First Nations

The history of the Ojibway, written by a grade 12 student at KLDCS:

I am from Canada, near Thunder Bay, I will use the “Ojibway” spelling which is common in that area.

The original homeland of the Ojibway was immense, stretching from the Northern reaches of the plains to the Southeastern shores of the Great Lakes.

It’s members can be found from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountain and from Hudson Bay to North Carolina. There are some Ojibway scholars as well as Ojibway elders who believed that this common language points to an historical relation between such diverse tribes as the Ojibway, Algonquin, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Miami, Micmac, Delwear, Shawnee, Potawatomi, Menominee, Sauk and fox, Cree and Ottawa.

In modern times, four main groups of Ojibway people have been distinguished by location and adaptation to varying conditions. They are Plains Ojibway, the Northern Ojibway, the Southern Ojibway, and the Southwestern Ojibway or Chippewa.

Today, most of them work in farming and ranching. Many live in reservation communities, known in Canada as “reserves,” and some have moved to the city of Winnipeg.

In Canada it extended from central Saskatchewan to southern ontario, and in the United States it included the northern corner of North Dakota, northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, most of michigan and part of northern Ohio.

The Ojibway regarded their land as a gift from the great spirit to their people, belonged to everyone in the tribe. They lived upon it and loved it and resisted any who tried to drive them from it.

As mentioned earlier, according to the oral traditions of the Anishinable, the Ojibway, Potawatomi and Ottawa people were once a single “people” known as the three fries of the Anishinable.

Plaines Ojibway or plaines Chippewa, as well as their Metis (“mixed blood”), adapted and absorbed many of the traditions of the plains tribes such as the Dakota Sioux in Montana (rocky boy) and North Dakota (turtle mountain), and the Nakota and Assiniboine in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, this series focuses on the history and culture of the woodlands Ojibwe of the Great Lakes region, specifically the 19 Ojibwe or Chippewa bands in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, shared cultures of all OjIbwe people around the great lakes, in Canada and U.S., as well as common histories they share and enduring familial ties that transcend article boundaries, extends this series well beyond these 19 Ojibwe bands.

Today, the majority of the Southeastern Ojibway are in Southern Ontario, particularly around some of the shores and islands of Georgian bay in Lake Huron. This tradition was first written in English by William W.Warren, an Ojibway historian in the 1850’s. It was told to him by the elders of the tribe as their fathers had told it to them. These men reported a community of Indian people living by the falls of St. Marys river (“Sault Ste…,Marie” in French), through which the waters of Lake Superior pour into Lake Huron. The French called them “Saulteurs”- “people of the falls”. Most of the bands of Ojibway in this area visited Sault Ste.. Marie from time to time in order to fish and meet their friends and relatives. Because this spot was already a gathering place, it soon become a trading centre also, where European goods were exchanged for furs.

The village of Sault Ste.. Marie grew in size and become a meeting place and a center for shared religious ceremonies, while the leaders of the independent bands more often acted together in their dealings with French and others.

From 1650 to 1680 trade, Warfare and migrations greatly effected the homeland and way of life for the Ojibway people. The fur trade with Europeans introducing new tools and weapons as well as liquor into the lives of Ojibway people. Before long the traditional balance of Ojibway life was altered and whole bands were making a large part of their livelihood by exchanging fur for the white mans goods. The pressure for hunting territory led to wars among the tribes, and these wars were encouraged by their white allies. These Ojibway bands were forced to flee north and west. For more then 15 Years this band lived on the eastern shore of lake nipigon periodically sending out warriors to fight the Iroquois to their south and east. When peace returned in 1667 most of the nipissing Ojibway went back to their old homes.

In 1662, the Ojibway along the southern shores of Lake Superior again encountered a large group of Iroquois near sault ste.. Marie and drove them from their country. While these years of trade, Warfare and migration destroyed some tribes, they seem to have also strengthened the growing solidarity of the Ojibway.

In the spring of 1679 the French trader Daniel du luth persuaded leader of the Ojibway at Sault Ste.. Marie to attend a council with the Dakota at the fur western end or Lake Superior. There, an alliance was made between the Ojibway and Dakota. The Dakota agreed to let the Ojibway hunt upon the eastern fringes of their country in return for bringing then French traders and French goods. This arrangement lasted for more then 50 Year’s. In time this village replaced Sault Ste.. Marie as a gathering place for the Ojibway, and at Chequameogon the Ojibway seem to have found life better than before.

But this summer Ojibway people from the whole area as well as from the north shore of Lake Superior, came to Chequamefon for medewiwin (grand medicine) ceremonies. The Ojibway bands that lived here joined by other more eastern Ojibway bands pushed towards the south land west. In 1683 du luth built a post (Fort la Tourette) at lake nipigon and another (Fort kaministiquia) nears present-day Thunder Bay, Ontario. For the most part, the Ojibway were neutral and could travel safely in the country between the warring tribes.

The third crucial battle of this period opened the way for the Ojibway to move into the country around the sources of the Mississippi in northern Minnesota. It was fought on Big Sandy Lake at the western end of the savanna portage, which had been from earliest times the main route of travel from Lake Superior to the upper Mississippi. Here an Ojibway force dawn from bands as Far East a Sault Ste.. Marie attacked Dakota village and in the words of William W. Warren, “put out the fire” of that tribe on big sandy lake. By the mid 1700’s horses were becoming plentiful on the northern plains and were transforming the lifestyle of the people there. Already western bands Dakota had taken to the free, proud life of mounted buffalo hunters, following the great bards that roamed across the grasslands.

There are many stories as to just when and how these people came to be called the “pillaged band”, but there is no doubt that they were known for their warlike behaviour and bravery. They had need such qualities, for the eastern Dakota made several determined efforts to regain at least part of their country.

In time Ojibway villages grew up at Grand Portage, Saganaga Lake, Rainy Lake and elsewhere. Although war continued with the Iroquois until 1700, the trid had turned and the Iroquois bands no longer threatened the people of the upper Great Lakes, including the Ojibway. Ties of blood reached even to the leadership of the two tribes. The first of the famous Dakota chiefs named Wabasha was half-brother to the noted Ojibway chief Ma-Ming-e-se-da, who led the people of Chequamegon for many years.

Probably in the 1770’s, they raided the Ojibway Williams’s around leech lake and cass lake and at sandy lake but were defeated by a force of Ojibway who ambushed them at the mouth of the crow wing river as they paddles down the Mississippi. About 1780 or a few years later, the Dakota joined with the Sauk and fox to once more drive the Ojibway from the valleys of the Chippewa and ST, croix rivers. They were met at St.Croix falls by some three hundred Ojibway under chief Waub -o-Jaag of the Cheqamegon band and were decisively-and finally-defeated!