George Copway

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(Native Americans: A Comprehensive History)

Article abstract: George Copway published a number of books on Ojibwa topics.

George Copway spent his early years in a traditional Ojibwa environment until 1827, when his parents converted to Christianity. Copway attended Ebenezer Manual School in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1838 and shortly thereafter married Elizabeth Howell. During the 1840's he served as a Methodist missionary to Ojibwas in Wisconsin and Minnesota. His first book was an autobiography, The Life, History, and Travels of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh (1847), later revised and reissued as The Life, Letters and Speeches of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, or G. Copway (1850).

In 1850-1851, Copway represented Christian Indians at a world peace congress in Germany. He subsequently published a book based on his travels, Running Sketches of Men and Places, in England, France, Germany, Belgium, and Scotland (1851). For a few months during 1851, Copway also published a newspaper, Copway's American Indian. His last book was a history of the Ojibwa that was first published as The Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation (1850); it was later reissued as Indian Life and Indian History, by an Indian Author (1858). Copway was baptized Joseph-Antoine in the Roman Catholic Church shortly before he died.

Further Reading

Peyer, Bernd C. The Tutor’d Mind: Indian Missionary-Writers in Antebellum America. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997.

Walker, Cheryl. Indian Nation: Native American Literature and Nineteenth-Century Nationalisms. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997.