Gichi Bizhiki (Grandfather Buffalo): Anishinaabe sovereignty, the seasonal round, and resistance to the colonization of the web of life, 1780-1890

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


Gichi Bizhiki (Grandfather Buffalo): Anishinaabe Sovereignty, the Seasonal Round, and Resistance to the Colonization of the Web of Life is an Indigenous environmental history of the years 1780 through 1890, in which many Anishinaabeg departed the wild rice- centered food system and fanned out across the Northwestern Plains from the Red River Valley to the Rocky Mountains, as they adapted to buffalo culture. The Anishinaabeg practiced the seasonal round, a highly complex pattern of movements on the land to hunt, harvest, cultivate, and trade foods as part of a holistic way of life, patterned on ancestral reciprocal obligations to place. From the 1600s forward, Euro-American colonizers, in support of industrial and capital development in Europe and eastern North America, extracted natural resources from Turtle Island including animal furs and robes, minerals, forests, and overtook land for monocropping. Euro-American colonization of the web of life to which Anishinaabe people belonged rendered the Anishinaabe seasonal round way of life unsustainable. Further, colonial policies attempted to suppress all aspects of Anishinaabe life including language, knowledge, and spiritual life. In response to colonial persecution, Anishinaabeg 'ran with the archives,' (their ceremonies) as it was unsafe for their children to be identified as Anishinaabeg. Following Anishinaabe western movement, this study tells the story of how Anishinaabe resisted colonization. Research methods included drawing on archival sources from Canada and the United States, and culturally-congruent sources including ceremony, traditional stories, ancestral knowledge of cultural leaders, language, and time spent on the land. This history is presented as one Indigenous view contributing to the field of History. This dissertation concludes that Grandfather Buffalo, the one that has stood for Anishinaabeg and their kin for millennia, is a central source of Anishinaabe sovereignty and the center of the Anishinaabe economy, the kinship network of exchange. Further, the Anishinaabe food system, the seasonal round, was sustainable for millennia because it was critically embedded in the holistic Anishinaabe way of life. Worldview is an essential factor in lifeway sustainability. Finally, by their words, deeds, and movement, Anishinaabeg resisted colonization of the web of life, or what Anishinaabeg refer to as 'all our relations'.




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