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2019-02-06 / Features

What’s in a NAME?

Hiawatha National Forest

Hiawatha National Forest was formed in 1931, and named, according to the USDA, "after the Mohawk chief who brought about the confederation known as the Five Nations of the Iroquois. He was also the hero of Longfellow's poem, "Hiawatha." Henry Wordsworth Longfellow's 1855 epic poem was set in and around the Upper Peninsula, and was extremely popular for over a hundred years. If anyone knew anything about the Upper Peninsula it was "shores of Gitchee Gumme" (Lake Superior) or the " rushing Taquamenaw" of Longfellow's poem.

One of his inspirations was the Native American tales collected by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft concerning Nanzahbo, an Ojibwa trickster figure. Schoolcraft believed (incorrectly) that Manzahbo was the same person as the Hiawatha. Longfellow, not being concerned particularly with accuracy, liked the sound of Hiawatha better and went with it.

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