To the Miscodeed
Sweet pink of northern wood and glen,
E’er first to greet the eyes of men
In early spring,—a tender flower
Whilst still the wintry wind hath power.
How welcome, in the sunny glade,
Or hazel copse, thy pretty head
Oft peeping out whilst still the snow,
Doth here and there, its presence show
Soon leaf and bud quick opening spread
Thy modest petals—white with red
Like some sweet cherub—love’s kind link,
With dress of white, adorned with pink
Jane Johnston Schoolcraft: An Ojibway Poet
Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, born on January 31, 1800, near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, holds a significant place in the realm of Ojibway literature. As a writer, poet, and translator, Schoolcraft became one of the first Native American literary voices to be recognized and celebrated. Her works shed light on the cultural heritage of the Ojibway people and the struggles they faced during the 19th century. Today, her writings continue to be revered as an essential part of the Native American literary tradition.
Born to a Scots-Irish father and an Ojibway mother, Schoolcraft grew up immersed in two cultures, allowing her to develop a unique perspective that infused her writing. In her poems, she skillfully weaves together elements of both Ojibway and Euro-American styles with a delicate balance. Schoolcraft’s writings often explore themes of nature, spirituality, cultural identity, and the challenges faced by Indigenous communities.
One of her most notable works, “A Dream of the Sky-Tinged Waters,” captures the beauty and tranquility of nature while also addressing the heartbreaking effects of colonization. In this poem, Schoolcraft paints vivid imagery of the Ojibway homeland, emphasizing the connection between the land and her people’s spiritual well-being. She highlights the importance of preserving Indigenous cultures and the natural world, reminding readers of the devastating consequences when these are disrupted.
Schoolcraft’s “The Appeal,” a plea for understanding and empathy towards Indigenous peoples, showcases her poetic prowess in delivering powerful messages. In this poem, she urges readers to recognize the inherent worth and resilience of Native Americans while challenging prevailing stereotypes. Schoolcraft eloquently expresses the desire for peace, reconciliation, and mutual respect between cultures, making her work both timeless and highly relevant in today’s world.
Aside from her poetry, Schoolcraft also made significant contributions as a translator. She skillfully translated traditional Ojibway stories and legends into English, preserving and sharing her people’s rich oral traditions for a wider audience. By doing so, she bridged the gap between Ojibway and Euro-American cultures, ensuring that the stories and voices of her community would not be lost to history. Her translations serve as a testament to her commitment to honor and preserve the cultural heritage of the Ojibway people.
Sadly, much of Schoolcraft’s work remained unpublished and unrecognized during her lifetime. It was not until the late 20th century that her contributions were rediscovered and celebrated. Scholars and researchers began to recognize the invaluable insights and perspectives her writings offered, shedding light on Ojibway culture and history. Today, her work stands as a testament to the resilience and creativity of Indigenous peoples.
In conclusion, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft’s legacy as an Ojibway poet and translator is of immense importance to Native American literature. Through her poems and translations, she provided a platform for her people’s stories, fostered cultural understanding, and challenged prevailing stereotypes. Schoolcraft’s contributions continue to inspire and educate, bringing attention to the struggles and beauty of the Ojibway people and their enduring legacy.
From “The Muzzeniegun” A Literary Magazine published November 1826.