Born in 1802 near Duluth, MN, George Bonga was the son of an African-American father and Ojibwe mother. Bonga attended school in Montreal and spoke English, French and Ojibwe fluently. He was quoted as saying that he was the "first black man born in this part of the country" and one of the "first two white men that came into this country."
He was one of only 14 African-Ameriacans in the 1850 Minnesota Territory Census. But as an Ojibwe, he could be classified as Indian.
Bonga was from a long line of fur traders and explorers. In the 1820s, he worked for the American Fur Company, and in the
1830s traded at various Minnesota posts. Bonga's strength was legendary with his Paul Bunyan-esque stature at 6 feet 6 inches. He was also known as a gifted singer and storyteller.
Bonga's name became known through the territory when he captured an accused murderer. His extraordinary trackign ability and capture of the accused led to Minnesota's first criminal trial. When the fur trade came to an end, Bonga opened tourist lodges to support his family. He was an outspoken advocate for the Ojibwe in his later years too.
He was an official witness to the treaty signing that created the White Earth Indian Reservation in 1867.
In 1884, Bonga died. His death was mentioned in newspapers across the country and noted by the U.S. Congress.
Mixed Experience History Month is the annual blog post series created by New York Times best-selling author Heidi Durrow celebrating the history of the Mixed experience. Established in 2007, Mixed Experience History Month is an effort to highlight the long history of folks and events involved in the Mixed experience. Please look for more profiles of people, places and events of the Mixed experience every weekday of May at Lightskinned-ed Girl, the blog! Thanks for reading. And check out some of the previous year's profiles: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013. Copyright 2013.