The Chippewa

Chippewa Leadership Drawing

Name(s) of Tribe:     Chippewa, also known as Ojibwe or Anishinabe.
(Ojibwe and Chippewa are actually even the same word, just pronounced differently with accent).

Minnesota Reservations Currently located:  Boise Forte, Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, White Earth, Red Lake, Sandy Lake.

Background Info:    The Chippewa remember a time when they lived close to the sea.  It is theorized that they lived as far away as the Atlantic near the gulf of the St. Lawrence, but more than likely it was Hudson Bay.  Colder weather forced the Chippewas south to the East side of Lake Huron.  They continued to expand west, south, and east through fur trade and wars with the Iroquois.  By 1700 the Chippewa controlled most of what would now be Michigan and southern Ontario.  Further fur trade with the French brought them west of Lake Superior, and into a war with the Sioux (Dakota) Indians in 1737.  During their battles in the next century, they were able to force the Sioux out of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.  By 1800 Ojibwe were living in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. No other tribe has ever controlled so much land.   Canada recognizes more than 130 Ojibwe First Nations in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.  The United States gives federal recognition to 22 Chippewa groups.

    The Chippewa have never received due credit for their successes.  They were the largest and most powerful tribe in the Great Lakes area.  The Sioux get more press, but the Chippewa were the tribe who defeated the Iroquois in wars, and forced the Sioux from their native lands.  The Chippewa were located well north of the early flow of settlement, so they rarely had any conflicts with settlers.  The Chippewa never had any conflicts with Americans after 1815 and have signed 51 treaties with the U.S. government, more than any other tribe.  They've also signed more than 30 treaties with the French, British, and Canadians.

Cultural Info:     Most Chippewa were classic Woodlands culture, but since different groups lived across such a wide area, there were significant differences in individual groups.  Some Ojibwe villages in the southern part of their range were larger and permanent with the cultivation of corn, squash, beans, and tobacco; while others in the plains adopted the Buffalo culture, and developed different ceremonies, art, and clothing.

    However, most Chippewa lived in the northern Great Lakes with a short growing season and poor soil. They were hunter-gatherers who harvested wild rice and maple sugar. Woodland Ojibwe had no salt to preserve food and generally mixed everything with maple syrup as seasoning. They were skilled hunters and trappers.  Fishing, especially for sturgeon, provided much of their diet and became progressively more important in the northernmost bands.  Woodland Ojibwe rarely used horses or hunted buffalo.  Dogs were the only domestic animal and a favorite dish served at their feasts.  Bark from birch trees was very important to the Chippewa.  They used birchbark for almost everything: utensils, storage containers, and, most importantly, canoes. Coming in a variety of sizes depending on purpose, the birchbark canoe was lighter than the dugouts used by the Sioux and other tribes. Birchbark was also used to cover their elliptical, dome-shaped wigwams.  When a family moved, the covering of the wigwam was rolled up and taken along leaving only the framework.

    The hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Ojibwe required they separate into small bands moving in a fixed pattern to take advantage of available resources.  Polygamy was rare.  During winter, they separated into extended families in isolated hunting camps which allowed the men to cover a large area without competition from other hunters. During warmer months, they gathered in bands of 300-400 at known locations where fish, berries, and wild rice were abundant. There was little central organization, and the authority of hereditary Ojibwe chiefs before contact was limited and confined pretty much to his own band. Tribal councils occurred only when several bands made common cause in times of war but otherwise were rare. However, this changed after the beginning of the fur trade with the French, and the  different bands began merging.

    Ojibwe scalped, but as a rule they killed and did not torture. Like other Great Lakes warriors, there was ritual cannibalism of their dead enemies.

    The Chippewa spoke a form of the Algonquin language.  Ojibwe is virtually identical to Ottawa, Potawatomi and Algonkin, with a more distant relationship to Illinois and Miami. After 1680, Ojibwe became the trade language in the northern Great Lakes area.

Famous Chiefs:    Chief Broken Tooth (Ka-ta-wa-be-da) - The "Emperor of Sandy Lake"
                            Chief Hole-in-the-Day (Bug-O-Nay-Geeshig).

Famous Battles/Wars:    For the most part, the Ojibwe were a peaceful nation.  They were friendly with the white men, and even served as middlemen in trading between French fur traders and the Sioux.
    The Sioux were by far their biggest enemy.  For 130 years, the Ojibwe and Sioux battled contiuously until the Treaty of 1825, when the two tribes were separated.  The Sioux recieved what is now southern Minnesota, while the Ojibwe recieved most of northern Minnesota (see map on main page for details).

Clothing/Hairstyle:    Usually buckskin clothing, with fur outer layers in the colder months.  Men wore breechcloth, but both men and women wore leggings.  Distinctive moccasins with puffed seams and colored with red, yellow, blue and green dyes.  Men wore hair long and braided in times of peace, and sometimes in a scalplock during wars.

Chippewa Clan System Drawing

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