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Ojibwa and European First Interaction

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Arshia Abdipour

on 16 October 2013

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Transcript of Ojibwa and European First Interaction

Ojibwa and European First Interaction
Here's a quick video with some background information about the Ojibwa and Europeans
Ojibwa and European First Interaction
No interaction that can placed within a single "era" or even a single incident. Because of many different tribes different interactions happened at different times. for example, encounters between europeans and the Inuit of the arctic region occur ed over a period of 900 years, whereas encounters between First Nations had a span of 400 years.

General Information
First encounters with Europeans were mainly for trade purposes of goods. but sometimes there was misunderstandings due to the language barrier.
A Closer look into different perspectives
Ojibwa Perspective
These are stories/prophesies.
No real documentation (All word of mouth)
Translated from Anishnabeg to English.
When we take these into account it is clear that the story may have been altered or changed through word of mouth.

When looking at the Ojibwa perspective it is important to keep in mind the following:
the Ojibwa kept a oral tradition when describing the first encounter between them and the europeans. The story goes as follows

"Strange persons were living on the continent. Possibly spirits in the form of men or just extraordinary people. A council was called to discuss the information and an expedition was planned to seek out the new strangers. The expedition was led by a shaman. The Anishinabeg traveled east from the Great Lakes toward the territories of the Ottawa. It was here they discovered a clearing where the trees were cut cleanly and not from stone axes. Possible explanations for the felled trees was a huge beaver, but they also believed it may have been the work of the strange people they were seeking. The Anishinabeg explored further down river and discovered the remains of a winter village that had been occupied by the strange men in the previous season. They were encouraged to search the river edge further and encountered a settlAement. Strange people greeted them. The Anishinabeg liken the foreigners to squirrels because of the way they stored their goods. They did not dig holes in the ground like a squirrel, but they built up a wood case around their provisions in a hollow of a tree. They traded for cloth, metal axes, knives, flint, steel, beads, blankets, and firearms in exchange for furs. Upon returning home the Anishinabeg explorers recounted their encounter with the strangers. The trade goods were prized and the Anishinabeg entered into a commercial initiative, establishing regular trade with the French."

Ojibwa got word that "Strange" men were living on the continent

The Ojibwa went out to seek the men and met the europeans

Ojibwa found the men they were looking for and began to communicate (keep in mind that there is a language barrier)

trade began between the two, fur for things like cloth, metal axes, knives,flint,steel etc.
Fur went into high demand so therefor trade between the two was needed more than ever so they established regular trade.
The fact that in this story the Ojibwa found the europeans and not the opposite way around

(other way around in the european story)
The Ojibwa did not attack the "White men" when they first saw them, but began to admire the way they stored their goods.

The theory that the two groups communicated to a point of trade with no common languages.
What i found interesting/important from the story;
Similatirys To The Novel "The Night Wanderer"

In the book the night wanderer there is a character named Pierre, throughout the novel the reader learns that Pierre is a vampire and actually was there for the first encounter of the Ojibwa and the europeans in another life where he was named "Owl" by his birth parents.

On page 87 Owl/Pierre and his father have a conversation about their "Visitors" and who they are and what they want.
""we have guest arriving, we must show them proper welcome" (owls dad)

"what guests?" (said owl)

"traders, traders from far to the east, i have word they are interested in our animal pelts. they will trade us many valuable things, so hurry my son." (owls dad)

The first similarity from the novel to the Ojibwa story is fact that owls father says
"they are interested in our animal pelts".

`"We have guest arriving, we must show them a proper welcome"
this is because the Ojibwa practiced traditions like this.

A Closer look into different perspectives
Europeans Perspective

Most information about the "First encounters" were usually in european
perspective because they all wrote down there findings/encounters in journals where as all the natives had were word of mouth "prophesies" or story's that were told from generation to generation that got mixed up over the years because of the fact that the oral spoken words had to be translated to English from their language(s) and also because over the years a story can change so much based off what the speaker says. so therefor historians rely on documents written by the europeans because they are more reliable.

European perspectives were very one simple and do not go into much detail, the story goes as follows:

Europeans sent off to sea in hope of finding new land. The Europeans came across Canada after months and settled. The Europeans then went on to find the ojibwa and begin to setup a common agreement of trade
What i found interesting/important from the story;
Europeans found the Ojibwa in this version

Europeans were able to communicate with the ojibwa and establish trade
Similatirys To The Novel "The Night Wanderer"

In the book the night wanderer there is a character named Pierre, throughout the novel the reader learns that Pierre is a vampire and actually was there for the first encounter of the Ojibwa and the europeans in another life where he was named "Owl" by his birth parents.

On page 77 Owl/Pierre has a flashback of his inital reaction when he saw the europeans for the first time
"Then one day, totally by surprise, his world changed. and this revolotuon arrvied on the shores of his village one spring day, in a 14 foot birchbark cannoe. people with different values and understanding were coming for a visit, and in time they would never leave. and those dreams owl treasured so much would eventually become nightmares. somewere in a faraway country, his destiny was waiting for him."
The first similarity from the novel to the European story is the fact that the europeans found the Ojibwa

"and in time they would never leave
" This is repersented in the book through trading because of the fact that the Europeans established a agreement with the Ojibwa

Which Perspective influenced the novel more?

In my opinon the author took more of the ideas from the
european storys. this does NOT surprise me because realisticly the european information is more relaiable because it is documented, compared to the oral traditions fo the ojibwa.

I belive this because
Both quotes from the book shown earlier can apply to the european story, where as only one can apply to the ojibwa story.

In the book the europeans found the ojibwa and this also happened i the european story/perspective

In both the novel and european story the final outcome was a agreement of trade.

Lastly, in both the novel and the european story the europeans would settle and soon would not leave.
Although many believe that Christopher Columbus was the first European to reach America in 1492 it was in fact the Vikings who were the first Europeans to reach America, 500 years before Christopher Columbus would make his Journey. Led by Leif Erikson the Vikings sailed without maps or compasses through uncharted waters in search of new land and trade and found both by discovering America and its indigenous people.

Native First Contact with Europeans
What really happened?
So now that we know about the Ojibwa people, Europeans and their relation to Pierre let's get into a litte bit more detail

How we do know that the Vikings were the first Europeans in America? We know by studying the historical evidence we have found in the past. The most definitive proof we have that the Vikings were indeed the first Europeans in America is the only confirmed (and accepted by most archeologists) Viking Site in North America. This is found at L’anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, it contains multiple Nordic style homes and has been confirmed as used as a Viking Settlement for over a decade after they made it to America.
How do we know?
The Vikings themselves were Scandinavians; they were seafaring people who traveled the world trading, destroying and discovering along the way. Since the Vikings came from the north they had little farm land and so required travel outside Scandanavia to trade things like ivory and animal skin for other goods like wheat, silk and spices from all over the world. They used longships allowing for great navigation and the ability to be lifted and portaged traveling much greater distances than anyone else at that time. The Viking people widely believed that dying in battle was the most glorious honor and that when one died in battle they would go to Valhalla where they would participate in endless battle and feast with their god Odin.
Who were the Vikings?
The sagas were stories about Scandinavian and Germanic history that had only been passed down by word until first written in Old Norse in the 11th century. The sagas were considered at one point to be fictional literature written culturally or religiously by the Vikings but after progress in the archeological field many of the stories in the sagas were revealed to have been accounts of real events. For example; Leif Erikson leading a voyage to America in the year 1000, the sagas would then become an accurate account for Nordic history throughout the 8th to 11th century.
The Sagas
Relationship With Natives
New World
The voyage from Greenland to America was lead by Leif Erikson, a very famous and adventurous Viking. Archeological research has been able to find little record of interactions between Natives and Vikings but after proving the legitimacy of multiple stories in the Sagas there are a few stories that tell of encounters with the native people, who the Vikings referred to as Skraelings ( a condescending term used to describe a number of different cultures or races). The Natives the Vikings met were most likely the ancestors of the Montagnais, Naskapi and Beothuk.
According to one story Erikson and the other Viking warriors fled their village in fear when the Natives attacked. The next part of the story seems farfetched, where Freydis Erikdottir an almost 9 month pregnant women tore off her blouse and succeeded in repelling the attack and defending the Viking warriors.
There are two other stories in the sagas that talk about encounters with the Skraelings, the first is when a ship of Vikings entered the mouth of a river at an area they called “Hop”:
And early one morning, as they looked around, they beheld nine canoes made of hides, and snout-like staves were being brandished from the boats, and they made a noise like flails, and twisted round in the direction of the sun's motion.

Then Karlsefni said, "What will this betoken?" Snorri answered him, "It may be that it is a token of peace; let us take a white shield and go to meet them." And so they did. Then did they in the canoes row forwards, and showed surprise at them, and came to land. They were short men, ill-looking, with their hair in disorderly fashion on their heads; they were large-eyed, and had broad cheeks. And they stayed there awhile in astonishment. Afterwards they rowed away to the south, off the headland.

The Second writes of trade with the Natives:
Now when spring began, they beheld one morning early, that a fleet of hide-canoes was rowing from the south off the headland; so many were they as if the sea were strewn with pieces of charcoal, and there was also the brandishing of staves as before from each boat.

Then they held shields up, and a market was formed between them; and this people in their purchases preferred red cloth; in exchange they had furs to give, and skins quite grey. They wished also to buy swords and lances, but Karlsefni and Snorri forbad it. They offered for the cloth dark hides, and took in exchange a span long of cloth, and bound it round their heads; and so matters went on for a while.
All of these stories describe a different type of encounter between the two people, the first story was violent, but also judging from the ending of the story it didn’t seem like the story was 100% accurate in what happened. However the Natives were a people different from any other the Vikings had encountered, so when Erikson and the Vikings are scard it could have reflected the initial terror even the Vikings had dealing with an unknown race of people. The second was passive, in which neither side seemed violent but rather bewildered and unable to break the language barrier. In the third it speaks of working trade and market that had been set up between natives and Europeans showing that the Europeans had continuing interactions with the natives that eventually resulted in efficient trade between the two.
What does this show?
Native first contact with New World Europeans was very, VERY different from the Vikings. Christopher Columbus, the man who many believe to be the first European to reach America led 3 ships across the ocean in search of a faster route to Asia. In his travels he reached America, which he thought was a part of Asia refered to as the Indies, so when he first saw the Native people he referred to them as “Indians”. The main difference between the contact between Natives and Vikings and Natives and New World Europeans is the violence. When the Columbus first reached America and saw the Natives his first idea was that of torture and forced labor. He wrote this is voyage log :
Native First Contact with New World Europeans
They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned... . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane... . They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.
"As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts."
This shows that from the moment that Christopher Columbus saw the hospitality of the natives in contrast to the lethality of his own men he thought of a way to abuse the Natives into doing his bidding and serve him.

Another line in his log follows:

This just shows how the New World Europeans only thought about ways to help themselves in whatver means neccesary and that instead of approaching the natives peacefully they instantly put in void all the possibilties of trade and civilized interactions and instead went with brute force to introduce themselves to the Indigenous people
The tyranny of the Europeans was obviously extreme, as showed in the video, but it wasn’t just pure violence that the Europeans inflicted on the Natives. Large vessels containing up to 500 native slaves at a time would regularly come in and out of the ports of Spain. Money was paid for Indian scalps which supported killing even more. With the slavery, genocide and disease like smallpox that were brought to America from Europe the Natives met their match and began to dwindle in numbers, which is the reason why to this day Natives are among the smallest of minorities on their homeland.
Like Arshia said there are the Indian and the European accounts of the first contact made between the two people, but the European accounts for much less bloodshed then what was actually split. Christopher Columbus for one is known for his great discovery of America but not for starting the genocide of thousands of Natives.
In the end we see that native first contact with Europeans was very different between Old World and New World encounters, the pacifism shared by the Natives and Vikings seemed to not be shared by the New World Europeans which eventually led to the abuse of the generousity of the Indians and the death of a majority of the Native people in America.
So what does this all mean?
What this shows is how much the relationship between the Natives and the Europeans changed between the 10th and 15th century. After the age of the Vikings, the Europeans became money and power hungry; the two things that would then become the foundation for western civilization. Wiping out the indigenous people of the land and taking it as their own.They inslaved its previous owners instead of initiating civilized peaceful trade just because in Christopher Columbus's words "They would make fine servants...". In my opinion the Vikings were obviously much more succesful at building a relationship with The Natives that allowed for more civilized and beneficial interactions for both parts.
Works cited
"Canada's First Nations: European Contact." Canada's First Nations: European Contact. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2013.
"Canada's First Nations: European Contact." Canada's First Nations: European Contact. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2013.
"Ojibwe People." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2013. Web. 09 Oct. 2013.
Taylor, Drew Hayden. The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel. Toronto: Annick, 2007. Print.
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