The Autobiography of a Fox Woman

Anthropologist Truman Michelson conducted many studies of Meskwaki and published articles about their language, culture, rituals, and legends. "The Autobiography of a Fox Woman" appeared in the 40th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution for the Years 1918-1919, pp. 291-349.

The intimate point of view presented by the woman's story provides insights into the traditional lifeways and customs of the Meskwaki, gender roles, rites of passage, and child rearing. Some aspects of the story are intended for mature audiences. This narrative served as the inspiration and source for historians and literary writers like Hadley Irwin, used portions of the story to compose a children's book, We Are Mesquakie, We Are One. Click here to read an example.

The Indian text, referred to in the Contents, offered Michelson's interpretation of the Meskwaki language as spoken by the narrator, but these pages are not presented here. Michelson was assisted by members of the tribe; Harry Lincoln and his wife Dalottiwa helped transcribe, and Horace Poweshiek helped prepare the English translation. Subsequent scholarly studies, including the work of linguist Ives Goddard of the Smithsonian Institution, have led to reinterpretations of the story as it was originally documented and translated.

The textbook used by Meskwaki school children features an small excerpt of the longer narrative with both the English and Meskwaki words. Click here if you would like to read this excerpt.

Click on a page to see an enlargement or to browse through the article.

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