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First Posted: Dec 9, 2010
Mar 6, 2011

Ojibwe, Ojibwa, Ojibway, Chippewa and Chippeway


Symbol of the Anishinaabe people


Ojibwe Man1899

The Ojibwe (also Ojibwa or Ojibway) or Chippewa (also Chippeway) are among the largest groups of Native Americans-First Nations north of Mexico. They are divided between Canada and the United States. They are the third-largest in Canada, surpassed only by Cree and Inuit, and are the fourth-largest in the United States, surpassed only by Navajo, Cherokee and the Sioux. Because they were formerly located mainly around Sault Ste. Marie, at the outlet of Lake Superior, the French referred to them as Saulteurs. Ojibwe who subsequently moved to the prairie provinces have retained the name Saulteaux. Ojibwe who were originally located about the Mississagi River and made their way to southern Ontario are known as the Mississaugas.

As a major component group of the Anishinaabe peoples-which includes the Algonquin, Nipissing, Oji-Cree, Odawa and the Potawatomi-the Ojibwe peoples number over 56,440 in the U.S., living in an area stretching across the north from Michigan to Montana. Another 77,940 of main-line Ojibwe, 76,760 Saulteaux and 8,770 Mississaugas, in 125 bands, live in Canada, stretching from western Quebec to eastern British Columbia. They are known for their birch bark canoes, sacred birch bark scrolls, the use of cowrie shells, wild rice, copper points, and for their use of gun technology from the British to defeat and push back the Dakota nation of the Sioux (1745). The Ojibwe Nation was the first to set the agenda for signing more detailed treaties with Canada's leaders before many settlers were allowed too far west. The Midewiwin Society is well respected as the keeper of detailed and complex scrolls of events, history, songs, maps, memories, stories, geometry, and mathematics.

Name

The autonym for this group of Anishinaabeg is "Ojibwe" (plural: Ojibweg). This name is also commonly anglicized as "Ojibwa" or "Ojibway." The name "Chippewa" is an alternative anglicization. Although many variations exist in literature, "Chippewa" is more common in the United States and "Ojibwa" predominates in Canada, but both terms exist in both countries. However, in many Ojibwe communities throughout Canada and the U.S., the more generalized name "Anishinaabe(-g)" is becoming more common. The exact meaning of the name "Ojibwe" is not known; the most common explanations on the name derivations are:

  • From ojiibwabwe meaning "those who cook\roast until it puckers", referring to their fire-curing of moccasin seams to make them water-proof, though some sources instead say this was a method of torture the Ojibwe implemented upon their enemies.
  • From ozhibii'iwe meaning "those who keep records [of a Vision]", referring to their form of pictorial writing, and pictographs used in Midewiwin rites.
  • From ojiibwe meaning "those who speak-stiffly"\"those who stammer", referring to how the Ojibwe sounded to the Cree.
Language

The Ojibwe language is known as Anishinaabemowin or Ojibwemowin, and is still widely spoken. The language belongs to the Algonquian linguistic group, and is descended from Proto-Algonquian. Its sister languages include Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Cree, Fox, Menominee, Potawatomi, and Shawnee. Anishinaabemowin is frequently referred to as a "Central Algonquian" language; however, Central Algonquian is an area grouping rather than a genetic one. Ojibwemowin is the fourth most spoken Native language in North America (US and Canada) after Navajo, Cree, and Inuktitut. Many decades of fur trading with the French established the language as one of the key trade languages of the Great Lakes and the northern Great Plains.

The Ojibwe presence was made highly visible among non-Native Americans and around the world by the popularity of the epic poem The Song of Hiawatha Poem, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1855. The epic contains many toponyms that originate from Ojibwe words.

History
Pre-contact and Spiritual Beliefs

According to their tradition, and from recordings in birch bark scrolls, many Ojibwe came from the eastern areas of North America, or Turtle Island, and from along the east coast. They traded widely across the continent for thousands of years and knew of the canoe routes west and a land route to the west coast. However the identification of the Ojibwe as a culture may only have occurred as a response to contact with Europeans. The Europeans would have preferred to deal with bounded groups. According to the oral history, seven great miigis (radiant/iridescent) beings appeared to the peoples in the Waabanakiing (Land of the Dawn, i.e., Eastern Land) to teach the peoples of the mide way of life. However, one of the seven great miigis beings was too spiritually powerful and killed the peoples in the Waabanakiing when the people were in its presence. The six great miigis beings remained to teach while the one returned into the ocean. The six great miigis beings then established doodem (clans) for the peoples in the east. Of these doodem, the five original Anishinaabe doodem were the Wawaazisii (Bullhead), Baswenaazhi (Echo-maker, i.e., Crane), Aan'aawenh (Pintail Duck), Nooke (Tender, i.e., Bear) and Moozoonsii (Little Moose), then these six miigis beings returned into the ocean as well. If the seventh miigis being stayed, it would have established the Thunderbird doodem.

At a later time, one of these miigis beings appeared in a vision to relate a prophecy. The prophecy stated that if more of the Anishinaabeg did not move further west, they would not be able to keep their traditional ways alive because of the many new settlements and European immigrants that would arrive soon in the east. Their migration path would be symbolized by a series of smaller Turtle Islands, which was confirmed with miigis shells (i.e., cowry shells). After receiving assurance from the their "Allied Brothers" (i.e., Mi'kmaq) and "Father" (i.e., Abnaki) of their safety in having many more of the Anishinaabeg move inland, they advanced along the St. Lawrence River to the Ottawa River to Lake Nipissing, and then to the Great Lakes. First of these smaller Turtle Islands was Mooniyaa, which Mooniyaang (Montreal, Quebec) now stands. The "second stopping place" was in the vicinity of the Wayaanag-gakaabikaa (Concave Waterfalls, i.e., Niagara Falls). At their "third stopping place" near the present-day city of Detroit, Michigan, the Anishinaabeg divided into six divisions, of which the Ojibwe was one of these six. The first significant new Ojibwe culture-centre was their "fourth stopping place" on Manidoo Minising (Manitoulin Island). Their first new political-centre was referred as their "fifth stopping place", in their present country at Baawiting (Sault Ste. Marie).

Continuing their westward expansion, the Ojibwe divided into the "northern branch" following the north shore of Lake Superior, and "southern branch" following the south shore of the same lake. In their expansion westward, the "northern branch" divided into a "westerly group" and a "southerly group". The "southern branch" and the "southerly group" of the "northern branch" came together at their "sixth stopping place" on Spirit Island...located in the St. Louis River estuary of Duluth/Superior region where the people were directed by the miigis being in a vision to go to the "place where there is food (i.e., wild rice) upon the waters." Their second major settlement, referred as their "seventh stopping place", was at Shaugawaumikong (or Zhaagawaamikong, French, Chequamegon) on the southern shore of Lake Superior, near the present La Pointe near Bayfield, Wisconsin. The "westerly group" of the "northern branch" continued their westward expansion along the Rainy River, Red River of the North, and across the northern Great Plains until reaching the Pacific Northwest. Along their migration to the west they came across many miigis, or cowry shells, as told in the prophecy.

Post-contact with Europeans

The first historical mention of the Ojibwe occurs in the Jesuit Relation of 1640. Through their friendship with the French traders (voyageurs), the Ojibwe gained guns, grew dependent upon White baubles, and began to dominate their traditional enemies, the Sioux and Fox to their west and south. They drove the Sioux from the Upper Mississippi region, and forced the Fox down from northern Wisconsin. The latter allied with the Sauk for protection.

By the end of the 18th century, the Ojibwe were the nearly unchallenged owners of almost all of present-day Michigan, northern Wisconsin, and Minnesota, including most of the Red River area, together with the entire northern shores of Lakes Huron and Superior on the Canadian side and extending westward to the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota. In the latter area, they were called the Plains Ojibwe or Saulteaux (by the French Canadians).

The Ojibwe (Chippewa) were part of a long-term alliance with the Anishinaabe Ottawa and Potawatomi peoples, called the Council of Three Fires. They fought against the Iroquois Confederacy, based mainly to the southeast of the Great Lakes in present-day New York, and the Sioux. The Ojibwe expanded eastward, taking over the lands along the eastern shores of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. The Ojibwe allied with the French against Great Britain and its colonists in the Seven Years War (also called the French and Indian War). By 1763 France was forced to cede its lands in Canada and east of the Mississippi River to Britain after losing the war. Adjusting to British colonial rule, the Ojibwe allied with them and against the United States in the War of 1812. They had hoped a British victory could protect against United States settlers' encroachment on their territory.


Ojibwe (Chippewa)

In the U.S., the government attempted to remove all the Ojibwe to Minnesota west of Mississippi River. Violence arose over this effort, and many Ojibwe were killed in the Sandy Lake Tragedy, which resulted in several hundred deaths. Through the efforts of Chief Buffalo and popular opinion against Ojibwe removal, the bands east of the Mississippi were allowed to return to reservations on ceded territory. A few families were removed to Kansas as part of the Potawatomi removal.

In British North America, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 following the Seven Years War governed the cession of land by treaty or purchase . Subsequently France ceded most of the land in Upper Canada to Great Britain. Even with the Jay Treaty signed between the Great Britain and the United States, the newly formed United States did not fully uphold the treaty. Illegal United States immigration into Ojibwe and other Native American lands continued, and the tribes retaliated in the series of battles called the Northwest Indian War. As it was still preoccupied by war with France, Great Britain ceded to the United States much of the lands in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, parts of Illinois and Wisconsin, and northern Minnesota and North Dakota to settle the boundary of their holdings in Canada.

Many of the land cession treaties the British made with the Ojibwe provided for their rights for continued hunting, fishing and gathering of natural resources after the land sales. The government signed numbered treaties in northwestern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. British Columbia had no signed treaties until the late 20th century, and most areas have no treaties yet. The government and First Nations are continuing to negotiate treaty land entitlements and settlements. The treaties are constantly being reinterpreted by the courts because many of them are vague and difficult to apply in modern times. The numbered treaties were some of the most detailed treaties signed for their time. The Ojibwe Nation set the agenda and negotiated the first numbered treaties before they would allow safe passage of many more settlers to the prairies.

Often, earlier treaties were known as "Peace and Friendship Treaties" to establish community bonds between the Ojibwe and the European settlers. These earlier treaties established the groundwork for cooperative resource sharing between the Ojibwe and the settlers. The United States and Canada viewed later treaties offering land cessions as offering territorial advantages. The Ojibwe did not understand the land cession terms in the same way because of the cultural differences in understanding the uses of land. The governments of the US and Canada considered land a commodity of value that could be freely bought, owned and sold.

The Ojibwe believed it was a fully shared resource, along with air, water and sunlight. At the time of the treaty councils, they could not conceive of separate land sales or exclusive ownership of land. Consequently, today in both Canada and the US, legal arguments in treaty-rights and treaty interpretations often bring to light the differences in cultural understanding of treaty terms to come to legal understanding of the treaty obligations.

During Indian Removal of the 1830s, US government attempted to relocate tribes from the east to the west of the Mississippi River as the white pioneers colonized the areas. By the late 19th century, the government policy was to move tribes onto reservations within their territory. The government attempted to do this to the Anishinaabe in the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Culture

The Ojibwe live in groups (otherwise known as "bands"). Most Ojibwe, except for the Great Plains bands, lived a sedentary lifestyle, engaging in fishing and hunting to supplement the women's cultivation of numerous varieties of maize and squash, and the harvesting of manoomin (wild rice). Their typical dwelling was the wiigiwaam (wigwam), built either as a waginogaan (domed-lodge) or as a nasawa'ogaan (pointed-lodge), made of birch bark, juniper bark and willow saplings.

They developed a form of pictorial writing, used in religious rites of the Midewiwin and recorded on birch bark scrolls and possibly on rock. The many complex pictures on the sacred scrolls communicate much historical, geometrical, and mathematical knowledge. Ceremonies also used the miigis shell (cowry shell), which is found naturally in distant coastal areas. Their use of such shells demonstrates there was a vast trade network across the continent at some time. The use and trade of copper across the continent has also been proof of a very large area of trading that took place for thousands of years, as far back as the Hopewell culture. Certain types of rock used for spear and arrow heads were also traded over large distances. The use of petroforms, petroglyphs, and pictographs was common throughout the Ojibwe traditional territories. Petroforms and medicine wheels were a way to teach the important concepts of four directions and astronomical observations about the seasons, and to use as a memorizing tool for certain stories and beliefs.

During the summer months, the people attend jiingotamog for the spiritual and niimi'idimaa for a social gathering (pow-wows or "pau waus") at various reservations in the Anishinaabe-Aki (Anishinaabe Country). Many people still follow the traditional ways of harvesting wild rice, picking berries, hunting, making medicines, and making maple sugar. Many of the Ojibwe take part in sun dance ceremonies across the continent. The sacred scrolls are kept hidden away until those who are worthy and respect them are given permission to see and interpret them properly.

The Ojibwe would bury their dead in a burial mound. Many erect a jiibegamig or a "spirit-house" over each mound. A traditional burial mound would typically have a wooden marker, inscribed with the deceased's doodem (clan sign). Because of the distinct features of these burials, Ojibwe graves have been often looted by grave robbers. In the United States, many Ojibwe communities safe-guard their burial mounds through the enforcement of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

The Ojibwe viewed the world in two genders: animate and inanimate, rather than male and female. As an animate, a person could serve the society as a male-role or a female-role. John Tanner and anthropologist Hermann Baumann have documented that Ojibwe peoples do not fall into the European ideas of gender and its gender-roles. Some, called egwakwe (or Anglicised to "agokwa"), contribute in ways that cross European gender lines. Though these egwakweg may contribute to their community in whatever way brings out their best character, these documented male-to-female transsexual Midew among the Ojibwe were more readily noticed by the non-Anishinaabe documenters. A well-known egwakwe warrior and guide in Minnesota history was Ozaawindib.

Several Ojibwe bands in the United States cooperate in the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, which manages their treaty hunting and fishing rights in the Lake Superior-Lake Michigan areas. The commission follows the directives of U.S. agencies to run several wilderness areas. Some Minnesota Ojibwe tribal councils cooperate in the 1854 Treaty Authority, which manages their treaty hunting and fishing rights in the Arrowhead Region. In Michigan, the Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority manages the hunting, fishing and gathering rights about Sault Ste. Marie, and the waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. In Canada, the Grand Council of Treaty #3 manages the Treaty 3 hunting and fishing rights around Lake of the Woods.

Kinship and Clan System

Ojibwe understanding of kinship is complex, and includes not only the immediate family but also the extended family. It is considered a modified bifurcate merging kinship system. As with any bifurcate-merging kinship system, siblings generally share the same term with parallel-cousins, because they are all part of the same clan. The modified system allows for younger siblings to share the same kinship term with younger cross-cousins. Complexity wanes further from the speaker's immediate generation, but some complexity is retained with female relatives. For example, ninooshenh is "my mother's sister" or "my father's sister-in-law" i.e., my parallel-aunt, but also "my parent's female cross-cousin". Great-grandparents and older generations, as well as great-grandchildren and younger generations are collectively called aanikoobijigan. This system of kinship speaks of the nature of the Anishinaabe's philosophy and lifestyle, that is, of interconnectedness and balance between all living generations, as well as of all generations of the past and of the future.

The Ojibwe people were divided into a number of odoodeman (clans; singular: doodem) named primarily for animal totems (pronounced doodem). The five original totems were Wawaazisii (Bullhead), Baswenaazhi ("Echo-maker", i.e., Crane), Aan'aawenh (Pintail Duck), Nooke ("Tender", i.e., Bear) and Moozwaanowe ("Little" Moose-tail). The Crane totem was the most vocal among the Ojibwe, and the Bear was the largest - so large, in fact, that it was sub-divided into body parts such as the head, the ribs and the feet.

Traditionally, each band had a self-regulating council consisting of leaders of the communities' clans or odoodemaan. The band was often identified by the principal doodem. In meeting others, the traditional greeting among the Ojibwe peoples is, "What is your 'doodem'?"...to establish social conduct between the two meeting parties as family, friends or enemies. Today, the greeting has been shortened to "Aaniin."

Spiritual Beliefs

The Ojibwe have a number of spiritual beliefs passed down by oral tradition under the Midewiwin teachings. These include a creation myth and a recounting of the origins of ceremonies and rituals. Spiritual beliefs and rituals were very important to the Ojibwe because spirits guided them through life. Birch bark scrolls and petroforms were used to pass along knowledge and information, as well as for ceremonies. Pictographs were also used for ceremonies. The sweatlodge is still used during important ceremonies about the four directions, when oral history is recounted. Teaching lodges are common today to teach the next generations about the language and ancient ways of the past. These old ways, ideas, and teachings are preserved and practiced in these living ceremonies...

For More Information:

Ojibwe Fact Sheet
Chippewa Indian History

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