Maskegon Indians, Maskegon First Nation, Maskegon People, Swampy Crees (Mŭskīgōk, ‘they of the marshes or swamps.’- W. J. ). An Algonquian tribe so closely related to the Cree that they have appropriately been called a subtribe. According to Warren the Maskegon, with the Cree and the Monsoni, form the northern division of the Chippewa group, from which they separated about eight generations before 1850. The traders knew them as Swampy Crees. From the time the Maskegon became known as a distinct tribe until they were placed on reserves by the Canadian government they were scattered over the swampy region stretching from Lake Winnipeg and Lake of the Woods to Hudson Bay, including the basins of Nelson, Hays, and Severn rivers, and extending south to the watershed of Lake Superior. They do not appear to be mentioned in the Jesuit Relations or to have been known to the early missionaries as a distinct people, though the nanie “Masquikoukiaks” in the Proces-verbal of the Prise de Possession of 1671 1 may refer to the Maskegon. Tailhan in his notes to Perrot, gives as doubtful equivalents “Mikikoueks ou Nikikoueks,” the Otter Nation (see Amikwa), a conclusion with which Verwyst (Missionary Labors) agrees. Nevertheless their associatioil with the “Christinos” (Cree), “Assinipouals” (Assiniboin)and “all of those inhabiting the countries of the north and near the sea” (Hudson Bay), would seem to justify identifying them with the Maskegon. If so, this is their first appearance in history.
Their gentes probably differ but little from those of the Chippewa. Tanner says that the Pezhew (Besheu) or Wildcat gens is common among them. No reliable estimate can be formed of their numbers, as they have generally had no distinct official recognition.
In 1889 there were 1,254 Maskegon living with Chippewa on reservations in Manitoba at Birch, Black, Fisher, Berens, and Poplar rivers, Norway House, and Cross lake. The Cumberland, Shoal Lake, Moose Jake, Chemewawin, and Grand Rapids bands of Saskatchewan, numbering 605 in 1903, consisted of Maskegon, and they formed the majority of the Pas band, numbering 118, and part of the John Smith, James Smith, and Cumberland bands of Duck Lake agency, numbering 3513. There were also some under the Manitowpah agency and many among the 1,075 Indians of St Peter’s reservation in Manitoba.
- Perrot, Mém., 293, 1864[↩]