the Ho-Chunk Nation.

You can learn about the history and governance of these Wisconsin Tribes with the online reference resource, Tribes of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin State Tribal Relations Initiative also contains information on the land holdings of Wisconsin Tribes, viewable on their Where Are the Tribes? page.

Find even more information on Wisconsin tribes with books like Like a Deer Chased by the Dogs : The Life of Chief Oshkosh, Wisconsin's Tribal Nations, and many more available at your Milwaukee Public Library.

November 5, 2013

A Brief Lesson in the Ojibwe Language

Scroll-Hoffman-1885.PNGOjibwemowin is an indigenous language spoken by the Anishinaabe, or Ojibwe people. (Ojibwe tribes are also often referred to as "Ojibwa," "Ojibway," or "Chippewa.") Ojibwe tribes live in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada including Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. Because of the wide expanse of Ojibwe territory, there is not one single standard form of the language. Instead, there are related dialects that vary in sound, vocabulary, and grammar. The Ojibwe culture and language is traditionally oral, but some hieroglyphic images on birch bark teaching scrolls do exist. During the 1970s, a double-vowel alphabet and writing system were developed.

The Ojibwe alphabet consists of 23 letters:

a, aa, b, c, d, e, g, h, ', i, ii, j, k, m, n, o, oo, p, s, t, w, y, z

And seven vowels that sound different than their English counterparts:

a as in "about"
aa as in "father"
e as in "café"
i as in "pin"
ii as in "seen"
o as in "obey" or "book"
oo as in "boot" or "boat"

Let's look at some words about animals, or "awesiiyag," common to Wisconsin:

deer: waawaashkeshi (waah-waah-shkay-shee)
bear: makwa (mah-kwuh)
wolf: ma'iingan (mah-ing-gun)
fox: waagosh (waa-gush)
squirrel: ajidamoo (uh-jih-duh-moo)
rabbit: waabooz (waa-boose)
bird: bineshiinh (bih-nay-shee)
snake: ginebig (gih-nay-big)

This is just a small amount of insight into Ojibwemowin, a language with limitless possibilities....

In 1992, the Guinness Book of World Records listed Ojibwemowin as one of the "most complex" languages in the world. Today, the Ojibwe language is considered "endangered" due to the declining numbers of fluent speakers. Language revitalization programs are becoming more common throughout Ojibwe country as fluent speakers are recorded, immersion programs are developed, and teachers work with children and adults in schools and language tables on a regular basis to promote Ojibwemowin, the heart and soul of Ojibwe culture and heritage.

If you are looking to learn more about the Ojibwe language, check out some of these resources:

A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe
Ojibwewi-Ikidowin: An Ojibwe Word Resource Book
Living Our Language: Ojibwe Tales and Oral Histories
Ojibwemowin: The Ojibwe Oral Tradition, Language (DVD)

Submitted by Hayley @ Central

About Native American History Month

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