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Henry Rowe Schoolcraft

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, 1793–1864, American ethnologist, b. near Albany, N.Y. He gave enormous impetus to the study of Native American culture and may be regarded as the foremost pioneer in Native American studies. As a young man, Schoolcraft abandoned his family's glassmaking business and made a journey down the Ohio River to Missouri. There in 1818–19 he made valuable geographical, geological, and mineralogical surveys. His journal and findings were recorded in A View of the Lead Mines of Missouri, completed in 1819. As geologist on the expedition of Gen. Lewis Cass, Schoolcraft made topographical surveys of the country of present N Michigan and about the upper Great Lakes. The expedition reached Cass Lake, which they incorrectly supposed to be the source of the Mississippi River. This voyage was described in A Narrative Journal of Travels … from Detroit through the Great Chain of American Lakes to the Sources of the Mississippi River (1821). In 1822 he was appointed Indian agent with headquarters at Sault Ste Marie and began his ethnological researches. Having married the half-Ojibwa daughter of a fur trader, Schoolcraft learned the Ojibwa language and a great deal of Ojibwa lore. His area of administration as Indian agent was later considerably increased, with new headquarters at Mackinac. He made another journey to the Mississippi in 1832, this time correctly determining Lake Itasca as the river's source, and served in the territorial legislature from 1828 to 1832. When the Whigs came to power in 1841, Schoolcraft lost his Indian agency and moved to the East, where he continued the Native American studies begun with Algic Researches (1839). He wrote voluminously on Native Americans, the chief result being his Historical and Statistical Information Respecting … the Indian Tribes of the United States (6 vol., 1851–57).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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