american indian quarterly/fall 2010/vol. 34, no. 4
This process was vital to the colonial project, and it stood in stark opposition to the fact that it was on the well-being of indigenous landsthat the very survival of indigenous peoples depended.
Having answersto the question of Native origins that challenged the magnitude, dura-tion, and even the very legitimacy of Native Americans’ presence andtenure in America offered powerful colonial tools for furthering triballand dispossession.In this essay I argue that American Indian authors had a keen un-derstanding of the political and racial implications the varied answersEuropean Americans were offering about their origins held for theircommunities. By tackling dominant origin theories, they interruptedthe white-supremacist discourse surrounding the topic. Their answerswere crafted delicately so as to be salient to their predominantly whiteaudiences and yet also actively promote indigenous sovereignty, a sov-ereignty inherent in peoplehood.
This peoplehood was “inseparably linked to sacred traditions, traditional homelands, and a shared history as indigenous people.”
With the ongoing colonial project of the UnitedStates attempting to strip indigenous groups of key aspects of their peo-plehood, including language, sacred history, religion, and land, through“the means of territorial dispossession, assimilation, religious conver-sion, or outright extermination,” we can understand their answers,which sought to protect this peoplehood, as bold acts of resistance.
My primary focus is on three Anishinaabeg writers: Kahkewaquon-aby (Peter Jones), Kahgegagahbowh (George Copway), and WilliamWhipple Warren, who were, for the most part, writing contemporane-ously (between the mid-
s) and who were each embroiledin ﬁghts against colonial land grabs and removal policies focused ontheir communities in Canada and the United States during this pe-riod.
These three multifaceted individuals, with their own unique lifehistories, were bound by ongoing problems of misrepresentation andoppression in their communities and their willingness to represent An-ishinaabeg history and knowledge to white audiences (
). Eachtracked contemporary debate and discourse on Native American ori-gins in North America. In their written works they constructed and dis-seminated answers to these dilemmas that actively attended to the chal-lenges of ongoing colonization in their speciﬁc communities as well asenvisioned a wider Native American sovereignty. Before detailing thehistorical context of origin questions in the nineteenth century, I draw