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Ojibwe

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Ojibwe

The Ojibwe are also known as the Chippewa, Ojibwa, and Ojibway. The name Chippewa is widely used in the United States, and Ojibwe is in Canada. Both terms come from an Algonquin term for the type of moccasins the Chippewa wore. The name Anishinaabe is also a popular term for these Native Americans. They have many names because they came into contact with many other tribes and Europeans while exploring North America. This is because the Chippewa people are one of North America's largest and most powerful tribes. Keep on reading to learn more about the Ojibwe culture, history, and more.

The Ojibwe Tribe Location

The Ojibwe territory is just to the west of the Great Lakes, especially around Lake Superior. When the Ojibwe moved into the region before the arrival of Europeans, they were one of three Algonquin-speaking tribes in the area, along with the Ottawa and Potawatomi. These three tribes would remain allies for most of their history in the region, calling themselves the Council of Three Fires.

Ojibwe, lands of the Ojibwe tribe, StudySmarter

The map above shows the historical extent of the Ojibwe territory and the route taken when migrating from the eastern woodlands of North America. Source: wisconsinfirstnations.org

Ojibwe Culture

Ojibwe, An Ojibwe man in traditional dress, StudySmarter

An Ojibwe man in traditional ceremonial clothing with a rifle, 1918. Source: Library of Congress.

The Ojibwe had some unique cultures within their large tribe, influenced by the environment they occupied. Southern bands of the Ojibwe adapted some of the lifestyle of Plains Native Americans–semi-nomadic horseback riders who would hunt buffalo. Northern bands of Objiwe had customs more akin to their northeastern Algonquin counterparts.

Overall, the Ojibwe would relocate if the food was scarce but generally maintained year-round villages. They built birch bark wigwams as their primary form of shelter and used birch bark in constructing canoes and containers.

Did you know?

Ojibwe art also used birch bark. The Chippewa uses a unique form of pictorial art used in rites of passage and initiations. These depictions are carved and painted into birch bark scrolls. These scrolls show historical events, a strong understanding of mathematics, and learning culture.

Ojibwe Diet

The Ojibwe, for the most part, are farmers who grew corn, beans, pumpkins, and squash. They were also hunters and gatherers who would hunt mammals, fish, shellfish, fowl, and wild edible plants near the lakes and rivers.

A staple food of the Chippewa is wild rice. This plant is found along rivers, lakes, and streams. It is a tall grass with an edible seed resembling rice. It is harvested in the summer, usually by the women of the tribe while floating in canoes.

Ojibwe, Birch Bark Canoe, StudySmarterThis photo taken in the early 1900s shows two Ojibwe in modern dress and traveling in a traditional birch bark canoe. Source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Ojibwe Society

Like other Algonquin tribes, the Ojibwe did not necessarily have gender roles within their bands. In Ojibwe society, there were individuals known as "egwakwe" who were people in the tribe who would best serve the tribe in a non-traditional gender role, such as a woman who was apt at warfare or a man who was keen on agriculture.

The Ojibwe believe that all living and non-living things have spirits that can be controlled to help or harm their enemies. Like most other Algonquin tribes, the Ojibwe believe in one all-powerful spirit from which lesser spirits gained power; this spirit is called Manitou. A lesser spirit but one that is central to Objiwe beliefs is Manabozho–a trickster spirit who brought medicine to Chippewa society.

Secret Societies of the Ojibwe

The Ojibwe participated in a secret society called the Midewiwin Society, or Grand Medicine Society, based on their belief in Manabozho. To gain entry into this consort is very difficult. A man or woman has to have a dream during which a spirit visits them. Then a secret initiation is held once a year in a special wigwam. The initiate would go through rites of passage, perform songs and dances, and objects of the society bestowed on the new participant. These objects included a unique medicine bag called a "mide," made from mink fur, weasel, rattlesnake, hawk, or owl skins.

Ojibwe History

Ojibwe, Shelter, StudySmarter

A photograph was taken in the early 1900s of an Ojibwe birch-bark wigwam. Source: Library of Congress.

As mentioned above, the Chippewa people are one of North America's largest and most powerful tribes. This is due to their early and consistent contact with French fur traders in the early 1600s. Because they were trusted allies of the French, the Chippewa were among the first Native Americans to receive European firearms. With these weapons, the Chippewa had a solid technological and military advantage over their local rival tribes. The Chippewa drove out the Sioux into the Great Plains, the Sac, Fox, and Kickapoo southward and managed to push back the Iroquois in the east.

During the 1600s and early 1700s, various bands of Ojibwe dominated parts of present-day Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, and Ontario. The Chippewa had complete control over Lake Huron's territory to the Missouri River.

In the 1700s, the Chippewa were allies of the French during the French and Indian War, fighting the British during that conflict and again during Pontiac's Rebellion. These alliances switched during the American Revolution when the Ojibwe allied with the British against the American Colonists. Then they fought the Americans after the Revolutionary War during the Indian Wars of the Northwest and joined with the British again during the War of 1812. In 1815, after the war ended, the Ojibwe surrendered along with the British, ceding much of their territorial land to the United States.

The Ojibwe Tribe Today

Present-day Chippwea lives on reservations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, Montana, Ontario, and cities in the Midwest United States and central Canada. A few tribes have maintained their traditional ways of life, such as hunting and fishing and using their arts and crafts as income. Some Ojibwe bands have supported themselves by adopting the mainstream culture and the use of operating casinos on tribal lands as a means of increasing tribal revenue.

Ojibwa society - Key takeaways

    • The Ojibwe territory is west of the Great Lakes, especially around Lake Superior.

    • The Ojibwe, for the most part, are farmers who grew corn, beans, pumpkins, and squash. They were also hunters and gatherers who would hunt mammals, fish, shellfish, fowl, and wild edible plants near the lakes and rivers.

    • Like most other Algonquin tribes, the Ojibwe believe in one all-powerful spirit from which lesser spirits gained power; this spirit is called Manitou.

    • The Chippewa people are one of the largest and most powerful tribes. This is due to their early and consistent contact with French fur traders in the early 1600s. Because they were trusted allies of the French, the Chippewa were among the first Native Americans to receive European firearms.

    • Present-day Chippwea lives on reservations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, Montana, Ontario, and cities in the Midwest United States and central Canada.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ojibwe

The Ojibwe are also known as the Chippewa, Ojibwa, and Ojibway. The name Chippewa is expected in the United States and Ojibwe in Canada. Both terms come from an Algonquin term for the type of moccasins the Chippewa wore. The name Anishinaabe is also a popular term for these Native Americans. They have so many names because they came into contact with many other tribes and Europeans during their exploration of North America. This is because the Chippewa people are one of the largest and most powerful tribes in North America.  

The name Chippewa is expected in the United States and Ojibwe in Canada. Both terms come from an Algonquin term for the type of moccasins the Chippewa wore. The name Anishinaabe is also a popular term for these Native Americans. They have so many names because they came into contact with many other tribes and Europeans during their exploration of North America. 

Present-day Chippwea lives on reservations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, Montana, Ontario, and cities in the Midwest United States and central Canada. A few tribes have maintained their traditional ways of life, such as hunting and fishing and using their arts and crafts as income. Some Ojibwe bands have supported themselves by adopting the mainstream culture and the use of operating casinos on tribal lands as a means of increasing tribal revenue. 

The Ojibwe territory is just to the west of the Great Lakes, especially around Lake Superior. When the Ojibwe moved into the region before the arrival of Europeans, they were one of three Algonquin-speaking tribes in the area, along with the Ottawa and Potawatomi.  

The Ojibwe are also known as the Chippewa, Ojibwa, and Ojibway. The name Chippewa is expected in the United States and Ojibwe in Canada. Both terms come from an Algonquin term for the type of moccasins the Chippewa wore. The name Anishinaabe is also a popular term for these Native Americans. 

Final Ojibwe Quiz

Question

Which band of Chippewa is more likely to have adopted a Plains Indian lifestyle?

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Answer

The Southern Band of Chippewa

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Question

Much like their eastern counterparts, which tree provided the Ojibwe with materials for most of their canoes, shelters, containers, and scrolls? 

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Answer

Birch

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Question

Which of the following is the type of shelter most Ojibwe would construct in their villages? 


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Answer

Wigwam

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Question

Which of the following is not a crop cultivated by the Ojibwe?


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Answer

Tobacco 

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Question

Manabozho is a demi-god-like spirit of the Ojibwe, what was he supposed to have brought the Ojibwe people? 

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Answer

Medicine and healing spirits

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Question

True or False: The Ojibwe society was divided into strict gender roles, with men hunting and women gathering rice and plants.


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Answer

False

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Question

What was the term used for an Ojibwe tribe member whose skill set did not match their gender role, and would cross the gender lines to benefit the tribe? 


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Answer

Egwakwe

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Question

Which of the following was a staple crop of the Ojibwe that was not domesticated?


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Answer

Rice

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Question

Which of the following is the most important influence on why the Ojibwe became the most powerful tribe in North America in the 1600s and 1700s? 


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Answer

As close allies of French fur traders, they were the first natives to acquire guns.

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Question

What major event ended with the Ojibwe ceding much of their territory to the United States? 

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Answer

The War of 1812

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