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Picturing the Soul on Manidoo Ziibi

Picturing the Soul on Manidoo Ziibi

(p.55) 4 Picturing the Soul on Manidoo Ziibi
The Story of Radio Mind
Pamela E. Klassen
University of Chicago Press

This chapter follows Frederick Du Vernet on his 1898 journey by train, steamer, and canoe to Ojibwe Treaty 3 territory on Manidoo Ziibi, also known as the Rainy River. Visiting Jeremiah and Mary Johnston, Cree Anglican missionaries, Frederick brought along his dry-plate camera and his notebook to write stories of the mission for the Canadian Church Missionary Gleaner. Based on the diary that remains from his short July visit, the chapter focuses on the photographic events he recorded, describing how Ojibwe men and women, especially elders, marked their resistance to his presence and his picture-taking, especially of gravesites. Placing the missionary’s sense of spiritual sight within the same frame as what Gerald Vizenor has called the “imagic presence” of the Anishinaabe, and considering writings by Roland Barthes and Walter Benjamin, it becomes evident that all parties to the colonial encounter understood visual imagery to have a power beyond that of the merely documentary. Taking a photograph could be an act of colonial aggression and a gesture toward relationship. Drawing on writings by Louise Erdrich and photos by Frances Densmore to show the longer history of visual documentation along the Rainy River, the chapter ends with reflection on photographic sovereignty.

Keywords:   Treaty 3 Ojibwe, Jeremiah Johnston, Anishinaabe, photographic event, Louise Erdrich, Roland Barthes, photographic sovereignty, resistance, elders, graves

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