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Law Indigenous Peoples

Doodem and Council Fire

Anishinaabe Governance through Alliance

by (author) Heidi Bohaker

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Dec 2020
Indigenous Peoples, Legal History, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2020
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Dec 2020
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2021
    List Price

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Combining socio-legal and ethnohistorical studies, this book presents the history of doodem, or clan identification markings, left by Anishinaabe on treaties and other legal documents from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. These doodems reflected fundamental principles behind Anishinaabe governance that were often ignored by Europeans, who referred to Indigenous polities in terms of tribe, nation, band, or village – classifications that failed to fully encompass longstanding cultural traditions of political authority within Anishinaabe society.


Making creative use of natural history, treaty pictographs, and the Ojibwe language as an analytical tool, Doodem and Council Fire delivers groundbreaking insights into Anishinaabe law. The author asks not only what these doodem markings indicate, but what they may also reveal through their exclusions. The book also ooutlines the continuities, changes, and innovations in Anishinaabe governance through the concept of council fires and the alliances between them. Original and path-breaking, Doodem and Council Fire offers a fresh approach to Indigenous history, presenting a new interpretation grounded in a deep understanding of the nuances and distinctiveness of Anishinaabe culture and Indigenous traditions.

About the author

Heidi Bohaker is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Toronto.

Heidi Bohaker's profile page


  • Winner, Political History Book Prize awraded by Canadian Historical Association | La Société historique d
  • Winner, 2020-21 OHS Joseph Brant Award awarded by The Ontario Historical Society
  • Winner, Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Book Award awarded by the American Society for Ethnohistory
  • Short-listed, 2021 John W. Dafoe Book Prize
  • Short-listed, Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History Prize awraded by Canadian Historical Association | La Soc

Editorial Reviews

"Bohaker develops each of her five chapters—Doodem Tradition, Family in All Four Directions, Anishinaabe Constitutionalism, Governance in Action, and Doodem in the Era of Settler Colonialism—with great care, excellent writing, and in an authentic voice. Her insights are contextualized and supported by detailed maps and illustrations."

<em>Honours and Awards Committee, OHS Joseph Brant Award</em>