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Kegg, Maude (Ellen Mitchell) 1904-1996

KEGG, Maude (Ellen Mitchell) 1904-1996


PERSONAL: Ojibwe name, Naawakamigookwe (name means "Middle of the Earth Lady"); born August 26, 1904, in Crow Wing County, MN; died, January 6, 1996; daughter of Charles and Nancy (Pine) Mitchell; married Martin Kegg (a farm and seasonal worker), 1920; children: eleven.


CAREER: Craftsperson, bead artist, oral historian. Minnesota Historical Society, interpreter.


AWARDS, HONORS: August 26, 1986, was designated "Maude Kegg Day" by Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich; National Heritage Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts and President George Bush, 1990.


WRITINGS:


Gabekanaansing = At the End of the Trail: Memories of Chippewa Childhood in Minnesota with Texts in Ojibwe and English (autobiography), transcribed and edited by John D. Nichols, Museum of Anthropology, University of Northern Colorado (Greeley, CO), 1978, expanded, revised, and reprinted as Portage Lake: Memories of an Ojibwe Childhood, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.

Nookomis Gaa-Inaajimotawid: What My GrandmotherTold Me (special edition of Oshkaabewis Native Journal), 1990.


Kegg's artwork is contained in the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society Indian Museum and the Smithsonian Institution.


SIDELIGHTS: Maude Kegg was an Ojibwe elder whose oral histories have been translated and edited by John D. Nichols, a professor of Native studies and linguistics at the University of Manitoba, based on their collaboration, which began in the early 1970s. Most of the works that have resulted are bilingual, published in both Ojibwe and English, and contain extensive notes and glossaries.


Kegg was born in a teepee during the rice harvesting season, and she later chose her own exact birthdate of August 26, 1904. Her mother's family belonged to the Chippewa band of approximately 300 people known as the "non-removable band" for their refusal to relocate to the White Earth reservation in the northwest corner of the state on the grounds that it would be a breech of the Mille Lacs Treaty of 1855. The government did not recognize the band until 1934, nor their reservation, Portage Lake, until 1939.

After Kegg's mother died in childbirth, or soon after, Kegg was raised by her father and maternal grandmother, Margaret Pine. In addition to teaching and nurturing the young girl, the grandmother passed on the oral history of the tribe. Kegg was the only Native child in the school where she attended classes through eighth grade. She became educated in the traditional activities of her people—maple sugaring, trapping, gardening, tanning, hunting, snowshoe making, and foraging. She met and married Martin Kegg, and the couple lived near Portage Lake until 1942, when they moved to the Mille Lacs reservation. Their family included eleven children.


Kegg was known for her artistry, and her creations included dolls, rugs, porcupine quill work, and jewelry, but she is most noted for her exquisite beadwork, particularly for the Ojibwe bandolier bag which was the centerpiece of the traveling exhibit Lost and Found Traditions: Native American Art 1965-1985, sponsored by the American Federation of Arts.


The first volume of Kegg's stories of her childhood, Gabekanaansing = At the End of the Trail: Memories of Chippewa Childhood in Minnesota with Texts in Ojibwe and English, was published in 1978. The original volume contained twenty-five stories, and in the revised and expanded version, Portage Lake: Memories of an Ojibwe Childhood, sixteen more stories are included. Nichols provides an introduction that describes the process of collecting and translating the stories, which are organized according to season, as well as his use of English-language conventions, including punctuation and capitalization. He also provides a history of Kegg and her family.


Adrienne Kertzer said in Books in Canada that "even the reader who is not a student of Ojibwe will find Kegg's stories captivating and her references to the limits of memory poignant. So many of her stories conclude, 'That's all I remember of what I did.' One senses that there is so much more that we can never know because she no longer remembers." American Indian Quarterly's Kimberly M. Blaeser felt that "given through the child's unsophisticated vision, they [the stories] manage to create a sense of immediacy in the rendering of the past and to capture the atmosphere of largesse with which the young Kegg viewed the world despite (or perhaps because of) the simple, basic existence of her community."


In a Quill & Quire review, Jane Aspinall called the book "a valuable resource in a world where particular oral cultural histories, as preserved by their native languages, are quickly fading." "As a collection of autobiograhical anecdotes, this work is a refreshing addition to the literature on Ojibwe language and culture," wrote Vivian Rohrl in Ethnohistory. "In its use and exposition of the language, it also has succeeded in doing what it set out to do. The textual information that follows the stories should prove useful for further detailed linguistic study."


A writer for Voices from the Gaps online noted that the narratives in Nookomis Gaa-Inaajimotawid: What My Grandmother Told Me "differ from those in Portage Lake by virtue of their point of view. Taboos, battles with the Sioux (now known as the Dakota), disease, and death rituals, as well as Kegg's industrious grandmother, are subjects which lend a more adult portrayal of Ojibwe life than the child's perspective found in Portage Lake. Nature continues to play a predominant role in the Ojibwe life presented here. . . . Respect and ritual observance of seasonal events are further elaborated. The connection of the land to ritual offerings and other themes are continued here."


Maude Kegg was honored by the State of Minnesota when Governor Rudy Perpich declared August 26, 1986, "Maude Kegg Day." Kegg was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship Award jointly by President George Bush and the National Endowment for the Arts in 1990. She died on January 6, 1996, at the age of ninety-two.


BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:


BOOKS


Buffalohead, Roger, and Priscilla Buffalohead, Against the Tide of American History: The Story of the Mille Lacs Anishinabe, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (Cass Lake, MN), 1985, pp. 136-139.

Coe, Ralph T., Lost and Found Traditions: NativeAmerican Art 1965-1985, University of Washington Press (Seattle, WA), 1986.

Garte, Edna, Circle of Life: Cultural Continuity inOjibwe Crafts, St. Louis County Historical Museum, Chisholm Museum, Duluth Art Institute (Duluth, MN), 1984.

Kegg, Maude, Gabekanaansing = At the End of theTrail: Memories of Chippewa Childhood in Minnesota with Texts in Ojibwe and English (autobiography), transcribed and edited by John D. Nichols, Museum of Anthropology, University of Northern Colorado (Greeley, CO), 1978, expanded, revised, and reprinted as Portage Lake: Memories of an Ojibwe Childhood, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.

Tanner, Helen Hornbeck, The Ojibwa, Chelsea House (New York, NY), 1992.



PERIODICALS


American Indian Culture and Research Journal, fall, 1992, Donna Rosh, review of Portage Lake: Memories of an Ojibwa Childhood, p. 249.

American Indian Quarterly, summer, 1993, Kimberly M. Blaeser, review of Portage Lake, p. 427.

Books in Canada, May, 1992, Adrienne Kertzer, review of Portage Lake, pp. 43, 45.

Ethnohistory, summer, 1993, Vivian Rohrl, review of Portage Lake, pp. 473-474.

Oshkaabewis Native Journal, fall, 1995, Adrian Liberty, review of Portage Lake, p. 102.

Quill & Quire, March, 1992, Jane Aspinall, review of Portage Lake, p. 63.



ONLINE


Voices from the Gaps,http://voices.cla.umn.edu/ (July 13, 2002), biography of Maude Kegg.*

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