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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 17, 2003 - Issue 87


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History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan

by ANDREW J. BLACKBIRD, Late U.S. Interpreter, Harbor Springs, Emmet Co., Mich.
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)


Ottawa and Chippewa verbs are changed in their conjugations, to indicate--

1st. Whether their subjects are animate, or inanimate;

2d. Whether their objects are animate, or inanimate;

3d. Whether they are transitive, or intransitive;

4th. Whether they are active, or passive, or reflective;

5th. Whether the expression is common, or emphatic.

They also express by their forms all of the distinctions of mood and tense, person and number, found in the English, and form their parciples, and are changed into verbal or participial nouns; and these modifications are for the most part regular in form.

I. Verbs with inanimate subjects correspond to English impersonal or neuter verbs, but are much more extensively used. They are usually formed by adding the impersonal pronoun, maw-got--it as, Animate Subject. ... Inanimate Subject. Sing-Au-nou-kee, he works. ... Au-nou-ke-maw-got, it works. Ke-au-nou-ke, he worked. ... Ke-au-nou-ke-maw-got, it worked. Plu. Au-nou-ke-wog, they work. Au-nou-ke-maw-go-toun, things wrk Ke-au-nou-ke-wog, "wrk'd. Ke-au-nou-ke-maw-go-toun, "wrkd. Standing trees, as well as all living creatures and personified things, are regarded as animate.

II, III. The distinctions for animate and inanimate objects, and for transitive and intransitive, are illustrated by the following: Singular--I kill, Thou killest, etc.

Intransitive ... Transitive. Pers. ... Animate Object ... Inanimate Object 1 Ne-ne-taw-gay ... Ne-ne-saw ... Ne-ne-ton 1 Ke-ne-taw-gay ... Ke-ne-saw ... Ke-ne-toun 3 Ne-taw-gay ... O-ne-sawn, or son ... O-ne-toun

Plural--We kill, You kill, etc. 1 Ne-ne-taw-gay-me ... Ne-ne-saw-naw ... Ne-ne-tou-naw 2 Ke-ne-taw-gaym ... Ke-new-saw-waw ... Ke-ne-tou-naw-waw 3 Ne-taw-gay-wog ... O-ne-saw-wawn or won ... O-ne-tou-naw-waw

Singular--I see, Thou seest, etc. 1 Ne-waub ... Ne-waub-maw ... Ne-waub-don, or dawn 2 Ke-waub ... Ke-waub-maw ... Ke-waub-don, or dawn 3 Wau-be ... O-waub-mon, or mawn ... O-waub-don, or dawn

Plural--We see, You see, etc. 1 Ne-waub-me ... Ne-waub-maw-naw ... Ne-waub-daw-naw 2 Ke-wau-bem ... Ke-waub-maw-waw ... Ke-waub-daw-naw-wan 3 Wau-be-wog ... O-waub-naw-won ... O-waub-daw-naw-wan

IV. What is denominated the reflective form of the verb, is where the subject and the object are the same person or thing; as, in English, He hates himself. The passive and reflective forms are illustrated in the verb, To See, thus:

Passive ... Reflective. Ne-wob-me-go, I am seen. ... Ne-wan-baw-dis, I see myself. Ke-wob-me-go, thou art seen. ... Ke-wau-baw-dis, thou sees thyself. Wob-maw, he is seen ... Wau-baw-de-so, he sees himself. Ne-wob-me-go-me, we are seen. ... Ne-wau-baw-de-so-me, we s. ourslvs. Ke-wob-me-gom, you are seen. ... Ke-wau-baw-de-som, you s. yourslvs. Wob-maw-wag, they are seen. ... Wau-baw-de-so-wag, they s. thmslvs.

V. The emphatic form repeats the first part of the pronoun; as, Ne-waub, I see; Nin-ne-waub; I do see (literally, I myself see). Intransitive.

Common Form--I eat, etc. ... Emphatic Form--I do eat, etc. 1 We-we-sin ... Nin-ne-we-sin 2 Ke-we-sin ... Kin-ke-we-sin 3 We-se-ne ... Win-we-we-sin

Transitive--Animate Object. 1 Ne-daw-mwaw ... Nin-ne-daw-mwaw 2 Ke-daw-mwaw ... Kin-ke-daw-mwaw 3 O-daw-mwaw ... Win-o-daw-mwaw

Transitive--Inanimate Object. 1 Ne-me-djin ... Nin-ne-me-djin 2 Ke-me-djin ... Kin-ke-me-djin 3 O-me-djin ... Win-o-me-djin

The object is frequently placed before the verb-- always when in answer to a question. Thus, the answer to the question, What is he eating? would be, Ke-goon, yan o-daw-mwawm--Fish he is eating.

Nouns are formed from verbs by adding "win"; as, waub, to see, wau-be-win, sight; paw-pe, to laugh, paw-pe-win, laughter; au-no-ke, to work, au-no-ke-win, labor.

Note.--A verb susceptible of both the transitive and intransitive office, and of both animate and inanimate subjects, as, for instance, the verb. To Blow, may have no less than fifteen forms for the indicative present third person singular. The intransitive may be both animate and inanimate as to subject, and the former both common and emphatic; the transitive would have the same, multiplied by animate and inanimate objects; and the passive and reflective would each have inanimate, and common and emphatic animate--fifteen. Double these for the plural, and we have thirty forms; and that multiplied by the sixteen tenses of the indicative, potential and subjunctive moods gives 480 forms of third person. The first and second persons have the same, minus the inanimate subject, or 20 each for each tense, making 640 more, or 1120 all together in those three moods. The imperative singular and plural, and the infinitive present and past, and the participles, add 25. Then there is the additional form for the first person plural, treated under "Pronouns," running through all the sixteen tenses, common and emphatic, animate and inanimate and intransitive, 96 more--making the astonishing number of 1241 forms of a single verb!--[Editor.

Conjugation of the Verb To Be.

Indicative Mood. Pers. Singular. Present Tense--I am, etc. Plural. 1 Ne-daw-yaw ... Ne-daw-yaw-me 2 Ke-daw-yaw ... Ke-daw-yaw-me 3 Aw-yaw ... Aw-yaw-waug or wog

Imperfect Tense--I was, etc. 1 Ne-ge-au-yaw ... Ne-ge-au-yaw-me 2 Ke-ge-au-yaw ... Ke-ge-au-yawm 3 Ke-au-yaw ... Ke-au-yaw-wog

Perfect Tense--I have been, etc. 1 Au-zhe-gwaw ne-ge-au-yaw ... Au-zhe-gwaw ne-ge-au-yaw-me 2 Au-zhe-gwaw ke-ge-au-yaw ... Au-zhe-gwaw ke-ge-au-yawm 3 Au-zhe-gwaw ke-au-yaw ... Au-zhe-gwaw ke-au-yaw-wog

Pluperfect Tense--I had been, etc. 1 Ne-ge-au-yaw-naw-baw ... Ne-ge-au-me-naw-baw 2 Ke-ge-au-yaw-naw-baw ... Ke-ge-au-me-naw-baw 3 Ke-au-yaw-baw ... Ke-au-yaw-baw-neg

Future Tense--I shall or will be, etc. 1 Ne-gaw-au-yaw ... Ne-gaw-au-yaw-me 2 Ke-gaw-au-yaw ... Ke-gaw-au-yawm 3 Taw-au-yaw ... Taw-au-yaw-wag

Potential Mood.

Present Tense--I may or can be, etc. 1 Ko-maw ne-taw-au-yaw ... Ko-maw ne-taw-au-yaw-me 2 Ko-maw ke-taw-au-yaw ... Ko-maw ke-taw-au-yawm 3 Ko-maw tau-yaw ... Ko-maw taw-au-yo-wog

Imperfect Tense--I might be, etc. 1 Ko-maw ne-ge-au-yaw ... Ko-maw ne-ge-au-yaw-me 2 Ko-maw ke-ge-au-yaw ... Ko-maw ke-ge-au-yom 3 Ko-maw ke-au-yaw ... Ko-maw ke-au-yaw-wog

Perfect Tense--I may have been, etc. 1 Au-zhe-gwau ne-tau-ge-au-yaw ... Au-zhe-gwau ne-tau-ge-au-yaw-me 2 Au-zhe-gwau ke-tau-ge-au-yaw ... Au-zhe-gwau ke-tau-ge-au-yawm 3 Au-zhe-gwau tau-ge-au-yaw ... Au-zhe-gwau tau-ge-au-yaw-og

Pluperfect Tense--I might have been, etc. 1 Ko-maw au-yaw-yom-baw ... Ko-maw au-yaw-wong-ge-baw 2 Ko-maw ke-au-yaw-yom-baw ... Ko-maw au-yaw-ye-go-baw 3 Ko-maw au-yaw-go-baw-nay ... Ko-maw au-yaw-wo-go-baw-nay

Subjunctive Mood.

Present Tense--If I be, etc. 1 Tchish-pin au-yaw-yaw ... Tchish-pin au-yaw-wong 2 Tchish-pin au-yaw-yon ... Tchish-pin au-yaw-yeg 3 Tchish-pin au-yawd ... Tchish-pin au-yaw-wod

Imperfect Tense--If I were, etc. 1 Tchish-pin ke-au-yaw-yaw ... Tchish-pin ke-au-yaw-wong 2 Tchish-pin ke-au-yaw-yon ... Tchish-pin ke-au-yaw-yeg 3 Tchish-pin ke-au-yawd ... Tchish-pin ke-au-yaw-wod

Perfect Tense--If I have been, etc. 1 Tchish-pin au-zhe-gaw ke-au-yaw-yaw ... Tchish-pin au-zhe-gwa ke-aw-yaw-wog 2 Tchish-pin au-zhe-gaw ke-au-yaw-yon ... Tchish-pin au-zhe-gwa ke-au-yaw-yeg 3 Tchish-pin au-zhe-gwa ke-au-yawd ... Tchish-pin au-zhe-gwa ke-au-yaw-wod [The syllable "gwa" is often omitted, merely saying, "au-zhe."]

Pluperfect Tense--If I had been, etc. 1 Au-zhe ke-au-yaw-yaw-baw ... Au-zhe ke-au-yaw-wong-o-baw 2 Au-zhe ke-au-yaw-yawm-baw ... Au-zhe ke-au-yaw-ye-go-baw 3 Au-zhe ke-au-yaw-paw ... Au-zhe ke-au-yaw-wau-paw

Future Tense--If I shall or will be, etc. 1 Tchish-pin we-au-yaw-yaw ... Tchish-pin we-au-yaw-wong 2 Tchish-pin we-au-yaw-yon ... Tchish-pin we-au-yaw-yeg 3 Tchish-pin we-au-yawd ... Tchish-pin we-au-yaw-wod

Imperative Mood--Be thou, Do you be. 2 Au-yawm ... Au-yawg

Infinitive Mood--To be, To have been. Present--Tchi-au-yong ... Perfect--Au-zhe tchi-ke-au-yong

Participles--Being, Been, Having been. Au-zhaw-yong ... Tchi-ge-au-yong ... Au zhe-gwaw tchi-ge-au-yong

Synopsis of the Verb To See. I see, ... Ne-wob. ... I saw, ... Ne-ge-wob. I have seen, ... Au-zhe-gwaw ne-ge-wob. ... I had s'n, ... Ne-ge-wob-naw-baw I shall see, ... Ne-gaw-wob. ... I shall have seen, ... Au-zhe-ge-wob. I may see, ... Ko-maw ne-taw-wob. ... I might see, ... Ko-maw ne-ge-wob. I may have seen, ... Au-zhe-gwaw ne-taw-ge-wob. I might have seen, ... Ko-maw wob-yawm-baw. If I see, ... Tchish-pin wob-yon. ... If I saw, ... Tchish-pin ke-wob-yon-baw. If I have seen, ... Tchish-pin au-zhe-gwa wob-yon. If I had seen, ... Tchish-pin ke-wob yon-baw. If I shall see, ... Tchish-pin we-wob-yon. If I shall have seen, ... Tchish-pin we-wob-yon-baw. See thou, ... Wob-ben. ... To see, ... Tchi-wob-bing. To have seen, ... Tchi-ge-wob-bing. ... Seeing, ... Au-wob-bing. Having seen, ... Au-zhe-gwaw au-ge-wob-bing. Having been seen, ... Au-ge-wob-bing-e-baw. I am seen, ... Ne-wob-me-go. ... I was seen, ... Ne-ge-wob-me-go. I have been seen, ... Au-zhe ne-ge-wob-me-go. I had been seen, ... Ne-ge-wob-me-go-naw-baw. I shall be seen, ... Ne-gaw-wob-me-go. I shall have been seen, ... She-gwa-we-wob-me-go-yon. I may be seen, ... Ko-maw wob-me-go-yon. I might be seen, ... Ko-maw ke-wob-me-go-yon. I may have been seen, ... Ko-maw au-zhe ke-wob-me-go-yon. I might have been seen, ... Ko-maw au-zhe ke-wob-me-go-yon-baw. If I be seen, ... Tchish-pin wob-em-go-yon. If I have been seen, ... Tchish-pin au-zhe ke-wob-me-go-yon. If I had been seen, ... Tchish-pin ke-wob-me-go-yon-baw. If I shall be seen, ... Tchish-pin we-wob-me-go-yon. If I shall have been seen, ... Tchish-pin she-gwa-we-wob-me-go-yon. I see myself, ... Ne-wau-baw-dis. ... I saw myself, ... Ne-ge-wau-baw-dis. I shall see myself, ... Ne-gaw-wau-baw-dis. I may see myself, ... Ko-maw ne-daw-wau-baw-dis. See thyself, ... Wau-baw-de-son. ... To see thyself, Tchi-wob-on-di-song.


Adverbs: When, au-pe, au-ue-nish; where, au-ne-pe, au-ne-zhaw; there, e-wo-te, au-zhe-we. [The significance of the double forms is not clear; and comparison, as with Adjectives, seems to be by different words.--Ed.]

Prepositions are few, and are oftener embraced in the form of the Verb, as in the Latin. The most important are, pin-je, in; tchish-pin, or kish-pin, if. Po-taw-wen pin-je ke-zhap ke-ze-gun, make some fire in the stove; Tchish-pin maw-tehawt, if he go away. Or the same may be expressed, Po-taw-wen ke-zhap ke-ze-gun-ing ("ing" forming locative case, with the preposition implied); and, Maw-yaw-tchaw-gwen (the latter form of verb expressing subjunctive mood). The employment of the preposition makes the expression more emphatic

The most important Conjunctions are, haw-yea, gaw-ya, ka-ie, and; and ke-maw, or. [Three forms of "and" doubtless due to imperfect orthography.]

Interjections embrace, yaw! exclamation of danger; au-to-yo! surprise; a-te-way! disappointment; taw-wot-to! disgust; ke-yo-o! disgust (used only by females).

There is no Article; but the words, mondaw, that, and maw-baw, this, are often used before nouns as specifying terms, and are always emphatic. E-we is common for that, directed to things at a distance.

A peculiarity, of uncertain significance, is the termination, sh, or esh, employed in connection with the possessive case. It does not change the interpretation, and is perhaps an expression of familiarity, or intimate relationship. Illustration: Ne-gwiss, my son; ... Ne-gwiss-esh, my son. Ne-daw-niss, my daughter; ... Ne-daw-niss-esh, my daughter. Ne-did, my head; ... Ne-did-awsh, my head. Ne-wau-bo-yon, my blanket; ... Ne-wau bo-yon-esh, my blanket. Ne-gwiss-og, my sons; ... Ne-gwiss-es-shog, my sons. Ne-daw-niss-og, my daughters; ... Ne-daw-niss-es-shog, my da'ght'rs.



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