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Ojibwa

Ojibwa (ōjĭbˈwāˌ, –wə) [key] or Chippewa chĭpˈəwäˌ, –wə, group of Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). Their name also occurs as Ojibway and Chippeway, but they are not to be confused with the Chipewyan. In the mid-17th cent., when visited by Father Claude Jean Allouez, they occupied the shores of Lake Superior. They were constantly at war with the Sioux and the Fox over possession of the rich fields of wild rice in this region. When the Ojibwa received (c.1690) firearms from the French, they drove the Fox from N Wisconsin. They then turned against the Sioux, compelling them to cross the Mississippi River. The Ojibwa continued their expansion W across Minnesota and North Dakota until they reached the Turtle Mts. in N central North Dakota. This group became the Plains Ojibwa.

In 1736 the Ojibwa obtained their first foothold E of Lake Superior, and after a series of engagements with the Iroquois, they obtained the peninsula between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Thus by the mid-18th cent. they controlled a large area from the eastern shore of Lake Huron in the east to the Turtle Mts. in the west. The Ojibwa, one of the largest tribes N of Mexico, then numbered some 25,000. They were allied with the French in the French and Indian Wars and with the British in the War of 1812. After the War of 1812 they made a treaty with the United States, and since that time they have lived on reservations in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana.

Traditionally the Ojibwa, except for the Plains Ojibwa, were a fairly sedentary people who depended for food on fishing, hunting (deer), farming (corn and squash), and the gathering of wild rice. They obtained and used maple sugar and smoked kinnikinnick, a tobacco made from dried leaves and bark. The characteristic dwelling was the wigwam. The Ojibwa had a unique form of picture writing that was intimately connected with the religious and magico-medical rites of the Midewiwin society.

Today the Ojibwa, or Chippewa, constitute the third largest Native American group in the United States, numbering over 100,000 in 1990. Their numerous bands include the Turtle Mountain, Sault Ste. Marie, Red Lake, Minnesota, Lac Courte Oreilles, White Earth, Leech Lake, Bad River, and others. More than 76,000 live in Canada, in 125 bands. While some Ojibwa are engaged in the traditional occupations of hunting, fishing, and harvesting wild rice, others run manufacturing and casino businesses. Some bands are still seeking redress for the loss of hunting and fishing rights stemming back to treaties made in the 1850s..

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

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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