Esther Ogima geshig gwok quay Nahgahnub, 66, of Sawyer, Minn., mukwa o'dode'man, died Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007, of cancer, in her home. The matriarch of the Nahgahnub family, the Fond du Lac Ojibwe Band elder left a legacy of strength, determinati...
Esther Ogima geshig gwok quay Nahgahnub, 66, of Sawyer, Minn., mukwa o'dode'man, died Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007, of cancer, in her home. The matriarch of the Nahgahnub family, the Fond du Lac Ojibwe Band elder left a legacy of strength, determination and grace. She devoted much of her life to the battle for tribal sovereignty, indigenous rights and environmental protection.
Born Dec. 31, 1940, in Superior, Wis., the youngest of three children, Esther moved with her family to North Dakota, Montana and eventually Fairmont, Minn., where she graduated from high school. After the birth of two children and a divorce, she took her family to Duluth and attended the College of St. Scholastica, where she earned a bachelor's degree in English and Indian Studies. She continued her education at the University of Arizona, working on a master's degree in Indian Studies. She studied under Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist N. Scott Momaday, and worked as teaching assistant in federal Indian law for the late Vine Deloria Jr.
A direct descendant of Chief Nahgahnub, one of the signers of the Treaty of 1854 that established the Fond du Lac Reservation, Esther was schooled by her grandfather to regard the treaty as the definitive legal document that protected the rights of Fond du Lac members and other Anishinaabe people. Accordingly, when the state of Minnesota attempted in 1988 to sever ceded territory hunting and fishing rights as guaranteed in the treaty, she led a successful fight in the Legislature to stop the move. Later, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife charge against her and the late Red Cliff activist Walter Bresette resulted in a landmark federal court ruling that conceded that the rights belong to individual band members, and not to the band governments.
Esther participated as an elder in the 2000 Walk to Remember, walking around Lake Superior to bring attention to the sacredness of water and the lake. She was part of a Greenpeace boat tour with the Indigenous Environmental Network; and was among the anti-globalization witnesses who were in Chiapas, Mexico, when the Zapatista rebellion occurred. Her stories about the explosive events there, written from the perspective of indigenous rights, were run in The Circle and other publications and on radio, including National Public Radio. She has spoken and testified widely on environmental issues, particularly as they relate to the global consumer economy which also devastates indigenous people around the world.
Her Anishinaabe name means "Head Woman in the Sky." She also was given the name "Ogichidaa Equay," or "Warrior Woman," by the late Roger Jourdain, three-decade chairman of the Red Lake Nation.
Surviving are her son, Charles Nahgahnub; daughter, Kim Nahgahnub; daughter-in-law, Pam Nahgahnub; grandsons, Skylar Gimiwaan, Joshua, Charles Jr., Joseph and Kruze; granddaughters, Alexis, Kaley, Lannesse, Nishah, Nashay and Nikki; a brother, Pete; and a great-granddaughter, Elaina. She also shared her love and affection for others whom she regarded as brothers, sisters and grandchildren.
The wake was held Sunday evening, Dec. 3, beginning at 4 p.m. A traditional service was held at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 4, both in Esther's home. Burial was in Sawyer. Elder Lee Staples officiated.
December 6, 2007
- Cloquet, Minn.