Rainy River Lives


Rainy River Lives

Stories Told by Maggie Wilson

Maggie Wilson
Compiled, edited, and with an introduction by Sally Cole

300 pages
24 photos, 2 maps


May 2009


$35.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Rainy River Lives is the long-lost collection of stories of Ojibwe men and women as told by a hitherto unpublished, traditional Ojibwe storyteller, Maggie Wilson (1879–1940). Wilson lived on the Manitou Rapids Reserve on the Rainy River, which flows along the Ontario-Minnesota border. When anthropologist Ruth Landes arrived at Rainy River to conduct her doctoral research in 1932, Wilson often worked with the young scholar, telling her many stories. Their relationship continued after Landes returned to Columbia University. During the following decades, however, the letters and stories Wilson had sent Landes, which Landes had carefully collected, were lost. Only recently were they discovered in the basement of the Smithsonian Institution, where they had been misfiled with papers of another anthropologist.

This rich set of narratives takes us inside the intimate world of Ojibwe families at the turn of the twentieth century, a time of great upheaval when the Ojibwes were being relocated onto reserves and required by the government to abandon their seasonal migrations and subsistence activities. These remarkably detailed stories of ordinary Native people, precisely through their everyday character, reveal much about Ojibwe cultural beliefs and paint a nuanced ethnographic portrait of Ojibwe life. In the distinctive voice of an exceptional and highly creative individual, the stories address both the culturally specific world of the Ojibwes and universal human themes of love,  loss, and perseverance.

Author Bio

Sally Cole is a professor of anthropology at Concordia University. She is the author of Ruth Landes: A Life in Anthropology (Nebraska 2003) and Women of the Praia: Work and Lives in a Portuguese Coastal Community.


"Providing new insights into an episode in collaborative anthropology that happened eight decades ago, this book contributes fresh material to our understandings of Native women's lives in the early twentieth century."—Jennifer S.H. Brown, Collaborative Anthropologies

"Wilson and Cole have made an excellent contribution on several levels. Every reader will find a favorite story. Ojibwe readers in particular will likely find traces of stories and experiences shared by their own families."—Jill Doerfler, Ethnohistory

"Rainy River Lives presents an intriguing compilation of stories told by Maggie Wilson to her daughter Janet, who used the skills she learned at a residential school to transcribe them onto a stenographer's pad."—Mishuana Goeman, Journal of Anthropological Research

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



Historical Context and Chronology

Part 1. Men and Women

1. She Got In with Him Again After They Were Widows

2. Why Didn't You Take Good Care of Her While I Was Away?

3. You Can Have Him All to Yourself

4. He Made Up His Mind to Look After Her

5. The Wind Took the Canoe Right across the Lake

Part 2. Parents and Children

6. We Will Take You and Love You as Our Very Own Daughter

7. Her Father Was Sitting with His Head Down with Tears in His Eyes

8. I'll Show That Man That Stole My Daughter Away from Me

9. A Very Young Man Adopted Them for Parents

10. They Moved On to Different Places

Part 3. Siblings

11. Oh, Can't You Find a Place in Your Heart for Me?

12. They Made Up Their Mind Not to Let Their Son-in-Law Go

13. If You Stop Along, I Will Give Youse a Lunch

14. She Liked Him as a Brother

Part 4. Women Alone

15. Cloud Woman, the Fast Runner

16. Her Dead Grandmother Told Her to Straighten Up

17. She Was Left There to Starve, but She Was Too Smart for That

18. Let Them Stay Single All They Want To

19. Why Do I Have to Die Now When I Have a Man and Children to Live For?

20. Leave Me Here to Starve Alone

21. The Old Woman Doctor

22. She Used to Make All Kinds of Little Things for Her Boy

Part 5. Friends and Foes

23. I Have a Pawahgun That Gives Me the Power

24. It Won't Be Her That Will Know

25. I Knew I Could Go There and Bring Home a Man for Myself

26. He Gave Her a Folded Birch-Bark Map

27. The Moose Was Wise Enough to Bring the Boy Back

28. She Knew the Bear Wanted Her to Go Someplace

29. She Knew That This Woman She Dreamed Was the Bear

30. I Want to Be Your Pawahgun






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