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Ozhaguscodaywayquay (Ozhaawashkodewekwe: Woman of the Green Glade), also called Neengay (Ninge: "My mother") or Susan Johnston (born ca. mid-1770s; died ca. 1840s), was an important figure in the Great Lakes fur trade before the War of 1812. She was born into an Ojibwa family near La Pointe, Wisconsin; her father was the famous war chief Waubojeeg. She married the British fur trader John Johnston, a "wintering partner" of the North West Company. They had prominent roles in the crossroads society of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and the territory before 1830, and entertained notable visitors from a variety of disciplines. Their daughter Jane Johnston Schoolcraft has become recognized as the first Native American literary writer in the United States.

Marriage and family[edit]

Susan married the Scots-Irish fur trader John Johnston in 1793, and they settled at Sault Ste. Marie in present-day Michigan. The settlement extended on both sides of the river and was then considered part of Canada. The community was made up mostly of Ojibwa, Ottawa and Métis peoples, centered on a trading post of the British-founded North West Company. A mixture of European immigrants also worked there. It became a center of European, United States, and Native American politics and trade in the area.[1]

Johnston was a "wintering partner" of the North West Company; one of the men who traded directly with the trappers, who were usually of Native American descent. He was a man of substance, having arrived in Canada with capital to invest in the business. He and his wife were influential in the trade and relations among the Ojibwe, Canadians, Europeans and Americans in the area. They received as hosts many explorers, politicians of both Canada and the U.S., scholars, Native chiefs, and military officers. They were considered among the ruling class in both the Native and European communities.[1] Susan taught him and their eight children the language and ways of the Ojibwe. He taught them to speak, read, and write English, and had a large library from which some of the children particularly drew.

Their eldest daughter Jane Johnston married the American ethnographer Henry Rowe Schoolcraft in 1823. Assigned to the community as the U.S. Indian agent in 1822, he became noted for his work on the Ojibwe, aided by Jane's access and her knowledge of the Ojibwe language and culture. Jane Johnston has been recognized as the first Native American literary writer and poet in the United States. In 2008, she was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.

Two other Johnston daughters also married prominent white men of the region; one married Henry R. Schoolcraft's younger brother, James. George Johnston assisted Schoolcraft as a U.S. Indian agent. The youngest son, John McDougall Johnston, served as the last official Indian Agent in the area.[2]

Later life[edit]

Under the Jay Treaty at the end of the War of 1812, the U.S. closed down the ability of British traders and trappers to move freely across the Canadian-U.S. border. John Johnston's fur trade business never recovered. The family suffered divisions after the War of 1812. Lewis, the oldest son, had served with the British Navy against the U.S. Taken prisoner during the war, he suffered poor treatment by US forces and rejected living under U.S. rule. After his release, he moved to Canada.

Susan Johnston was widowed in 1828. After her husband's death, she and her son William managed the declining fur trading business until 1831. They also established a sugaring and fishing business, which they operated for several years.


  1. ^ a b Robert E. Bieder, "Sault Ste. Marie and the War of 1812: A World Turned Upside Down in the Old Northwest", Indiana Magazine of History, XCV (Mar 1999), accessed 13 Dec 2008
  2. ^ Mary M. June, "British Period - Sault Ste. Marie Timeline and History", Bayliss Public Library, 2000, accessed 13 Dec 2008


  • Virginia Soetebier, Woman of the Green Glade: The Story of an Ojibway Woman on the Great Lakes Frontier,
  • Marjorie Cahn Brazer, Harps Upon the Willows: The Johnston Family of the old Northwest, 1993, Ann Arbor, MI: The Historical Society of Michigan, ISBN 1-880311-02-X.
  • Chase S. Osborn & Stellanova Osborn, Schoolcraft, Longfellow, Hiawatha, 1942, ASIN B0000D5L0E.
  • Richard Bremer, Indian Agent and Wilderness Scholar: The Life of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, 1987, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University, ISBN 0-916699-13-7.

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