The Song of Hiawatha is an 1855 epic poem in trochaic tetrameter by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow which features Native American characters. The epic relates the fictional adventures of an Ojibwe warrior named Hiawatha and the tragedy of his love for Minnehaha, a Dakota woman. Events in the story are set in the Pictured Rocks area of Michigan on the south shore of Lake Superior. Longfellow's poem is based on oral traditions surrounding the figure of Manabozho, but it also contains his own innovations.
Longfellow drew some of his material from his friendship with Ojibwe Chief Kahge-ga-gah-bowh, who would visit at Longfellow's home. He also had frequent encounters with Black Hawk and other Sauk people on Boston Common, and he drew from Algic Researches (1839) and other writings by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, an ethnographer and United States Indian agent, and from Heckewelder's Narratives. In sentiment, scope, overall conception, and many particulars, Longfellow insisted, "I can give chapter and verse for these legends. Their chief value is that they are Indian legends."
Longfellow had originally planned on following Schoolcraft in calling his hero Manabozho, the name in use at the time among the Ojibwe of the south shore of Lake Superior for a figure of their folklore who was a trickster and transformer. But he wrote in his journal entry for June 28, 1854: "Work at 'Manabozho;' or, as I think I shall call it, 'Hiawatha'—that being another name for the same personage." Longfellow was following Schoolcraft, but he was mistaken in thinking that the names were synonymous. The name Hiawatha is derived from a historical figure associated with the League of the Iroquois, then located in New York and Pennsylvania. The popularity of Longfellow's poem nevertheless led to the name "Hiawatha" becoming attached to a number of locales and enterprises in the Great Lakes region.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. He was the first American to translate Dante Alighieri's Di...More about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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