Rockford native and author presents “Life in Native America 400 Years Ago”

Join author and Rockford native Robert Downes on a walk through the centuries this month when he presents “Life in Native America 400 Years Ago” on Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Krause Memorial Branch District Library in Rockford at 6:30 p.m.

The digital slide show offers the history behind Downes’ novel, “Windigo Moon,” set in the late 1500s-early-1600s on the Upper Great Lakes.  Downes will discuss:

– The history, customs and family life of the Ojibwe (Chippewa) and Ottawa Indians.

– Beliefs, supernatural beings and monsters of Native peoples.

– The heroic struggle of Native peoples to resist the loss of their homeland.

As a child Downes lived on his grandfather’s farm outside Rockford at the corner of Nine Mile and Nugent roads. The discovery of hundreds of Indian artifacts on his family’s farm played a role in his decision to write his bestselling historical novel, “Windigo Moon: A Novel of Native America.”

“In the 1940s my father discovered many arrowheads, axe heads and other artifacts of a nearby Ottawa village while plowing the fields of our farm,” Downes says.  “I grew up believing that there were once far more Indians in North America than most of us realize and I read everything I could find on the Indians.”

He adds that the Ottawa migrated up the Grand River valley in the 1750s and established a number of villages in the area, including on Wabasis Lake near the Downes farm.

In September, 2017, Downes’ novel of the Ojibwe Indians, “Windigo Moon,” was published by Blank Slate Press, which specializes in historical fiction.  The book has won three literary awards to date, including first prize in a 2014 ArtPrize-related contest for the first chapter of the book.

Set 400 years ago in the Upper Great Lakes, “Windigo Moon” tells the story of a young Ojibwe woman, Ashagi (Blue Heron), whose village is destroyed by ancestral enemies.  She is rescued by Miskomakwa (Red Bear), whose own village is destroyed by diseases spread by far-off European explorers. Over the course of 31 years, the young couple strive to lead their people forward during the devastating years of the late 1500s-early 1600s, an apocalyptic time for Native Americans.

“Windigo Moon” is available at local bookstores and through online booksellers.

Rockford native and author Robert Downes presents “Life in Native America 400 Years Ago” on Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Krause Memorial Branch District Library in Rockford at 6:30 p.m.