STANDS BEFORE HIS PEOPLE is a history of the Ojibwe during the lifetime of Enmegahbowh from about 1814 to 1902. Enmegahbowh, an Ojibwe whose name translates to He Who Stands Before His People, learned English and became a Methodist missionary on Lake Superior. He received two more years of English education, then did Methodist mission work in Minnesota. After Methodist mission work ceased, J. Lloyd Breck partnered successfully with Enmegahbowh in an Episcopal mission to the Ojibwe in Gull Lake Minnesota. Through Breck, Enmegahbowh met Episcopal Bishop Henry Whipple and they made several camping trips to remote Ojibwe bands and cemented their relationship. Enmegahbowh, became a priest in 1868 and soon moved to the new reservation of White Earth.
His knowledge of English made him useful in treaty negations from 1837 to 1868 and he made many trips to Washington. He was involved in relationships between the Ojibwe and white Americans and communicated with political leaders. His legacy is recorded in letters he wrote which form the basis for this book.
The pressure of advancing white American civilization produced pressure for removal of the Ojibwe to reservations from the 1850s. Enmegahbowh became an Episcopal priest and moved with his family to White Earth Reservation in 1868 where he built a church and ministered to his people. Joseph Gilfillan, an Episcopal priest, became Whipple’s administrative head of mission to Minnesota Ojibwe in 1873.
More access to farmland and timberland by white Americans continued to limit the Ojibwe to reservations through the early 1900s. Enmegahbowh ministered to his congregation in Gull Lake and then as an Episcopal priest at White Earth until he was incapacitated by old age. He died in 1902. In his successful congregation at White Earth, he brought many Ojibwe to the Episcopal Church and he also advocated farming as a way of life.
Enmegahbowh was the man in the middle between the Ojibwe and white Americans throughout his career as a missionary and teacher. His knowledge of English and Ojibwe made his interpreting skills and knowledge of the situation on the ground vital to many treaty negotiations from 1837 to 1868 and he made many trips to Washington for that purpose. He knew and was known to many important politicians such as Henry Sibley and Henry Rice. Very importantly he left a written record including the more than two hundred letters to Bishop Whipple and political leaders that were transcribed and form a basis for this history.
In the span of Enmegahbowh’s lifetime, the Ojibwe people were transformed from being hunter gatherers in a large area in the upper peninsula of Michigan, northern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota and North Dakota to living on reservations. Most of the land was then opened for farmers and loggers.
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