What Jane Knew

Anishinaabe Stories and American Imperialism, 1815–1845

By Maureen Konkle

442 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 19 halftones, 1 map, notes, bibl

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7843-6
    Published: April 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7538-1
    Published: April 2024
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7539-8
    Published: April 2024

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The children of an influential Ojibwe-Anglo family, Jane Johnston and her brother George were already accomplished writers when the Indian agent Henry Rowe Schoolcraft arrived in Sault Ste. Marie in 1822. Charged by Michigan's territorial governor with collecting information on Anishinaabe people, he soon married Jane, "discovered" the family's writings, and began soliciting them for traditional Anishinaabe stories. But what began as literary play became the setting for political struggle. Jane and her family wrote with attention to the beauty of Anishinaabe narratives and to their expression of an Anishinaabe world that continued to coexist with the American republic. But Schoolcraft appropriated the stories and published them as his own writing, seeking to control their meaning and to destroy their impact in service to the "civilizing" interests of the United States.

In this dramatic story, Maureen Konkle helps recover the literary achievements of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft and her kin, revealing as never before how their lives and work shed light on nineteenth-century struggles over the future of Indigenous people in the United States.

About the Author

Maureen Konkle is associate professor of English at the University of Missouri.
For more information about Maureen Konkle, visit the Author Page.


"This book is, by any account, an incredible achievement and one that will stand as the definitive account of the Johnston family and their literary legacy. Konkle's scholarship here is beyond reproach, demonstrating her exemplary skills as a researcher, critic, and writer."—Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee Nation), University of British Columbia

"Konkle brings us a new understanding of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft's work with Ojibwe stories, opening new understandings of her work as a translator and as a writer dedicated to demonstrating Ojibwe peoples' humanity. This book is a signal achievement that promises to reshape future scholarship on Schoolcraft, her family, and early Indigenous literatures."—Kelly Wisecup, Northwestern University