was born near Albany, New York, on this date in 1793. Schoolcraft is regarded as the foremost pioneer in American Indian studies.
Schoolcraft College (Michigan) provides this biography:
Schoolcraft maintains a prominent position among the pioneers and builders of America’s intellectual climate. His works in ethnology add an important segment to the folklore of America and filled a gap in the overall information of the aborigines of the continent. Little was known in this country, or the rest of the world, of the American Indian: his origin, customs, legends, language, manners. Schoolcraft was to clarify this. After a second trip through the midwest as geologist and mineralogist for the Department of War, he realized that someone had to study the Indian and his world before we could civilize and educate him. Schoolcraft’s plans to act were formulated after participating in a treaty council held in Chicago where he had the good fortune to see Indians of many American nations and observe their “eloquence and serenity.” Accepting a position as Indian agent in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, he commenced, assiduously, to collect and record the life of the Ojibwa Indians, the tribe inhabiting the area around the Sault. His enthusiasm led him to organize the Algic Society, for rehabilitation purposes, and to publish Algic Researches, a text perpetuating knowledge that probably would have been lost had it not been for Schoolcraft’s efforts. Like the monks of Iceland who preserved and recorded Norse mythology from oblivion, Schoolcraft preserved the “dark and dawn of North America” as he called the period of the American aborigine. …
Schoolcraft has also left his mark as an educator and a vital figure in American education. His studies on the middle west were already known to the American public for their literacy, historic and geological merit. To these were added his extensive works on the American Indian. Shortly after arriving at the Sault as Indian agent he opened schools to educate the Indians. Once this was under way he became a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan. In this position he was instrumental in saving the state university from financial disaster. He is also credited with establishing and contributing to the first common school journal in the United States, The Journal of Education. Recognition must also be given him for publishing the first literary magazine in Michigan, The Souvenir of the Lakes.
Probably the most important contribution Schoolcraft made was the essential role he played in the creation of The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This poem “which has made the English critics shout for joy that at length there was an American poem” had immediate and tremendous success. From the time of publication, 1855, the poem has become a part of the cultural background of every English speaking school child and considered a world classic. Of Schoolcraft’s contribution Longfellow states: “…I have woven the curious Indian legends drawn chiefly from the various and valuable writings of Mr. Schoolcraft to whom the literary world is greatly indebted for his indefatigable zeal in rescuing from oblivion so much of the legendary lore of the Indians.”