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George Copway (Kahgegagahbowh)
illustration ©2013 Jay Odjick
George Copway (1818–1869) was born in Upper Canada near the mouth of the Trent River, the son of a Mississauga chief and medicine man. He was raised as a traditional Ojibwa until age nine, when his family converted to Christianity. He attended the Methodist Mission School at Rice Lake, Ontario, then worked as a Methodist missionary, speading the gospel among the Lake Superior Ojibwas. In 1840 he married a white woman, Elizabeth Howell, who was a published writer. In 1845 he was elected vice president of the Grand Council of Methodist Ojibwas, but later that year was accused of embezzlement. He was imprisoned briefly, then expelled from the Canadian Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Copway left Canada in disgrace and moved to the U.S., where he established a new career as a writer and lecturer on Indian affairs. His autobiography The Life, History, and Travels of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh (1847) was a bestseller. He published a half-dozen other books of history, but his writing career faded. In his later years he broke with his family, joined a fringe political group, and was baptized as a Catholic just days before his death. His story appears in Native American Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 22.