Betsey Guppy Chamberlain

Native American Mill Girl

During the 1830s and 1840s, Betsey Guppy Chamberlain (daughter of an Algonquian woman) worked in the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts and wrote stories for two workers’ magazines. A brave and pioneering author, Chamberlain wrote the earliest known Native American fiction and some of the earliest nonfiction about the persecution of Native people.

Image: Betsy Guppy Chamberlain, right
With another Lowell Mill girl

Early Years
Betsey Guppy was born December 29, 1797 in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee. She was the daughter of William Guppy and Comfort Meserve Guppy. She was of mixed race: American and Algonquian Indian. Betsey married Josiah Chamberlain on June 25, 1820, and they had two children; he died July 19, 1823. Unable to do the work alone, she was forced to sell their farm and work in the mills in Lowell, Massachusetts to support herself and her children. The mills paid good wages, but the hours were long.

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Madeline La Framboise

Native American Bussinesswoman

La Framboise was one of the most successful fur traders in Michigan, while it was still considered the Northwest Territory. At that time, fur trading was a difficult, dangerous and male-dominated occupation. Madame La Framboise was one of the most prominent early businesswomen in the territory.

Madeline Marcotte was born in February 1780 at Mackinac Island, the daughter of a French-Canadian fur trader Jean Baptiste Marcotte and Marie Nekesh, an Ottawa Indian. Madeline was only 3 months old when her father died. She was raised among her mother’s people in an Ottawa village at the mouth of the Grand River near Grand Haven Michigan. She must have been a person of some status there, as her grandfather was Chief Kewinoquot.

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Frances Slocum

Abducted by Indians in Pennsylvania

Frances Slocum, or Maconaquah, (1773-1847) was an Indian captive who was taken from her family home in Pennsylvania in 1778 by the Delaware Tribe. She was raised by an elderly Miami Indian couple in what is now Ohio and Indiana. Slocum was reunited with her white relatives in 1838, but remained with her adopted Native American family for the rest of her life.

Image: The austere woman portrayed in this painting by artist John Froehlich is much less Frances Slocum and far more Maconaquah.

Childhood and Early Years
Frances Slocum was one of ten children born to Jonathan and Ruth Tripp Slocum, a Quaker family who emigrated from Rhode Island to the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania in 1777. During the Revolutionary War, the Slocums remained in the settlement while many others fled before the Battle of Wyoming in July 1778. During that battle British forces and Seneca warriors destroyed a nearby fort and killed over 300 American settlers.

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Marie Dorion

Native American on the Astor Expedition

Image: Marie Dorion – Escape 1814 by John Clymer

Marie Dorion (1786–1850), a Native American of the Iowa tribe, was the only female member of the Astor Expedition (1811-1812) from Missouri to Oregon Country. Her journey followed that of Sacagawea by six years, but Dorion’s 3,500-mile trek was both longer and much more difficult. Her epic story shows the strength and perseverance needed to survive in the unforgiving wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.

Childhood and Early Years
A member of the Iowa tribe, Marie was probably born in 1786. It appears that Marie did not to have a Native American name. She was most likely baptized in the Roman Catholic Church early in her life; she also gave Christian names to her sons, Jean Baptiste and Paul.

While still a teenager, she married Pierre Dorion, whose father was French Canadian; his mother was a member of the branch of the Sioux Nation that lived near modern Yankton, South Dakota. Pierre and Marie settled in this area just after the nineteenth century began, and some consider him “the first white resident of South Dakota.”

Men of French heritage had far better relations with Native American women than other Europeans, and they often assimilated into their wives’ tribes. Pierre Dorion made a living in the fur trading business that centered in St. Louis, Missouri. Fur trading involved almost constant travel, and Marie often accompanied him on buying and selling trips through what would become the states of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas.

The Astor Expedition
New York fur magnate John Jacob Astor had determined to expand his fur trading empire beyond the Great Lakes. Astor’s plans were to create a company that would control the entire existing fur trade, and to extend it all the way to the Pacific. However, his presence there was not welcomed by the British who had claims in that area and Canadian enterprises, including the North West Company and the Hudson Bay Company.

Astor understood that his proposal for the expedition was as much political, as it was commercial, but he was not willing to “concede so lucrative a trade to their British and Canadian counterparts without a spirited contest.” In 1810 Astor and his working partners established the Pacific Fur Company. Soon thereafter his sea company founded a fur trading post they named Fort Astoria on the Columbia River in Oregon Country – the first U.S. settlement on the Pacific Coast.

In 1810, ambitious young St. Louis merchant Wilson Price Hunt, age 29, was hired to lead an expedition seeking an overland route from Missouri to Oregon Country. Along the way, Hunt’s mission was to identify locations where fur trading posts could be established that could also serve as way stations to expedite communications between Astor’s Eastern headquarters and the Western trading posts.

Hunt’s orders were to get the best scouts and translators for the journey by paying more than the Canadian companies. As interpreters, Hunt hired half Yankton-Sioux, Pierre Dorion and his wife Iowan Marie Dorion, and paid them a nice advance. Between the two they knew several Indian dialects plus English, French and Spanish.

Marie, the only woman on the expedition, probably did not yet know that she was pregnant. Son Jean Baptiste was five and Paul was a toddler of two when the young family set out on the long, unmapped journey from Missouri to Fort Astoria. During the nation’s three centuries of westward expansion, men had discovered the advantages of having a native woman along when they ventured into new territory.

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Jane Johnston Schoolcraft

Native American Author and Poet

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (1800-1842) was the first Native American literary writer. She was also the first known Indian woman writer, the first known American Indian poet and the first known poet to write poems in a Native American language. Now, critics speculate about the extent to which Jane also contributed to her husband’s writings, for which she was rarely given credit. So pensively joyful, so humbly sublime – this final line of her poem “Pensive Hours” aptly describes Schoolcraft’s writing.

Childhood and Early Years
Jane Johnston Schoolcraft was born on January 31, 1800 in Sault Ste. Marie in the upper peninsula of what is now the state of Michigan. Her Ojibwe name was Bamewawagezhikaquay, which translates as Woman of the Sound that Stars Make Rushing through the Sky. One writer describes Schoolcraft as having been “intelligent, gentle, gracious and deeply religious,” and, physically, “fairly tall and slender, with dark eyes and hair, which she wore in ringlets.”

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Polly Cooper

Oneida Woman Who Saved Washington’s Army

Polly Cooper was an Oneida woman who took part in an expedition to aid the Continental Army during the American Revolution at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania during the bitterly cold winter of 1777-78. Cooper has long been held up as an example of the courage, generosity and indomitable spirit of the Oneida people.

Image: George Washington, Polly Cooper and Chief Skenandoah at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC

When the Revolution began, the Oneidas decided to fight side by side with the Americans, thus becoming the young country’s first ally. In the summer of 1777, a pary of Oneidas fought at the Battle of Oriskany, a significant engagement in the Saratoga campaign. The Oneidas help General Nicholas Herkimer and his 800 Tryon County militiamen stop the British forces, preventing them from entering the Mohawk Valley and marching east along the valley to Albany.

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Native American on the Lewis and Clark Expedition

On February 28, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson won approval from Congress for a project that would become one of America’s greatest stories of adventure. It would be led by Jefferson’s secretary Meriwether Lewis and Lewis’ friend William Clark. Sacagawea, a Lemhi Shoshone Indian, was the only woman to accompany the 33 members of the permanent party to the Pacific Ocean and back.

Image: Sacagawea and Jean-Baptiste Monument
Sacagawea Center in Salmon, Idaho

As to the pronunciation and spelling of her name, Captain Clark wrote that the “great object was to make every letter sound” in recording Indian words in their journals. He therefore recorded her name as Sacagawea (Sah-cah’ gah-we-ah), a combination of the Hidatsa words for bird (sacaga) and woman (wea) – always with a ‘g’ in the third syllable.

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Cherokee Women’s Rights

Women’s Rights in Cherokee Society

Image: Loving Sun
Marianne Caroselli, Artist
(I know the Cherokee did not live in teepees; I just love this painting.)

In the early 18th century, the Cherokee existence was one marked by balance guided by oral tradition. Their belief in balance in all aspects of life didn’t leave room for a system of hierarchy that oppressed women. Men primarily assumed the roles of hunters, while women took responsibility for agriculture and gathering.

At the time of European contact, the Cherokee controlled a large area of what is now the southeastern United States. Of the southeastern Indian confederacies of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries (Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw), the Cherokee were one of the most populous and powerful, and were relatively isolated by their hilly and mountainous homeland.

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Molly Brant

American Revolution Loyalist

Molly Brant Plaque
Kingston Ontario

Molly Brant was an important Mohawk woman in upstate New York and Canada in the era of the American Revolution, particularly in the Mohawk Valley, the area surrounding the Mohawk River, sandwiched between the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains. Her younger brother, Joseph Brant, grew into a celebrated Mohawk statesman in his own right and rubbed shoulders with the likes of U.S. General George Washington and King George III of England.

Molly Deganwadonti was born in 1736, the daughter of Peter Tehonwaghkwangeraghkwa and his wife Margaret, both Mohawks of the Wolf clan from Canajoharie – the site of a barricaded long house village of the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois Nation in New York. After Peter’s death, Margaret married Brant Kanagaradunkwa, a Mohawk sachem of the Turtle clan, who owned a colonial-style frame house and lived and dressed in the European style.

Although not much is known of Molly’s life at Canajoharie during the 1740s and 1750s, from her infancy through her teenage years and into her early twenties, it is likely that she lived in Nickus Brant’s house. She was well educated in the European ways of life, with her formal education likely taking place in an English mission school, as she learned to speak and write English well.

Molly Brant’s political activity began when she was 18 years old. In 1754, she accompanied a delegation of Mohawk elders to Philadelphia to discuss fraudulent land transactions. This trip may have been part of her training in the Iroquois tradition, for she was to become a clan matron.

A British officer during the French and Indian War, William Johnson dealt honestly with the Mohawk, who appreciated his mastery of their language. His victory over the French and Algonquin in 1755 at the Battle of Lake George, New York, earned him a British knighthood. Johnson was eventually appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the province of New York.

During this time, Molly met Sir William Johnson, and moved into his house, Old Fort Johnson, before the birth of their first son Peter in September 1759. Molly was about 23, while William was 44 years old. She became Johnson’s common-law wife in a traditional Mohawk ceremony. Johnson couldn’t formally marry her because Molly was considered of a lower class. The couple had nine children together, eight of whom survived.

Johnson had acquired 600,000 acres of land in the Mohawk Valley, making him one of the richest men in the colonies. He was a successful colonial trader, and adapted well to Native ways. The Mohawk called him Warraghiyagey, a man of many interests, in tribute to his irrepressible curiosity.

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Queen Aliquippa

Native American Leader

Image: Young Major George Washington Visits Queen Aliquippa

Queen Aliquippa was a leader of the Seneca tribe of Native Americans during the early part of the 18th century. Little is known about her early life. Her date of birth has been estimated anywhere from the early 1670s to the early 1700s, but historians have indicated that she was born in the 1680s, probably in upstate New York.

The story of Queen Aliquippa begins long before white trappers had ventured into western Pennsylvania, so no accurate record of her early life exists. The information that can be found is extremely fragmented, so sorting through the fact and fiction of her life will be left to the reader.

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