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The Strait: Book of Obenabi. His Songs
by Fredy Perlman

https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/...the-strait

A Note to the Reader:

An early death kept Fredy Perlman from finishing the two-volume account of Robert Dupre’s forebears who lived on the Strait and in the surrounding woodlands. In both volumes, "Book of Obenabi. His Songs” and "Book of Robert Dupre. His Tales,” narrators recount familiar historic events as individuals indigenous to the region might have experienced them.

Fredy intended to present The Strait as texts written down by Obenabi’s nephew, Robert Dupre, in the 1850s. In 1851 Obenabi presumably told (or sang) his narrative to Dupre in Detroit’s prison hospital, uncle and nephew having been jailed as conspirators who opposed construction of a railroad across Michigan.

In addition to Obenabi’s songs, Robert Dupre was to be credited with preserving the tales of his aunt Wabnokwe. This history purports to be based on journals Obenabi’s sister kept throughout her life, and it constitutes Book II of The Strait. As a French-speaking resident of Detroit, Dupre wrote both narratives in French.

Fredy planned to present himself as the translator of Dupre’s manuscripts. His ostensible link to the text was through Ted Nasibu, a twentieth-century "rememberer” who was a fellow-printer at the Detroit Printing Co-op on Michigan Avenue. Both Ted and his friend Tissie appear in an earlier Black & Red publication, Letters of Insurgents. Through Tissie, Ted became acquainted with Robert Avis, Tissie’s cousin and Dupre’s great-grandson.

The Prologue situates Avis in a hospital bed in 1984. The surroundings combined with his anguish transport him to his great-grandfather’s side as the latter listens to his uncle Obenabi in 1851. At the beginning of Chapter 1, Obenabi, who also carries the name Jacob Burr-net, is recounting the experiences of his thirty-second year, events which occurred in 1826.

This volume of The Strait was essentially complete at the time of Fredy’s death in 1985 but a few minor changes were appropriate. In Chapter 9, I used Fredy’s outline to write some missing paragraphs. A few inconsistancies remain, but I hope they are minor.

With some misgivings, I have added the chronological dates on the right-hand pages. Although each page of Fredy’s manuscript mentions the year in which the events occurred, I doubt that he planned to include them when publishing the book. I feel they aid the reader in situating the story so have retained them.

Fredy did intend to append a glossary, but the rudimentary one provided here is mine, not his.
John Ricklefs designed the cover.

The photos are by Frank Jackson.

Lorraine Perlman March 1988