CHEJAUK (Ah je juk, Allchechaque, Auchechaque, Crane), leader of a segment of the sucker clan of either the Ottawas or the Northern Ojibwas; fl. 1761–1804.
Chejauk’s life spanned the hectic days of the middle and late 18th century when the Hudson’s Bay Company was engaged in intense competition, first with the French and later with the North West Company. In his younger years the Ojibwas and the Ottawas were probably still in the process, begun in the 17th century, of expanding northwest into the northern regions of present-day Ontario and into modern Manitoba. Until the late 1750s most of the members of the two tribes traded with Canadians, but upon the withdrawal of these traders after the British conquest, the inland Indians north of Lake Superior began carrying their furs to the HBC posts on Hudson Bay and James Bay.
It is difficult to pinpoint the first mention of Chejauk, since early spellings of Indian names are highly variable and the English term Crane did not appear until the 1790s. However, he probably moved about in company with one of his brothers, Captain Tinnewabano (known as the Tinpot), who can be traced more easily. Tinnewabano is first mentioned in 1761 in the journal of the HBC’s Fort Albany (Ont.), where he and his brothers traded annually from 1761 to 1771. In 1767 Usakechack (perhaps the Crane) was at Albany to examine the trade goods and likely to compare them with those which the Montreal traders had begun to bring to the interior. By 1771 the latter had become so numerous in the northwest that most of the Ottawas and Ojibwas ceased making the long, strenuous trip to James Bay. There is no unmistakable mention of the Crane until the HBC’s establishment of inland posts.
In 1777 Tinnewabano sent his grand pipe as a gesture of friendship to the newly established Gloucester House (on Washi Lake, Ont.); he refused, however, to go there even though he was reported to be near by. The next year he traded there but he is reported to have gone to Fort Severn in 1779. During the early 1780s he again traded at Gloucester, but it is not known whether the Crane was with him. After the founding of Osnaburgh House in 1786 and the Cat Lake outpost in 1788, both the Crane and his brother traded at these stations fairly regularly. Nevertheless, they dealt with the traders who would give them the best prices, whether they represented the HBC or the NWC. By the 1770s at the latest the Crane and Tinnewabano each headed a separate band or family. In 1795 “Captain Allchechaque (or Auchechaque)” was reported to be “the father of 23 children, 16 of which is Sons, the eldest only arriv’d at manhood, and the youngest in the Cradle.” Almost certainly he was a polygynist, as were most band leaders. The Crane’s band may have comprised from 30 to 35 persons during the 1790s.
The year 1799 appears to have marked the point from which the Indians’ normally pacific relations with the traders deteriorated. Tinnewabano, having murdered an Indian from Martin Falls or Severn, fled with his gang to Sandy Lake. The Crane was concerned for his own safety, knowing that the relatives of the murder victim would “make no distinctions between Tin-pot & any of his relations.” During the next two decades the Crane’s band (called the Cranes or the Crane Indians) and the Tinpots directed their hostilities toward the trading posts. The precise causes of the strife are unknown, but they may have been exacerbated by some combination of the lavish distribution of alcohol, severe treatment of the Indians by a few traders, and ruthless competition among the traders themselves; further, rivalry among the Indians over fur-bearing areas may have led to violence between bands and against traders who dealt with competing bands. In June 1803 William Thomas reported the arrival of four Tinpots at Osnaburgh House with few furs to trade, noting, “I understand they have murdered 3 Canadians & plundered the House.” Thomas considered them to be “run about Blackguards.” In September eight of the Crane’s sons threatened Osnaburgh House, and in March 1804 Thomas feared an attack since “the Old Crane and 14 of his Sons” had been lingering within 30 miles of the post since January. Instead, five canoes of Cranes arrived at Martin Falls on 27 May. There Jacob Corrigal reported that they brought no furs and had evil intentions toward either the traders or the local Indians, who upon their arrival fled downstream. The Cranes at first refused to speak to Corrigal, but two days later they came armed into the fort and forced him to give them credit. Had not three other Indians lured them away to drink brandy, there might have been serious trouble. By late morning on 2 June the weary traders, who had been keeping watch day and night, aimed two swivel cannon at the Indians’ tents and told them to leave. They did so “in a very confused hurry,” and by November they were once again causing anxiety to the traders at Osnaburgh House.
In 1807, after James Swain had erected the Trout Lake post (on Big Trout Lake), he urged some Indians to guide him to the south where the Cranes and the Tinpots resided; they refused, afraid of falling “a sacrifice to their cruelty.” The Cranes had become the most dreaded Indians in present-day northern Ontario. Nothing further is recorded of the Crane Indians until the period after 1810, when more trouble occurred. By this time, however, the Crane himself was in all likelihood dead: he is last named in 1804. He appears to have been succeeded by his eldest son, Matayawenenne (Maitwaywayninnee). It is possible that his brother Tinnewabano outlived him by a few years, for he is mentioned by Swain in 1807. Descendants of the Crane and his family now reside at Weagamow Lake, and they are still known as Crane Indians, some 175 years after their original leader’s death.
PAM, HBCA, B.3/a/50–67; B.10/e/2; B.30/a/1–6; B.78/a/1–14; B.86/a/1–18; B.123/a/8; B.155/a/1–36; B.155/e/1–3; B.198/a/1–31; B.220/a/1–3; E.2/7–9. C. A. Bishop, The Northern Ojibwa and the fur trade: an historical and ecological study (Toronto and Montreal, 1974). E. S. Rogers, The Round Lake Ojibwa ([Toronto], 1962).