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Ojibwe are sometimes known as Chippewa. For other uses of Chippewa, see Chippewa (disambiguation). The Chipewyan people are an unrelated First Nations people in the Arctic region of Canada.

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The Ojibwa, Aanishanabe or Chippewa (also Ojibwe, Ojibway, Chippeway, Anishinaabe, or Anishinabek) are the largest group of Native Americans/First Nations north of Mexico, including Métis. They are the third largest in the USA, surpassed only by Cherokee and Navajo. They are about equally divided between the USA and Canada. Because they formerly were located mainly around Sault Ste. Marie, at the outlet of Lake Superior, the French referred to them as Saulteurs; Ojibwa who subsequently moved to the Prairie provinces of Canada have retained the name Saulteaux.

The Ojibwa, many of whom still speak the Ojibwe language known as Anishinaabemowin or Ojibwemowin, which belongs to the Algonquian linguistic group, are related to the Ottawa and Cree. The major component group of the Anishinaabe, they number over 100,000 living in an area stretching across the north from Michigan to Montana. Another 76,000, in 125 bands, live in Canada, stretching from western Québec to eastern British Columbia. They are known for their canoes and wild rice, and for the fact that they were the only Native Americans to defeat the Sioux. [1]

The name "Chippewa" is an anglicized corruption of "Ojibwa". Although "Chippewa" is more common in the USA and "Ojibwa" predominates in Canada, both terms do exist in both countries. "Anishinabe(k/g)" is becoming more common in Canada. The exact meaning of the name "Ojibwe" is not known; however, two most common explanations are 1) it is derived from "cooks until puckered" referring to their fire-curing of moccasin seams to make them water-proof and 2) The most likely, it is derived from the mispronounciation of the words "O-jib-i-weg" meaning "Those who keep Records of a Vision" referring to their form of pictorial writing (pictograph) used in Midewiwin rites.



According to their own tradition, they came from the east, advancing along the St. Lawrence River to the Ottawa River to Lake Nipissing, and then to the Great Lakes, where they had their first major settlement, referred as their "fourth stopping place", in their present country at Sault Ste. Marie and their second major settlement, referred as their "seventh stopping place", at Shaugawaumikong (or Zhaagawaamikong, French, Chegoimegon) on the southern shore of Lake Superior, near the present La Pointe or Bayfield, Wisconsin. Their first historical mention occurs in the Jesuit Relation of 1640. Through their friendship with the French traders they were able to obtain guns and thus successfully end their hereditary wars with the Sioux and Foxes on their west and south, with the result that the Sioux were driven out from the Upper Mississippi region, and the Foxes forced down from northern Wisconsin and compelled to ally with the Sauk. By the end of the eighteenth century the Chippewa 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, where they became known as the Plains Ojibwa.

The Ojibwa were part of a long term alliance with the Ottawa and Potawatomi First Nations, called the Council of Three Fires and which fought with the Iroquois Confederacy and the Sioux. The Ojibwa expanded eastward taking over the lands alongside the eastern shores of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. The Ojibwa allied themselves with the French in the French and Indian War, and with the British in the War of 1812.

In the USA, they were never removed as so many other tribes have been, but by successive treaty sales they are now restricted to reservations within this territory, with the exception of a few families living in Kansas.

In Canada, the cession of land by treaty or purchase was governed by the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and subsequently most of the land in Upper Canada was ceded to the Crown. See Treaty Timeline - Individual Treaties with maps at [2].


Most Ojibwa, except for the Plains bands, lived a sedentary lifestyle, engaging in fishing, hunting, the farming of maize and squash, and the harvesting of Manoomin (wild rice). Their typical dwelling was the wiigiwaam (wigwam) or the waaginogan, made of birch bark, juniper bark and willow saplings. They also developed a form of pictorial writing used in religious rites of the Midewiwin and recorded on birch bark scrolls.

Image:Chippewa family c 1821.jpg

The Ojibwe people and culture are alive and growing today. During the summer months, the people attend pow-wows or "pau waus" at various reservations in the US and reserves in Canada. Many people still follow the traditional ways of harvesting wild rice, picking berries, hunting and making maple sugar.

The legend of the Ojibwa "Windigo," in which tribesmen supposedly identify with a mythological cannabalistic monster and prey on their families is mentioned in the fiction of Thomas Pynchon. A native tribe that is never specifically named but is probably the Ojibwe features prominently in the writings of Ernest Hemingway

Several bands of Ojibwe cooperate in the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission which manages their treaty hunting and fishing rights. The commission cooperates with U.S. agencies to run several wilderness areas. See List of U.S. state and tribal wilderness areas.

An interesting example of the Ojibwe culture is that there is no word for "Goodbye".

In Popular Culture

During the 6th season of The Sopranos, an old Ojibwe proverb is shown in prominence and quoted in at least 3 episodes.

Spiritual beliefs


The Ojibwa have a number of spiritual beliefs passed down by oral tradition. These include a creation narrative and a recounting of the origins of ceremonies and rituals. Spiritual beliefs and rituals were very important to the Ojiwba because spirits guided them through life.

Clan system

The Ojibwe people were divided into a number of doodem (clans) named for animal totems. This served as a system of government as well as a means of dividing labor. The five main totems were Crane, Catfish, Loon, Bear and Marten. 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.

There were at least twenty-one totems in all, recorded by William Whipple Warren: Crane, Catfish, Loon, Bear, Marten, Wolf, Reindeer, Merman, Pike, Lynx, Eagle, Rattlesnake, Turtle, Moose, Black Duck, Sucker, Goose, Sturgeon, White Fish, Beaver, Gull, and Hawk. Some totems indicate non-Ojibwe origins, such as the Wolf Clan for Dakota or Eagle Clan for American. There are other totems considered rare today among the Ojibwe because the totems have migrated to other tribes, such as the Merman Clan, which shows up as the Water-spirits Clan of the Winnebagoes

Bands and First Nations of Ojibwe people

Bands are listed under their respective tribes where possible Image:Rocky Boy Chippewa chief.jpg

Other Tribes known by their Ojibwa/Ottawa Names

Arkansas Aakaanzhish Damn little Kansas Quapaw
Assiniboine Asiniibwaan Stoney 'Asp' (i.e. the Sioux) Nakota
Blackfoot Makadewanazid Black-foot Siksikawa
Chipewyan Jibwayaan Pointed Skin Dënesųłiné
Chowanoc Zhaawanoog Southerners Shawnee
Eskimo Ashki-amaw Eats It Raw Inuit
Flathead Nebagindibe Flat-head Salish
Kansas Aakaansh [Lives at the] Little Hell-hole Kaw
Kaskaskia Gaaskaaskeyaa Hide-scraper
Kickapoo Giiwigaabaw Stands here-and-there
Miami Mayaame Sturgeons Miimii
Micmac Miigimaa Allied-Brothers Mi'kmaq
Moingwena Moowiingwenaa Have a Filthy Face
Ottawa Odaawaa Trader Odawa
Potawatomi Boodewaadamii Fire Keeper Bodéwadmi
Sauk/Sac Ozaagii [Lives at the] Outlet Asakiwaki
Sioux Naadawensiw Little like the 'Adders' (i.e. the Iroquois) Aioe-Dakota-Lakota-Nakota
Snake Ginebig Snake Shoshoni
Winnebago Wiinibiigoo [Lives at the] Murky Waters Ho-čąk

Ojibwa Treaties


  • F. Densmore, Chippewa Customs (1929, repr. 1970)
  • H. Hickerson, The Chippewa and Their Neighbors (1970)
  • R. Landes, Ojibwa Sociology (1937, repr. 1969)
  • R. Landes, Ojibwa Woman (1938, repr. 1971)
  • F. Symington, The Canadian Indian (1969)

External links

de:Anishinabe fr:Ojibwé it:Ojibway nl:Ojibwa (stam) ja:オジブワ pl:Odżibwejowie pt:Ojibwa fi:Ojibwayt