Happy National Indigenous People’s Day! And Welcome to Shekon Neechie: An Indigenous History Site

About the site

Shekon Neechie provides a venue for Indigenous historians to gather as an e-community and share their ideas or works in progress. “Historian” in this case is broadly defined as a person who researches and presents Indigenous histories in essays, stories, photographs, videos, podcasts, or through other means and whose work is based in oral history and traditions, archival research, archaeology, and material interpretation. The historians featured here are formally trained – either within the academy or in the community – or self-taught.

We encourage well-established Indigenous historians, graduate and undergraduate students, and community historians from around the world to submit their works. Those submitting to Shekon Neechie will be given feedback from other Indigenous historians. We consider Shekon Neechie a place for thoughtful and generous peer review, as pieces will be read to ensure quality of writing or other formats, as well as the argument presented.

Shekon Neechie is entirely Indigenous conceived, created, and controlled. Though there are many history websites in Canada and abroad that attempt to convey Indigenous perspectives, their managing boards, advisory councils, editors, staff, and contributors are all (or nearly all) people who reflect the relative homogeneity and whiteness of the historical profession writ large. While these sites offer opportunities for Indigenous writers and scholars to contribute pieces for special Indigenous-focused issues or invite Indigenous scholars to act as guest contributors, they are not sites where Indigenous peoples have a stake in the production or curation of intellectual discourses. It is important for Indigenous historians to find our way into spaces dominated by non-Indigenous scholars. However, it is equally important for us to carve out spaces where our work is centered and in conversation with other Indigenous historians. Shekon Neechie is one such space.

About the name

During the War of 1812, some of the British soldiers could not tell the difference between their Indigenous allies and their Indigenous foes. Nor could they distinguish between an Ojibwe, a Mohawk, a Shawnee, a Sauk, a Wendat nor a Sioux. One of the ways that they dealt with the cultural and language divide was the salutation “Sago Neechie [Shekon Niijii]” which is actually composed of words from two unrelated languages. Shekon is the Mohawk word “greetings” or “hello” and Neechie [Niijii] is a shortened Ojibwe word for “my friend” (niijikiwenh). British soldiers using this greeting covered their bases – Ojibwe, Odaawaa, Potawatomi, Nipissing, Mississauga, and Algonquins would understand Niijii and Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora would understand Shekon.

Using this dual language greeting could mean life or death as revealed by British soldier John Le Couteur of the 104th Foot. Le Couteur reported that after a battle with the Americans he met British Lieutenant Gladwin who was badly wounded. Gladwin told Le Couteur that after an exchange of fire with the Americans he had “ridden among the American Indians, mistaking them for ours, shook hands with them, and ‘Sago Nitchee’d’ them all around. They were greatly admiring this fine person and splendid Uniform when five or six riflemen [American] rushed from the wood and shouted: ‘Seize Him! Stop Him!’” At this point Gladwin realized he was with Oneidas who were allied with the Americans, and quickly fled. Gladwin told Le Couteur that “The magnaminous [sic] Indians, having shaken hands with Him, did not fire a shot at Him or at his men but discharged their volley above them [orig].” The Americans, however, had no qualms about firing at the fleeing British. In fact, Gladwin received his wound from them and two of his men were killed and five wounded.[1]

After discussing the need for an online forum for Indigenous historians, a suitable name was sought. The above story was fitting. This website contains articles, opinions, essays, and notes authored solely by Indigenous scholars and Indigenous historians of various nationalities. Non-Indigenous people can approach in friendship and peruse to find Indigenous voice and opinion, in fact you are invited to spread the word – Shekon Niijii!
[1] Donald E. Graves (ed), Merry Hearts Make Light Days: The War of 1812 Journal of Lieutenant John Le Couteur, 104th Foot.” Montreal, PQ: Robin Brass Studio, p. 131.