Memoirs of an Interpreter among the Ojibwe, 1840-1900

Early Life among the Indians

In 1840 Armstrong took up his residence among the Indians of northern Wisconsin, learned the Ojibwe language, and became a well-known interpreter. He won their friendship by respecting traditional life and culture, and was welcomed into the family of the most respected leader of the Lake Superior bands, Ke-Che-Waish-Ke, or Great Buffalo (1759?-1855). In 1852 he accompanied Great Buffalo and other chiefs to Washington, D.C., to plead against the proposed forced relocation of the Ojibwe west of the Mississippi. The mission was successful: a meeting between the elderly Ojibwe chief and President Millard Fillmore brought a reversal of the removal order of 1849.

Through his connections with Chief Buffalo's family, Armstrong had access to leaders of all the Ojibwe bands. His book contains their recollections of battles with Sioux adversaries, memoirs of the Sandy Lake tragedy, accounts of the crucial treaty councils that defined modern Ojibwe life, the arrival of miners and loggers in the Ojibwe homelands, and much more about northern Wisconsin in the 19th century. Armstrong admitted that his memory was faulty about precise details, but comparison of his text with other sources confirms the general accuracy of his accounts. An edited version, with footnotes correcting such errors, appeared in Wisconsin Magazine of History volumes 55 and 56 (1972-73).

Related Topics: Territory to Statehood
Mining, Logging, and Agriculture
Colonialism Transforms Indian Life
Treaty Councils, from Prairie du Chien to Madeline Island
Logging and Forest Products
Mining in Northern Wisconsin
Creator: Armstrong, Benjamin G., 1820-1900.
Pub Data: Full title: Early life among the Indians: Reminiscences from the life of Benj. G. Armstrong; Treaties of 1835, 1837, 1842 and 1854; Habits and customs of the red men of the forest; Incidents, biographical sketches, battles, &c. Dictated to and written by Thos. P. Wentworth. (Ashland, Wis.: Press of A. W. Bowron, 1892).
Citation: Early Life among the Indians: Reminiscences from the Life of Benj. G. Armstrong... (Ashland, Wis.: Press of A. W. Bowron, 1892). Online facsimile at:; Visited on: 2/5/2023