“Indians are independent thinkers. We all have different ways of doing things and thinking about things.”
Emily Peake, Minneapolis Star, January 27, 1970
Emily Peake (White Earth Ojibwe) was born in Minneapolis. Her parents were from the White Earth Reservation. From a young age, Peake dedicated her life to public service. She worked in the Minneapolis Public Library system through the Works Progress Administration. She and her sister Amie created the Na-gu-aub (Rainbow) Club as a refuge for Ojibwe women who came to the Twin Cities in search of jobs.
During World War II, Peake enlisted in the Women’s Coast Guard Reserve. After the war, she worked for the US State Department in Vienna, Austria. Despite her continued and loyal work for the government, Peake was suspected of being a Communist by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAAC).
Peake was not a Communist. She had been affiliated with the American Youth for Democracy, the Minnesota Student League for Democracy, and Young Progressives of America. These organizations were judged “subversive” by HUAAC.
Peake returned to Minneapolis and spent the rest of her life fighting for her local community. In the 1950s, federal relocation and termination policies threatened the tribal lands and sovereignty of Indigenous people. As early as 1954, Peake held planning meetings at her home for a place to support Native people as they resisted federal policies. Due to her efforts, the Upper Midwest American Indian Center opened in 1961.
Military veterans Emily Peake (right) and Lorraine Anderson at the University of Minnesota, 1946. Courtesy Hennepin County Library. Peake graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1947 with a degree in psychology.
Emily Peake, 1990. Courtesy Hennepin County Library. In 1990, Peake secured funding from the Minnesota Historical Society for a research project titled “Life Styles of Ojibwe Women in Minnesota.”
Emily Peake and James Davies, 1991. Courtesy Hennepin County Library. Peake served her community her entire life. Here she is volunteering for the Elliot Park drug abuse prevention program.
- Pejsa, Jane. The Life of Emily Peake: One Dedicated Ojibwe. Minneapolis: Nodin Press, 2003.