Seasons of Change

Labor, Treaty Rights, and Ojibwe Nationhood

By Chantal Norrgard

216 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 4 halftones, 1 map, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1729-9
    Published: August 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-1730-5
    Published: August 2014
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8554-8
    Published: August 2014

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Awards & distinctions

2015 David Montgomery Award, Organization of American Historians and Labor and Working-Class History Association

From the 1870s to the 1930s, the Lake Superior Ojibwes of Minnesota and Wisconsin faced dramatic economic, political, and social changes. Examining a period that began with the tribe's removal to reservations and closed with the Indian New Deal, Chantal Norrgard explores the critical link between Ojibwes' efforts to maintain their tribal sovereignty and their labor traditions and practices. As Norrgard explains, the tribe's "seasonal round" of subsistence-based labor was integral to its survival and identity. Though encroaching white settlement challenged these labor practices, Ojibwe people negotiated treaties that protected their rights to make a living by hunting, fishing, and berrying and through work in the fur trade, the lumber industry, and tourism. Norrgard shows how the tribe strategically used treaty rights claims over time to uphold its right to work and to maintain the rhythm and texture of traditional Ojibwe life.

Drawing on a wide range of sources, including New Deal–era interviews with Ojibwe people, Norrgard demonstrates that while American expansion curtailed the Ojibwes’ land base and sovereignty, the tribe nevertheless used treaty-protected labor to sustain its lifeways and meet economic and political needs--a process of self-determination that continues today.

A project of First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies

About the Author

Chantal Norrgard is an independent scholar based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
For more information about Chantal Norrgard, visit the Author Page.


“Deeply researched, tightly written, highly analytical, and packed with fresh and useful information.”--The Annals of Iowa

“Accessible to the general reader while offering much to labor historians and specialists in Ojibwe history.”--Western Historical Quarterly

“Norrgard has done a fine job of explaining and analyzing this complex but interesting history of Native people’s work and political struggles in the Midwestern North woods.”--American Historical Review

"Effectively using government reports, newspaper accounts, memoirs and biographies, and a wonderful set of Works Progress Administration documents, Norrgard tells the story and discusses the cultural and political meanings of diverse Ojibwe economic actions, effectively demonstrating how labor facilitated cultural production and social reproduction."--Jessica R. Cattelino, University of California, Los Angeles

"Seasons of Change shows us why labor is significant for indigenous history. Norrgard pushes beyond existing work in this burgeoning field to show how culture, environment, treaty rights, and colonialism shaped Indian workers' experience and their demands for social change."--Colleen O’Neill, Utah State University