Colorized photos from the Red Lake, Turtle Mountain, White Earth, Leech Lake, and Little Shell Bands of Chippewa, and Metis from North Dakota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta from the 1860s-1950s.
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I think I'm getting better at colorizing old photos. Here are some classics. Enjoy.
Some amazing colorized photos of life in the Turtle Mountains between 1930-1945. Some of the individuals in the pictures are named and dates are provided.
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Throughout the history of the northern Great Plains there was significant intermarriage and a blurring of cultural identities due to close alliances between the Ojibwe, Cree, and Assiniboine people, and the numerous Metis people who arose from European intermarriage with these peoples – and the tendency of Metis children to move freely between their (often multiple) tribal affiliations. However, today many people choose to simplify their identities in an attempt to "re-imagine their communities" into something that is more readily understandable and easier to deal with on a personal level. Instead of acknowledging the reality of the multi-layered, ambiguous genealogies of our ancestors – and by-proxy ourselves – many people simplify their identity to one tribal group, most often to whatever band (or tribe) that they are enrolled within under the current colonial construct of the reservation/reserve system in the United States and Canada. This tendency to identify as a single heritage misses the great richness and uniquely layered cultures that existed for over a century.
It is undeniable that historically, the Cree, Ojibwe, Assiniboine, and their Metis relatives were allied with each other, and that there was a great deal of cultural and genealogical overlap among these groups. In most of these communities it was natural for people to be multilingual and multi-cultural. However, with the rapid loss of culture and indigenous languages due to the separating of people onto reserves, boarding schools, and assimilative efforts led to a breakdown in culture. Subsequently, many people have begun to simplify their identities, and gravitate towards one tribal group as this is a relatively easy path to cultural revitalization that doesn’t require an in-depth understanding of the nuances of multi-cultural history and genealogy. For instance, in some communities in Saskatchewan or Manitoba, it has become vogueish, both politically and culturally, to identify as solely Cree or Ojibwe, whereas historically many of these communities had both Cree and Ojibwe elements. This is similarly true in American communities like Rocky Boy or Turtle Mountain, where many members of these historically mixed communities have chosen to cast aside the nuanced identities of their ancestors and have chosen to identify simply as Cree or Ojibwe – ignoring the Metis, Assiniboine, and other heritages and cultures that contributed to their community culture and history.
This simplification of heritage and history ignores reality and in many ways is a diminishment of a rich community culture into a basic, colonized, whitewashed version of reality that is easier to present to outsiders. It is much easier to explain to a non-community member that one is simply Ojibwe (or Cree) than it is to explain that the community is a unique expression of a multitude of culture and heritage that developed over hundreds of years, through intermarriage, cultural sharing and exchange, and that it includes elements of many different cultures (e.g. Cree, Assiniboine, Dakota, Ojibwe, Metis, and others).
During our modern cultural revitalization efforts, is it possible to avoid the pitfalls of trying to simplify ourselves? Can we rebuild our diverse, myriad cultures without falling into the trap of simply being Ojibwe, or Cree? Can we rise above colonialism and become who we once were, and who we truly are?
A "colorized" pictorial history of early 20th century life on the Red Lake Reservation, showing activities like logging, ice making, farming, maple sugar making, and more.
In early October of 1842, Ojibwe Chief Buffalo received word from some of his men that a large party of Dakota were advancing towards his village intent on waging war upon them. With the knowledge of the path upon which the Dakota would have to take to attack his people, Chief Buffalo made the decision to have his soldiers intercept them at a place of his choosing and advantage. Taking his force into position, Buffalo chose a location about 15 miles from the mouth of the Bois Brule River as it entered Lake Superior (near present day Brule, Wisconsin). Even though he was able to choose the place of battle, Buffalo was at a relative disadvantage because many of his forces were scattered across their territory, and he was not able to muster an overlarge fighting force. Collecting about two hundred warriors, Buffalo instructed the women and children of the village to be prepared to flee should his forces fail to defeat the Dakota. He then rapidly rallied his troops to hasten to the battlefield.
Buffalo and his forces met the Dakota that evening just before sunset. They were able to force the Dakota to the west bank of the river, while holding their position on the east.
Having successfully held the Dakota advance at bay, Buffalo and his men decided to take the time to establish their position in preparation for the attack that would happen at first light. Assessing his surroundings, Buffalo noticed that most of the east side of the river was protected by a long, rocky bluff that stood about 150 feet above the river. He figured that the bluff would give his limited forces a slight advantage against attack, but even that wasn’t a certainty. Nonetheless, he arranged his men strategically and decided to employ a bit of psychological warfare too. Under the cover of darkness, he had several of his men build decoy fires at various points across about 500 yards of the bluff-top to give the impression that he had more warriors than he actually had at his command. These fires were kept burning all night, and they were clearly visible to the Dakota who were encamped at a lower position on the other side of the river.
Hoping that the false fires would keep the Dakota focused on the bluff, Chief Buffalo then divided his men into three units. One of the units was sent a short way up the river to a point where they could cross without being seen. From there, they crossed the river and moved up on the Dakota position as far as they dared. It was hoped that this group could flank the Dakota from behind once the battle started and they were focused on the east shore of the river. He then positioned his main force of warriors at a point near the riverbank where they could remain under concealment until the first Dakota waded the river, then launch their counterattack. The remainder of the men stayed on the top of the bluff where they would be clearly seen by the Dakota.
When the first shots were fired, a few of the men positioned at the center of the riverbank performed a feigned retreat – standing up and fleeing up the bank towards the bluff-top. This apparent retreat caused the Dakota to start charging into the water hoping to rout the Ojibwe warriors. At that moment, the flanking force launched its attack on the rear echelon of the Dakota, while the main force who was hidden stood up. The Dakota were trapped in the middle of the river – about 3-4 feet deep with a fairly strong current – while they were attacked from the front and rear! The Ojibwe were able to shoot their arrows at will against the Dakota, who were caught in a vise, and those Dakota who tried to flee towards either bank were clubbed down trying to climb the steep cutbanks. Those who did escape ran for their lives and fled from the battlefield in a disorganized herd like mindless lemmings.
After the battle was over thirteen Ojibwe had lost their lives, but they had taken over one-hundred Dakota scalps. It was an almost total victory due to Chief Buffalo’s crafty strategy, and it was one of the last times that the Dakota waged war on the Ojibwe of the east.
Armstrong, B. G., & Wentworth, T. P. (1892). Early life among the Indians reminiscences from the life of Benj. G. Armstrong: Treaties of 1835, 1837, 1842 and 1854: Habits and customs of the Red Men of the forest: Incidents, biographical sketches, battles, & customs of the Red Men of the forests. Ashland, Wis: S.N.
A selection of colorized images of Turtle Mountain and Red Lake Ojibwe, and Metis historical photos. The purpose of colorization is to generate an image with colors that are plausible. It by no means guarantees that the colorized image is an accurate representation of the actual snapshot in time.