Chippewa Culture and Customs

Traditions of and Resources for the First Americans


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Bering Strait Theory

Posted by Ed Yaekle on May 16, 2012 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (141)

Why do American Indians get so mad when you say their ancestors migrated across the Bering land bridge from Asia?


Well, there are several reasons. First of all, that contradicts the religious tradition of many native peoples, which claim we have always been here. Surely you know some white people who claim that the earth can't be thousands of years old because it conflicts with the Bible. It is the same principle--except that the Christian fundamentalists get a lot of attention and even nice mentions in textbooks, whereas the Indians are ignored. That gives them an extra reason to be mad.


However, though there is a wide spectrum of native religions in the Americas, most of them tend to be less hierarchical and more flexible than Christianity. If you asked most Indians in some respectful manner, I think you'd find most of them wouldn't have a problem reconciling a philosophical belief that we have lived here since time immemorial with natural evidence that we arrived here at least 20,000 years ago. Why shouldn't they both be true? The Creator is great, we don't always understand the whole world.


But now the problem is, most of us have not been asked this in a respectful manner. Instead, a lot of people have used this Bering Strait bridge theory to belittle Native Americans as "not really native" (a claim that is stupid as well as insulting, since the same scientific facts they use to show the immigration theory also clearly show we have been here at least 20,000 years--longer than men have inhabited England.) Furthermore, missionaries in the past commonly ignored our religious traditions and oral history as inferior to scientific findings-- while at the same time touting their own religious traditions as superior to science. Is it any wonder that this sort of hypocrisy makes Indians angry?


So, if some native people disagree with my conclusion that the Bering Strait theory is probably true, that's fine with me. I respect the religious beliefs of people who believe their ancestors were here since the beginning of time, and I respect the scientific knowledge of the world that suggests we inhabited our homeland more than 20,000 years ago. What I do NOT respect are:


1) people who insist that we are a lost tribe of Israel who immigrated here, no matter what science says, because their religion says so. If we are using religion as our measuring stick, then our religious traditions about where we came from matter much more than someone else's. Use your religion to tell your own story and leave us out of it.


2) people who insist that we have been here only 700, 1000, or 2000 years. If we are using science as our measuring stick, then all the scientific evidence is that the Americas have been inhabited for at least 20,000 years. There are even ruins which are known to be 12,000 years old. To use science to prove we are immigrants here and then ignore how long science says we have been here is hypocritical.


If you don't fall in either of those categories, then your respectful decision to believe in the Bering Strait migration theory or not is of no consequence to me. As long as we are all agreed that Indians have lived on these lands for at least 20,000 years, about twice as long as anyone has lived in England, then I don't think we have anything to quarrel about.



Books on the Bering Strait theory:

The Bering Land Bridge: Here's the full case for the Bering Strait theory by the scientist who brought it to popularity.

Red Earth, White Lies: Lakota author Vine Deloria Jr.'s book criticizing the Bering Strait land bridge theory and its proponents from an indigenous perspective.

Bones, Boats, and Bison: Scholarly text by archaeologist E. James Dixon rejecting the Bering bridge theory in favor of coastal migrations from Asia.

Websites on the Bering Strait theory:

Bering Straits Theory: Concise explanation of what the Bering land bridge theory suggests. 

Theories about the Bering Strait: Discussion of the Bering land bridge and other theories about American Indian origins. 

First Nations Migration Theories: Discussion of the Bering land bridge and other theories about American Indian origins. 

Paleo-American Origins: Discussion of the Bering land bridge and other theories about American Indian origins. 

Ancient Bones May Rewrite Theory: Article on sea-route alternatives to the Bering Straight theory.

Rewriting American Prehistory: Article discussing archaeological finds that predate the "ice-free corridor."

Journeys of Our Native Tongues: Linguist Johanna Nichols' analysis of Amerindian language families suggests American Indians have inhabited the Americas for at least 35,000 years.

Did First Americans Arrive By Land and Sea?: Article disputing the single-migration theory.

Discovery Casts Doubts On Bering Land Bridge Theory: Synopsis of a Science article reassessing Siberian migration theories.


Permission from

Setting The Record Straight Part 2

Posted by Ed Yaekle on May 16, 2012 at 1:30 AM Comments comments (1)


Setting the Record Straight Part 2 (Infrequently Asked Questions)

There is a lot of very good information about native peoples of America and their languages out there on the Internet. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of garbage. Some of it poses as scholarship.

We have strived to include links to as much useful information as possible on our website. However, we are trying to present a correct resource here. Though we have linked to websites which take different positions on legitimate disagreements of theory or history (Was Michigamean a Siouan language? Did Pocahontas really save John Smith's life?), we have not linked to anything we know is substantially incorrect, nor to claims which are unsupported by any fact.

Instead, we would like to correct some of the myths, mistakes, and just plain made-up stories of the Internet on this page.

Setting the Record Straight: Native American peoples

1. How did Indians get to the Americas?  Is it possible they migrated to America recently, like 700 or 1000 years ago?  If Native Americans migrated from Asia, then they're not really 'Native' at all, right?

2. Are Native Americans a lost tribe of Israel, Ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, or any other people mentioned in the Bible? Did a lost tribe of Israel sail to America and join the Indians, maybe? But aren't there special similarities between Aztec/Mayan culture and ancient Middle Eastern cultures, such as hieroglyphs, pyramids, symbology, traditional religions, and ethical laws like the Ten Commandments?

3. Did Viking explorers settle in the Americas? Did Native Americans descend from them?
 Is interbreeding with Vikings or lost Israelites why some tribes are lighter-skinned than others? I heard that there was a tribe called the "blue-eyed Indians" because Norse or Celtic explorers intermarried with them. Is that true? I heard that a Welsh prince founded the Mandan Indian tribe and that they even speak Welsh today. What about that?

4. Did Native Americans come from outer space?  Did aliens build various Native American monuments? If not, then how did Indians build things that relied on advanced astronomical knowledge, why did they build things that made patterns visible from the sky, and why did the natives of Mexico and Guatemala build monuments that were so much more impressive than things in North or South America?  Why do people believe these things?

5. If you drilled through the center of the earth from Hopiland, would you end up in Tibet?

6. Did the Blackfoot Indians ever live in the South (Georgia, Virginia, the Carolinas, etc.)?

7. Who invented scalping? My history book says it was the Indians but the tribe who lives near me says the colonists used to scalp them.

8. Were Native Americans cannibals?

9. Did Native Americans really kidnap white children?

10. Hey! You called Battle X a massacre or Massacre Y a battle! Are you a politically correct panderer/a Nazi?  Isn't it true that before Europeans got here Native Americans never polluted, wasted anything, killed women or children, and they never invented child abuse, rape, or slavery?  Who was more civilized, the Europeans or the Native Americans?

11. By the way, is it "Native Americans," "American Indians," or what?


Permission from

Orrin Lewis

Posted by Ed Yaekle on May 15, 2012 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (6)

Several of these blog entries (and some other information listed throughout this website) are from the website by a man I have come to respect, like and agree with very much due to his writings and opinions.  His name is Orrin Lewis.  He is a real champion not only amogst Native Americans, but of all Mankind.  When I include his writings it is from respect for him and my desire that others may understand his message and learn from him.  Most (if not all) sources are credited and this site is as much a compilation of informed sources as it is my opinions and feelings.  I hope the format in which I provide this information in entertaining, easy to read and access and asthetically pleasing while still retaining the truth and respect for this culture and people.  

-Ed Yaekle

Here is a bit about Orrin:

From the homepage of Orrin Lewis:

Osiyo. My name is Orrin Lewis, and I am Cherokee. This is my personal homepage. Actually, it's not too much of a homepage. I am old-fashioned and I don't like to put my picture on the Internet. And I don't care very much for the pictures of half-naked Indian women with their animal guides that are all over a lot of Indian homepages, and I have an old computer which sometimes crashes when it sees sites that begin playing some flute music and try to show me pictures of a rippling pond or something. So this homepage is very bare.

Information about me (Orrin):


Osiyo, my name is Orrin Lewis. I am Cherokee. I also have Muskogee blood (my father's mother was half-Muskogee) and also have white ancestors (my father's father was half-white, and so were some older ancestors on my mother's side). But I never knew them, and I don't know too much about them. I was raised in Oklahoma. I am a tribal member of the Cherokee Nation. But, I do not speak my language. That really hurts my heart. I am the broken link. Back in the fifties, a lot of people were not teaching their kids to speak Tsalagi. They didn't want them to get hit at school or anything. The schools were very aggressive about only speaking English, and my oldest brother had a really bad time. Anyway, so my parents didn't teach it to me. But I have a granddaughter now who is learning the language again. My daughter-in-law's mother is a fluent speaker and she moved in with them to help care for Winnie. She is six now and speaking Cherokee pretty good. So maybe that circle has closed again. Listening to her and Maryann talking together makes me remember my own grandmother, a long time ago, and it gives me hope for the future. Maybe the web pages that we are working on will help other young people to know about and want to learn their ancestral languages, before they are all gone.


Other things about me: I have one son, John, and two daughters, Annie and Terry. I have three wonderful grandchildren, Winnie, Sarah, and John Jr. who was just born this Sept 1, 2003. I am retired and I live near Chicago now because that is where John and his family are. Annie and Sarah still live in Oklahoma. Terry has graduated from college now, she is the first one in my parents family to do this.


Now I moved this homepage so that the Native American Languages page will be the first thing a visitor sees, because I think it is much more important and also more people will care about it. If you want us to add a link to your page please write to Laura, she is the webmaster. If you want to contact me my email is [email protected] If you want help with genealogy, Wiccan or New Age religion, Indian language translation, or finding Indian names, please see this FAQ page which will answer your questions and give you useful URL's to look at. Neither of us will answer these questions via email.

Orrin's Musings


Eventually, I want to put my own opinions about some things here, because some people are asking me what I think about them. But right now, I am too busy with the languages pages. So you can look forward to that later.


First, though, I want to really thank two people who are making this Native Languages project possible. One is my daughter, Terry. She taught me to use the Internet as a tool, and it's really a good one. She has also helped me to make important edits to the site on a few occasions. The other is Laura Redish. Actually, I have never met her, we know each other through the Internet only. But she has spent a huge amount of time programming in HTML for the site and making web searches to collect live, useful links. I could never have done this without her careful and diligent effort. She is not Indian, but she is doing a great service for us, and I deeply appreciate it. Wado, both of you. Now, I have six pages which have my opinions on them. These are my own personal ideas and not the Cherokee Nation's, and no other Cherokee or Indian necessarily thinks them just because I do. Here is my page about American Indian reaction to the Bering Strait Theory, my page about the Y-Indian Princesses and Y-Guides, my page about blood quantums, mixed-bloods, and Indian wannabe's, my article Why Your Great-Grandmother Wasn't A Cherokee Princess, American Indian spirituality and religion, American Indian tattoos, and my new pages about American Indian genealogy and American Indian art. Hope you like them.


For those who have asked, I have also archived my NDN-List posting about promoting American Indian Internet sites. And I am an editor with the Open Directory Project also trying to make Indian sites more visible on the Internet. If you have a site with good information about an Indian tribe please go there and submit it so that it can be reviewed for that directory.






Measuring Blood: The American Indian Blood Quantum

Posted by Ed Yaekle on May 15, 2012 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (2)

Measuring Blood: Blood Quantum, Mixed-Blood, and Indian Wannabe's

Measuring Blood: The American Indian Blood Quantum

Question: What is a "blood quantum," and why do American Indians argue about it so much?

Well, the way the government defines whether someone is a "real" Indian or not is they measure their blood. They have some arcane way of doing this by dividing the number of generations since all your ancestors were pure-blood by the number of marriages with people who aren't pure-blood. By their counting, I think I'm 7/8 Indian. Some of it is Muskogee, but they don't care about that. They're just trying to see how close we are or are not to white. We argue about this so much because nobody likes it. It's a really bad way to define somebody's culture and almost everyone agrees on that, but everyone can't agree on a better way, so there's a lot of complaining and it doesn't change.

Basically, there are four problems with this. One, it puts pressure on Indians not to marry white people or their children will lose their heritage, and that bothers a lot of people. Two, it means that if some of your ancestors aren't in the records, you can be denied being an Indian. Three, it's wrong for outsiders to tell you if you can or can't belong to an ethnic group. Nobody makes African-Americans prove their entire family line and apply for some governmental Certificate of Degree of African Blood before they can get a scholarship from the NAACP or put "Black-owned" on their business if they want to. And four, most disturbingly: it guarantees the extinction of the American Indian. By this standard, white is the default, and everyone is approaching whiteness. Someone who is 1/8 Indian is considered white, and that is the end of their Indianness-- they are white and their children will be white, forever. On the other hand, I am 1/8 white, but that doesn't mean that's the end of whiteness in my line. It keeps sitting there, just as it has since the 19th century when my white ancestors entered my family. Eventually one of my descendants will marry a white person again and hah! We will be 1/4 white. A person can get more white, but not more Indian. Do you see what I mean? Every generation, there are fewer people this system thinks are full-bloods, and all the blood quantums get smaller.

For my part, I think a mixed-blood Indian is just an Indian. Before white people came here, the tribes all mixed around a lot, and it didn't make anyone's culture disappear. You just belonged where your mother belonged, or, maybe some tribes did it where your father belonged. They didn't have to prove who they were. I'd personally like to see it that way again. But there's a problem with that, and it's resources. Indian tribes don't have a lot of resources now. There is hardly enough money for programs for the people we have. If we let in anybody who wanted to come? It would be very difficult practically. And it would be impossible to get federal money if we couldn't prove anything about blood, and few tribes are wealthy enough to get by without that. And, too, there are complaints from Indians that too much intermarriage and 'passing' and leaving the tribe is making us lose our culture. Certainly it is making us lose our languages. So a lot of people don't want a solution that would encourage more of that. That is why there's disagreement on this issue. Personally, I would rather see five non-Indians get Indian status than one Indian be denied it. Not all Indians agree with that, but it's what I think. The white politicians, of course, want just the opposite.

Actually, the more I think about the non-Indians--or people with very, very tenuous Indian ancestry who know nothing about the culture--trying to be Indians, the more I think it's not so bad. I will admit, I can get very annoyed by wanna-be's. Especially, when I was younger they used to think I knew about drugs, and I could get them magic mushrooms or something. Now they just think I can get them a spirit guide. I guess that's progress. But anyway, my point is this: assimilation has devastated us. They took us and sent us to boarding schools as children to rob us of our languages. They made our religions illegal. They turned our culture into something for history class only. Now, some yuppie white girl finds out she had a Cherokee great-great-great-grandmother, or somebody says she did, and she wants to be a Cherokee. Well, why not? In the past, a lot of Indians had rituals where you could take the place of the dead. So if someone killed my son, maybe he could end our families' fighting by giving me one of his sons, to take the place of the one he killed. Maybe these "wannabes" have come to take the place of what we have lost. Why not accept them? Not make them citizens of our nations, perhaps, but let's take them in and teach them our ways and our languages and help them raise their children to be some of us. Maybe they do have a little bit of Indian blood and it's finding its way back to us. That's what I think. White people assimilated us. Why turn away those who want to assimilate back?


Websites on Native American blood issues:

There's a lot of Internet material on Indian blood quantum and mixedblood issues, here are some representative ones illustrating the problems our communities are facing with native identity today: Indians being disenfranchised or oppressed by blood certificate requirements that are too strict, deceitful non-Indians exploiting requirements that are too lax, mixed-blood people caught in the middle. A really good solution isn't going to come until our nations are empowered enough to make these kinds of decisions ourselves without having to answer to the federal government about it, in my opinion, but that doesn't seem likely to happen under a system that keeps splintering away more of us with every passing year. Catch-22.

Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood: Here's the legalese from the BIA about how Indian identity is officially certified by the government. 

A Relic Of Racism And Termination: Article on the problematic history of the degree-of-blood test. 

Blood Quantum Petition: Online petition to the BIA calling for an end to blood certificates. 

The Crucible of American Indian Identity: Discussion of sovereignty and mixed-blood issues, with a detailed critique of blood quantum rules. 

Blood Quantum Questionnaire: Compiled responses from Native American respondents on the problems posed by various Indian citizenship strategies. 

Why Blood Quantum Matters, and Why It Shouldn't: Article by a mixed-blood Cherokee on the fallacy of equating blood purity with cultural authenticity. 

Denying Assistance to Mixed Bloods Perpetuates Genocide: Article on the problems faced by urban mixed-race Indians. 

Wannabees and Cultural Appropriation: Links to several sites about cultural theft and exploitation and how this hurts Indian communities. 

Metis: Canada has approached this issue by offering a separate aboriginal status to people of both native and non-native ancestry, known as the Métis. Here is our collection of links about these mixed-race Canadian people. 

Books on Native American blood issues:

Here are a few interesting books on the topic of American Indian blood quantum and other mixed-blood issues:

The Dispossessed: Fascinating book about Native American cultural genocide and the struggle with mixed-race identity. 

Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America: An interesting exploration of Indian racial identity and cultural encroachment. 

Genocide of the Mind: Terrific collection of essays by native authors on the erosion of Indian tribal identity including some valuable insights into mixed parentage and assimilation. 

Playing Indian: Lakota author Philip Deloria weighs in on issues of cultural and religious appropriation and the "Indian wannabe" phenomenon. 

Mixed-Bloods and Tribal Dissolution: Book discussing the difficult history of Indian mixed-blood issues. 

Real Indians and Others: A Canadian Metis author explores the history and culture of urban mixed-blood Indians. 

Africans and Native Americans: Book on the history and culture of mixed-race black Indians. 

Black Indians: An American Story: Video documentary on the lives of mixed-blood African-American/Native Americans. 

Additional Reading

Native American genealogy

Native American ancestor identification

Native American religion

Native American legend 

Index of 

Indian tribes 

Native Americans 

Native American names

Native homes

Beaded jewelry

Tribal Tattoo art

Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?

From: Native Languages of the Americas website © 1998-2011 * Contacts and FAQ page


Setting The Record Straight Part 1

Posted by Ed Yaekle on February 3, 2012 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (11)


Setting the Record Straight

(Infrequently Asked Questions)


There is a lot of very good information about native peoples of America and their languages out there on the Internet. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of garbage. Some of it poses as scholarship.


We have strived to include links to as much useful information as possible on our website. However, we are trying to present a correct resource here. Though we have linked to websites which take different positions on legitimate disagreements of theory or history (Was Michigamean a Siouan language? Did Pocahontas really save John Smith's life?), we have not linked to anything we know is substantially incorrect, nor to claims which are unsupported by any fact.


Instead, we would like to correct some of the myths, mistakes, and just plain made-up stories of the Internet on this page.

Setting the Record Straight: Native American languages


1. Aren't all Amerindian languages related?

2. These 'languages' are really dialects, right?

3. Are Amerindian languages related to Mongolian?

4. Are Amerindian languages descended from Hebrew, Ancient Egyptian, or Scandinavian languages?

5. Are Micmac, Cree, or Mayan hieroglyphics descended from Egyptian hieroglyphics?

6. Were Micmac, Cree, or other Amerindian writing systems invented by European missionaries?

7. Was the Cherokee writing system invented by a missionary?

8. Why is the word "squaw" so offensive? Does it mean woman, prostitute, or vagina?

9. Why do Indians in the movies say "How"? Is this a real Native American word, or a Hollywood thing?

10. Somebody I know serves in the army and says that "Opahey" is Cherokee for "This is a good day to die." Is that true?

11. Does "Bia tsimbic da-sasua" mean "today is a good day to die" in Crow?

12. Does the Sioux word for white people, "wasicu," really mean "steals the fat"?

13. Does the word "Eskimo" really mean "eaters of raw flesh"?

14. Is "Namaste" really a Native American word? How about "shaman"?

15. Why do people shout 'Geronimo!' when they jump off something high? Is there a real Apache origin to this?

16. Is "Ishmay Omay" really a Blackfoot spiritual creed?

17. Is it true that the Hopi word for sun is the Tibetan word for moon and vice versa?

18. You said a language I was looking at was undergoing "language revival." I thought it was impossible to revive a language once it was dead.

19. If American Indian kids are raised with their traditional languages, will it disadvantage them by making them speak English more poorly?

20. Are Amerindian languages simpler and more primitive than European languages?

21. Is it true that Amerindian languages have no word for time, love, honesty, etcetera?

22. Do Amerindian languages come from outer space, the spirit world, or the lost island of Atlantis?

23. Is it true that all Amerindian languages [insert verb phrase here]?

Permission from

Native American Facts for Kids

Posted by Ed Yaekle on February 1, 2012 at 3:25 AM Comments comments (60)

Chippewa Tribe

What is the difference between Chippewa, Ojibway, Ojibwe, and Ojibwa? What do these words mean?

There is no difference. All these different spellings refer to the same people. In the United States more people use 'Chippewa,' and in Canada more people use 'Ojibway,' but all four of these spellings are common. They all come from an Algonquian word meaning 'puckered,' probably because of the tribe's puckered moccasin style. The Ojibway people call themselves Anishinabe in their own language, which means 'original person.'
Where do the Chippewas live?

The Chippewas are one of the largest American Indian groups in North America. There are nearly 150 different bands of Chippewa Indians living throughout their original home land in the northern United States (especially Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan) and southern Canada (especially Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan).
How is the Ojibway Indian nation organized?

Each Ojibway community lives on its own reservation (or reserve, in Canada). Reservations are lands that belong to the Ojibways and are under their control. Communities of Ojibway Indians are called tribes in the United States and First Nations in Canada. Each Ojibway tribe is politically independent and has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. Some Ojibway nations have also formed coalitions to address common problems.
The political leader of an Ojibway band is called a chief (gimaa or ogimaa in the Ojibway language.) In the past Ojibway chiefs were men chosen by tribal councilmembers, often from among the last chief's sons, nephews, or sons-in-law. Today Ojibway chiefs can be men or women, and they are elected in most Ojibway bands, like mayors and governors.
What language do the Ojibways speak?

Most Ojibway people speak English, but some of them also speak their native Ojibway language. Ojibway is a musical language that has complicated verbs with many parts. If you'd like to know a few easy Ojibway words, aaniin (pronounced ah-neen) is a friendly greeting and miigwech (pronounced mee-gwetch) means "thank you." You can read an Ojibway picture glossary here.

What was Ojibway culture like in the past? What is it like now?

The Mille Lacs Ojibwe of Minnesota have a good home page where you can learn about Ojibwe history and view photographs from the Ojibwe Museum.
How do Ojibway Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?

They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Ojibway children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But Ojibway kids did have dolls and toys to play with, and older boys liked to play lacrosse. Like many Native Americans, Ojibway mothers traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were Ojibway men and women's roles?

Ojibway women were farmers and did most of the child care and cooking. Men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Both genders practiced story-telling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine. Ojibway men and women worked together to harvest wild rice. An Ojibway man used a pole to steer through the reeds, while his wife knocked rice grains into the canoe. Ojibway people still use canoes for ricing today, but both genders do the knocking now.
What were Ojibway homes like in the past?

There were two types of dwellings used by the Chippewas. In the woodlands, Ojibway people lived in villages of birchbark houses called waginogans, or wigwams. On the Great Plains, the Ojibwas lived in large buffalo-hide tents called tipis. The Plains Ojibwa were nomadic people, and tipis (or tepees) were easier to move from place to place than a waginogan. Here are some pictures of wigwam, tipi, and other Indian houses. Today, Native Americans only build a wigwam or tepee for fun or to connect with their heritage. Most Ojibways live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.
What was Ojibway clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?

Chippewa women wore long dresses with removable sleeves. Chippewa men wore breechcloths and leggings. Everybody wore moccasins on their feet and cloaks or ponchos in bad weather. Later, the Chippewas adapted European costume such as cloth blouses and jackets, decorating them with fancy beadwork. Here are more pictures of Ojibway clothing styles, and some photographs and links about Native American clothes in general.
Traditionally, the Chippewas wore leather headbands with feathers standing straight up in the back. In times of war, some Chippewa men shaved their heads in the Mohawk style. Otherwise, Chippewa men and women both wore their hair in long braids. Some Chippewa warriors also wore a porcupine roach. In the 1800's, some Chippewa chiefs began wearing long headdresses like their neighbors the Sioux. Here are some pictures of these different styles of Native American headdress. The Chippewas painted their faces and arms with bright colors for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint and festive decoration. Some Chippewas, especially men, also wore tribal tattoos.
Today, some Chippewa people still wear moccasins or a beaded shirt, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear feathers or roaches in their hair on special occasions like a dance.

What was Ojibway transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?

Yes--the Ojibway Indian tribe was well-known for their birchbark canoes. These canoe pictures compare long-nose Ojibway canoes to canoe styles of other tribes. Canoeing is still popular in the Ojibway nation today, though few people handcraft their own canoe from birch bark anymore. Over land, Chippewa people used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) Today, of course, the Chippewas also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Ojibway food like in the days before supermarkets?

Ojibway bands lived in different environments, so they didn't all eat the same food. Woodland Chippewas were mostly farming people, harvesting wild rice and corn, fishing, hunting small game, and gathering nuts and fruit. Here is a website about Ojibwe wild rice. The Plains Ojibwa were big-game hunters, and buffalo meat made up most of their diet.
What were Ojibway weapons and tools like in the past?

Ojibway warriors used bows and arrows, clubs, flails, and hide shields. Hunters also used snares, and when Plains Ojibway men hunted buffalo, they often set controlled fires to herd the animals into traps or over cliffs. Woodland Chippewas used spears or fishhooks with sinew lines for fishing, and special paddles called knockers for ricing.
What are Ojibway arts and crafts like?

Ojibway artists are known for their beautiful beadwork, particularly floral design. Other traditional Ojibway crafts include birch bark boxes, baskets, and dreamcatchers. Like other eastern American Indians, the Ojibways also crafted wampum out of white and purple shell beads. Wampum beads were traded as a kind of currency, but they were more culturally important as an art material. The designs and pictures on wampum belts often told a story or represented a person's family.
What other Native Americans did the Chippewa tribe interact with?

The most important Chippewa trading partners were actually other Chippewas. There were many different Ojibway bands, and they were closely allied with each other. The Chippewa Indians were also allies with their nearest kinfolk, the Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes. The Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Ojibway tribes called themselves the Council of Three Fires. The Ojibway tribe frequently fought with the Iroquois Confederacy and the Sioux tribes.
What kinds of stories do the Chippewas tell?

There are many Ojibway legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Ojibway Indian culture. Many traditional Ojibway stories taught important lessons to children. Others were just for fun. Here is one legend about how dogs came to the Ojibwa tribe.
What about Chippewa religion?

Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about Chippewa mythology or this site about Native American religion in general.
Can you recommend a good book for me to read?

You may enjoy The Birchbark House, a historical tale by Native American author Louise Erdrich about an Ojibway girl growing up in the 1800's. Younger readers may like Shannon, Ojibway Dancer, about a contemporary Ojibway girl and her family. If you want to know more about Ojibway history and culture, two good sources for kids are Ojibwe Lifeways and Ojibwe. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Native American books in general.
How do I cite your website in my bibliography?

You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the titleof our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2011.
Thanks for your interest in the Ojibway Indian people and their language!

Permission from

White Earth Nation

Posted by Ed Yaekle on February 1, 2012 at 3:10 AM Comments comments (121)

All Indian tribes have names for themselves. The largest Indian group in Minnesota calls itself Anishinaabe, which means "the original people." Europeans named them Ojibwe. No one is exactly sure how this name developed. Perhaps it came from the Anishinaabe word "ojib," which describes the puckered moccasins worn by the people. Some Europeans had trouble saying Ojibwe, pronouncing it instead as Chippewa. But both these names refer to the same people. In Canada, the Anishinaabe call themselves Ojibwe. In the United States, many tribal members prefer the name Chippewa. So that is the name we will use in this history of White Earth Reservation.


White Earth Reservation is located in Becker, Clearwater, and Mahnomen counties in north-central Minnesota. Created in 1867 by a treaty between the United States and the Mississippi Band of Chippewa Indians, it is one of seven Chippewa reservations in Minnesota. Although the White Earth Chippewa no longer live as their ancestors did, they have kept alive their tribal heritage. Almost every aspect of their present-day life has been strongly influenced by the past.


As is true for all Chippewa living in Minnesota, the story of the White Earth people begins in ancient times in the eastern part of the United States. There their ancestors lived before coming to the forest and lake country of eastern and northern Minnesota. To understand the history of White Earth Reservation, it is necessary to understand the times that went before. Much of the story of American Indian people has been left out of history books. Most of these books were written by white historians who thought that the history of this land did not begin until Europeans visited it. But Indians, including the Chippewa, had full, rich cultures long before that. And they played a key role in the history of this country and state.


Some of the mistakes of white authors have been corrected by Chippewa historians like William W. Warren, whose relatives and descendants lived at White Earth Reservation. Warren was born in 1825 and died at the age of 28. His father was a New Englander, and his mother was a granddaughter of White Crane (Waubojeeg), a hereditary Chippewa chief at LaPointe, Wisconsin. After arriving in Minnesota in 1845, Warren lived with the Mississippi Chippewa Band at Crow Wing and Gull Lake. He spoke the Anishinabe language perfectly and held many long talks with tribal chiefs and elders. Based on these interviews, he began publishing Chippewa stories and legends in a St. Paul newspaper, the Minnesota Democrat, in 1851. A year later he wrote a History of the Ojibway Nation. Residents of White Earth Reservation also have written their own history. In 1886, they established a reservation newspaper called The Progress, which was later succeeded by The Tomahawk. These newspapers recorded daily events on the reservation and published many articles on Chippewa customs and traditions.


In addition to written history, another method of learning about the past is through archaeology. This is the study of objects left behind by ancient peoples. Since objects sometimes decay, archaeologists never find a complete record of an older civilization. Like written history, archaeology gives only a partial picture of the past. Indian people rely on still a third method oral history to learn about the past. In Chippewa societies, assigned story tellers have the duty of passing along the story of the people from one generation to another. They tell how the earth came to its present form and how people share the earth with all living things. They believe that knowing the spiritual meaning of events is more important than knowing exactly when things happened.


There are also other methods of history that can help us learn about the past. But none is complete in itself. Even all the methods together do not paint the whole picture. Nevertheless learning about the past can help us understand our present. In search of such understanding, let us pick up the story of the Chippewa in those distant times when, as they say. the earth was new and tribal people reigned supreme in North America.


A More Detailed Account of the Chippewa

Posted by Ed Yaekle on January 31, 2012 at 10:00 PM Comments comments (11)

by: Kevin L. Callahan, University of Minnesota


Spelling: Ojibway, Ojibwa, or Ojibwe?


According to Professor Dennis Jones who teaches the Ojibwe language at the University of Minnesota, either Ojibwa or Ojibwe are actually correct spellings, but some people feel Ojibwe should be the preferred standardized spelling. I have chosen to use the Ojibwe spelling only because that is the way I originally learned it. If I had it to do over again I would probably use Ojibwe.


The Ojibwe Totemic or Clan System


According to Eddy Benton-Banai (1988) the Ojibwe clan system was a system of government and a division of roles and labor. William Warren, listed 21 totems (both by their Ojibwe name and in English), noting that, according to oral tradition, in the beginning there were only five. Originally the totem descended through the male line and individuals were not to marry within their own clan. According to Warren, the principle totems were the "crane, catfish, bear, marten, wolf, and loon" (Warren 1885:45). Warren indicated the English name for the more extensive list of 21 totems to be as follows: Crane, Catfish, Loon, Bear, Marten, Rein Deer, Wolf, Merman, Pike, Lynx, Eagle, Rattlesnake, Moose, Black Duck or Cormorant, Goose, Sucker, Sturgeon, White Fish, Beaver, Gull, and Hawk Warren 1885:44-45).


Ojibwe Spirituality


In general terms, Ojibwe spirituality centers around certain customs and beliefs, concepts, events, and objects. These include the sweatlodge, pipe, drums, singing, the naming ceremony, prayer, vision questing and guardian spirits, the Pow Wow, the medicine man or woman (shamans), medicine bags, dream articles and traditional stories regarding the Great Spirit, Creation, Original Man, The Flood, etc. Ritual and spiritual objects include sage,sweetgrass,tobacco, and cedar. Dogs were akin to the sacrifical lambs of early Christianity. There are 4 seasons and 4 grandfathers (or 4 powers of the universe) sit at the four cardinal directions of North, South, East, and West. The symbolic "four colors of man" are red,yellow,black, and white. Listen to Frances Densmore's Audio Cylinder Recordings (RealAudio Player - loads fast) or watch a QuickTime Movie about the Ojibwe (5 mgs).


Important Terms and Concepts related to the Ojibwe Creation Story:


Boo-zhoo' means "hello" (and indirectly makes reference to the idea that Ojibwe are related to Original Man or Anishinabe also known later as Way-na-boo'zhoo or Naniboujou, etc). Mi-gwetch' means "thank you" and Mishomis means "Grandfather." Since everything in the world was created before Original Man many things are referred to as "Grandfather."


Madeline Island in the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior is significant because the Ojibwe believe their ancestors migrated there from the east coast of North America and it was their final stopping place after 500 years of migration following the dream of the prophet of the First Fire to move or be destroyed. Teachings about Ojibwe history are passed down orally. Birch bark scrolls were used to write down things using pictographic writing (a mneumonic or memory device using pictures and symbols rather than a phonetic writing system).


Ah-ki' (the Earth) is a woman and had a family. The Sky is called Father. Nee-ba-gee'sis (the Moon) is called Grandmother. Gee'sis (the Sun) is Grandfather. Gi'-tchie Man-i-to' (Creator or Great Mystery) is the Creator. The four directions - North, South, East, and West are very important. The physical and spirtual duality is represented in the four directions. It is thought that medicinal plants when physically picked will not work unless there has been the proper spiritual behavior (such as offering tobacco, etc.).


"Gitchie Manito...took four parts of Mother Earth (earth, wind, fire, and water) and blew into them using a Sacred Shell [the Megis or Cowrie Shell]. From the union of the Four Elements and his breath, man was created" (Benton-Benai 1988:2-3).


According to Benton (1988:3) Anishinaabe (the older term for Ojibwe) means ani (from whence), nishina (lowered) abe (the male of the species). Others translate it as first male or first man or original man.  Original Man was lowered to the Earth according to this creation myth and all North American tribes come from him.


The Ojibwe are a tribe because of the way they speak (Algonquian language).


Traditional people call North America "Turtle Island" because it is shaped like a turtle (Florida is one hind leg, Baja California is another, Mexico is the tail). In the Ojibwe Story of the Great Flood the turtle offered its back to Waynaboozhoo to bear the weight of the new earth. The new earth was formed from a piece of earth recovered by muskrat from the bottom of the water which covered the world.Cf. Noah & The Flood The expression "there are many roads to the High Place" means Nat. Americans should support and respect each other's traditions and one tribe's beliefs can shed light on the others. According to the Ojibwe creation story the Original Man's first responsibility after he was placed on Earth was to follow the Creator's instructions and walk the Earth and name all of the animals, plants, hills, and valleys. He also named the parts of the body.Cf. Genesis Many English words are derived from the Ojibwe language such as: Mississippi "Miziziibi"(large water), moccasin "makizin," moose "mooz," pecan "bagaan" (nut), toboggan "zhooshkodaabaan," Milwaukee "mino-aki," etc.. The rivers that run underground are the veins of Mother Earth and water is her blood, purifying her and bringing her food. Mother Earth implies reproduction and fertility and life.


The Creator, Gitchie Manido, sent the wolf to keep Way-na-boo-zhoo, Original Man, company while walking around creation. After they completed that task he ordered Original Man and Wolf to go different ways.


The wolf and man (the Ojibwe) are thought to be similar because both walked creation, mate for life, have a Clan system and a tribe, have had their land taken from them, have been hunted for their hair, have been pushed close to destruction and are recovering.


Dogs should never be at sacred ceremonies because dogs are the Ojibwe's brothers as much as the wolf was a brother to Original Man. Because the Creator separated the paths of the wolf and Original Man, the dog who is a relative of the wolf should be separate from contemporary people and should be kept separate from sacred ceremonies and where ceremonial objects are stored or it could endanger people's lives.


The Naming Ceremony

The Naming Ceremony, which remembers the sacrifices of Original Man in naming everything, requires that a medicine person be asked by the father and mother to seek a name for their child. The seeking can be done through fasting, meditation, prayer or dreaming and the spirits give the name. At a gathering the medicine person burns tobacco as an offering and pronounces the new name to each of the 4 Directions and everyone present repeats the name when it is called out. The Spirit World then accepts and can recognize the face of the child as a living thing for the first time. The Spirit World and ancestors then guard the child and prepare a place for him or her when their life ends. At the naming ceremony the parents ask for four men and four women to be sponsors for the child. The sponsors publicly vow to support and guide the child. This naming ceremony is thought to have been started by Original Man.


The Ojibwe Migration Story


According to oral tradition the Ojibwes and other Algonquin speakers were originally settled up and down the East Coast. Those who do not share this traditional view think it is more likely the Ojibwe lived next to Hudson's Bay and moved southward. Traditional Ojibwe spiritual leaders are creationists and do not believe in the Bering Strait hypothesis for the peopling of North America nor the evolution of human beings in a Darwinian sense. Traditional oral history indicates that the early Ojibwe planted corn and used canoes, overland trails, and sled dogs and sleds in winter. According to they oral traditions the Ojibwe Daybreak people (Wa-bun-u-keeg') vowed to stay in the east and may be the people the French referred to as the Abnaki. The prophet of the 1st Fire told the people to move or be destroyed. Most of the Daybreak people were later destroyed when the whites came. The Mide (shamans) remembered the prophet of the First Fire speaking of a turtle shaped island that would be the first of seven stopping places during the Ojibwe migration. There are two sites that fit the description. The first is at the mouth of the St. Francis River and the other is an island near Montreal. The 6 Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy were major adversaries during the migration. The seven major stopping places of the great migration were 1) turtle-shaped island (Montreal?) 2) Niagara Falls 3) the Detroit River 4) Manitoulin Island in Lk. Huron 5) Sault Ste. Marie 6) Spirit Island in Duluth and Madeline Island in the Apostle Islands of Lk. Superior. The Megis Shell rose up out of the water or sand at each locale and they knew when to stop when they found a turtle-shaped island (Madeline Island) and "the food that grows on water" (wild rice).


The Ojibwe have a 3 Fire confederacy composed of the Potawatomi (the fire people; keepers of the Sacred Fire), the Ottawa (the trader people), and the Ojibwe (the faith keepers; keepers of the sacred scrolls and the Waterdrum of the Midewiwin (the organized shamanic society for healers). All of the Anishinabe people are the nation of the Three Fires. Benton-Banai thinks the people were mistakenly referred to as the Chippewa. Densmore said that: "The meaning of the word Ojibwe has been the subject of much discussion. The derivation of the word from a root meaning "to pucker" has been conjectured. Many attribute this derivation to a type of mocassin formerly used by this tribe, which had a puckered seam extending up the front instead of having a tongue-shaped piece, as in present usage" (Densmore 1979:5-6). The Three Fires nation was attacked along the migration by the Sauks and Foxes and never fought the whites. They fought battles with the Dakota when they got to the Midwest. Benton-Banai thinks the migration started around 900 AD and took about 500 years to complete (1988:102). He believes the Sacred Fire was kept alive that long and the dream of the original 7 prophets was carried by many generations.


Ojibwe Dream Articles: Physical Objects Representing or Interpreting Dreams and Visions


According to Anthropologist, Frances Densmore (1867-1957), physical objects such as stone pipes, a horned cap, woven yard cords, paintings and drawings on cloth, blankets, headgear, miniature objects given to children, and woven beadwork such as headbands or neckbands worn tightly around the neck, frequently represented the subject of important dreams and visions, and represented them either by imitation or interpretation. (Densmore 1979:78-86).


She wrote that: "It was the belief of the Chippewa that by possessing some representation of a dream subject one could at any time secure its protection, guidance, and assistance. There seems to be inherent in the mind of the Indian a belief that the essence of an individual or of a 'spirit' dwells in its picture or other representation." (Densmore 1979:79).


"[F]asting, isolation, and meditation" were the main methods to obtain a dream (Id.). The dream representation could be either made into an object or outlined as a picture and could be "either an exact representation or an article or outline more or less remotely suggesting a peculiarity of the dream. The representation published the subject of a man's dream but seldom indicated the nature of the dream" (Densmore 1979:80).


Stone was favored for its enduring properties and on older man told Densmore: "A picture can be destroyed, but stone endures, so it is good that a man have the subject of his dream carved in a stone pipe that can be buried with him. Many of his possessions are left to his friends, but the sign of the dream should not be taken from him" (Id.).


Protective charms could be either direct representations or symbolic representations of dreams. The possession of a woven yard cord with the color white woven into it, when tied around the waist of a woman who had dreamed of a safe trip on a large lake, was believed to provide protection to her when traveling (Densmore 1979:80-81,111). As Densmore points out: "A personal fetish was usually a crude representation of an object seen in a dream, either by the wearer or by someone who transferred it to him, together with the powers or benefits accruing from the dream" (Densmore 1979:111). A husband who dreamed of the bear when he was young, could strengthen his very ill wife by spreading a cloth with the image of a bear over her and later hanging it by her head as she was getting stronger. A man who had dreamed of a rainbow, thunder bird, lightning, and the earth (indicated by a circle) painted it on a blanket and wore it around his back for everyone to see and fastened it across his chest (Id. at 82). A man who dreamed of an unusually shaped knife made one and carried it in battle. A woman who saw a winged figure in a youthful dream carried a representation of the figure made of black cloth and bordered with white beads, "believing that she has secured supernatural guidance from its presence. . . . When in doubt she has 'always seemed to have a mysterious guidance' that has led her to a successful solution of her difficulties" (Id. at 86). Beadwork incorporating dream representations were common in headbands and neckbands (Id.).


After recounting various physical objects Densmore notes: "From the foregoing instances it is evident that the subject of a man's dream was clear to all intelligent observers, but its significance was a secret that he might hide forever if he so desired" (Id. at 83). One man related that he was able to increase his strength by wearing a horned cap similar to a horned animal seen in a dream. He believed "in the power of a dream article, as well as the making of an article in accordance with a dream" (Densmore 1979:85).


Dream articles were also given to children by their medicine man (or woman) namer. Densmore wrote that: "Miniature representations of dream objects were frequently hung on a child's cradle board, the child deriving a benefit connected with the nature of the dream. Such articles were usually given the child by the person who named it, and were in accordance with the namer's dream" (Densmore 1979:113). In Chippewa Customs is an illustration of an upside down lunate that was given to a small child to be worn around the neck.(Figure 8, Densmore 1979:55). The shaman who named the child (after dreaming for the name) gave the "token" to the small child "'in order that the child might care for him' This consisted of something that might attract the fancy of the child and was usually worn around its neck by a cord" (Id.). It is not clear from Densmore's description but the upside down lunate may be a dream article related to the namer's dream that gives him or her power, or it may be a representaion of the child's dream name. Densmore gives two clear examples of medicine man namers who gave dream articles to children they named and one example of a similar practice where a namer gave a dream article to an adult. The man, mentioned above, who dreamed of a peculiarly shaped knife, "always gave a miniature of this knife to they boys that he named. Another man always gave a little bow and arrow to his namesakes. A dream article given to an adult by a namer is noted in a subsequent paragraph" (the woven yard cord with white cord woven into it)(Id.). The power to name children is derived from a shaman's dream (Id. at 56). In the case of the adult woman who was named by another woman: "The namer. . . related [the namer's] dream, announced the name, and presented an article made to resemble the subject of the dream" (Id. at 58).


As Densmore notes: "It was considered desirable that the representation should be put in as enduring a form as possible," and as one old man told her, "stone endures" (Densmore 1979:80).


Ojibwe Rock Art: Physical Artifacts Representing or Interpreting Dreams and Visions


The physical objects of Ojibwe culture that perhaps most permanently recorded and represented their dreams, visions, representations of dream names, and mythical figures was the rock art. As Vastokas and Vastoukas (1973:44-45) have pointed out, based on their analysis of Henry R. Schoolcraft's descriptions, (1851-1857), there were actually two kinds of pictographic images that the Ojibwa would render in stone. Schoolcraft was himself part Ojibwa and was the Ojibwa Indian agent at Sault St. Marie, Michigan from 1822 to 1841. The Ojibwa pictography termed "Kekeewin" could be "incised upon birch bark scrolls as memory aids in the singing of Mide songs, as heraldic devices identifying clan affiliation or representing personal totems carved on the trunks of trees, as images placed on gravemarkers, and as glyphs pecked out or painted on rocks or boulders" (Vastoukas and Vastoukas 1973:43). These were generally known and understood. "Kekeenowin" on the other hand "are shamanistic renderings of visionary experiences" and were more symbolic, secret, and sacred rather than secular. "Muzzinabikon" or rock writing, most often recorded "the visionary experiences" of Ojibwa shamans (Vastoukas and Vastoukas 1973:44).


The Algonquian Language Family


The Ojibwe (Ojibwa,Ojibwe) language is spoken in the southern portions of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario, and northern areas of MN, MI and WI. It is part of a larger language group called the Algonquian Language Family. The four main parts of the Ojibwe people are 1) The Northern Ojibwe in central Canada, 2) the SE Ojibwe in Ontario, northern Ohio, etc., 3) The Chippewa in MN, WI, and MI, 4) the Plains Ojibwe in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and ND (see Ojibwe Maps).


The Algonquian Language Family originally extended NE of a line from North Carolina to the Great Lakes excluding upstate NY and southern Ontario, and the Ohio Valley. Now it extends from the Maritime Provinces in Canada to Alberta, including Michigan and the western Great Lakes area, and scattered settlements in MT,KS,IA,OK and northern Mexico. The Algonquian languages include Micmac, Maliseet-Passamoquoddy, Etchemin, Penobscot, Caniba, Aroosagunticook, Sokoki-Pequaket, Western Abnaki, Pennacook, Pentucket, Loup A, Loup B, Massachusett, Wampanoag, Cowesit, Narragansett, Mohegan-Pequot, Montauk-Shinnecock,Quiripi,Unquachog, Mahican, Delaware languages, Munsee, Unami, Unalachtigo, Unami, Virginia Languages, Nanticoke-Conoy, Powhatan, Chickahominy-Appomattox,Pamunkey-Mattapony, Nansemond, Carolina languages, Chowan, Pamlico, Cree Languages, Eastern Cree, Naskapi, Montagnais, East Cree, Western Cree Atikamek, Moose Cree, East Swampy Cree, West Swampy Cree, Woods Cree, Plains Cree, Ojibwe languages, Northern Ojibwa, Algonquin, Severn Ojibwe, Eastern Ojibwe, Ottawa, Central Ojibwe, Lac Seul Ojibwe, Southwestrn Ojibwe, Saulteax, Potawatomi, Menomini, Fox, Sauk, Kickapoo, Mascouten, Miami-Illinois, Shawnee, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Atsina, Blackfoot, Blood, Piegan, Ritwan, Wiyot, Yurok.




- Chippewa Customs by Frances Densmore 1979 Minn. Hist. Soc. Press (Reprint of the 1929 ed. published by the U.S. Govt. Print. Off., Wash., which was issued as Bull. 86 of the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of Amer. Ethnology). Frances Densmore (1867-1957) was an excellent anthropologist who among other things recorded Nat. American songs. This book can be bought at the MN Hist. Center in St. Paul, MN or from the U of M Bookstore on the east bank.


- The Mishomis Book, The Voice of the Ojibwe by Eddy Benton-Banai 1988 Indian Country Communications, Inc., Hayward, WI. This book is from the Red School House and is "based on the oral traditions of the Ojibwe people." This book can be bought from the U of M bookstore.


- AMIN 3026 Ojibwe Culture and History, Dennis Jones, Instructor, U of MN Fall 1998. Email: [email protected] The Course Packet for this course is available from Paradigm Resources in the Dinkydome in Dinkytown, Mpls., MN.


- Sacred Art of the Algonkians, A Study of the Peterborough Petroglyphs Vastoukas, Joan M. and Romas K. Vastoukas 1973. Mansard Press: Peterborough. Copies of this book may also still be available by writing Joan Vastoukas.




Native Languages of the Americas: Ojibwe


(Ojibway, Anishinaabemowin, Chippewa, Ojibwa)


Language: Ojibwe--otherwise anglicized as Chippewa, Ojibwa or Ojibway and known to its own speakers as Anishinabe or Anishinaabemowin--is an Algonquian language spoken by 50,000 people in the northern United States and southern Canada. There are five main dialects of Ojibwe: Western Ojibwe, Eastern Ojibwe, Northern Ojibwe (Severn Ojibwe or Oji-Cree), Southern Ojibwe (Minnesota Ojibwe or Chippewa), and Ottawa (Odawa or Odaawa). Speakers of all five dialects, including Ottawa, can understand each other readily. Many linguists also consider the Algonquin language to be an Ojibwe dialect, but it has diverged more and is difficult for Western Ojibwe speakers to understand. As its name suggests, Oji-Cree has borrowed many elements from Cree and is often written in the Cree syllabary rather than the English alphabet. On the whole Ojibwe is among the healthiest of North American languages, with many children being raised to speak it as a native language. Ojibwe is a verb-based polysynthetic language with relatively free word order.




People: The Ojibwe are one of the most populous and widely distributed Indian groups in North America, with 150 bands throughout the north-central United States and southern Canada. Ojibwe and Chippewa are renderings of the same Algonquian word, "puckering," probably referring to their characteristic moccasin style. "Chippewa" is more commonly used in the United States and "Ojibwe" or "Ojibway" in Canada, but the Ojibwe people themselves use their native word Anishinabe (plural: Anishinabeg), meaning "original people." The Saulteaux and Mississauga are subtribes of the Ojibwe; the Ottawa, though they are closely related and speak the same language, have long held the status of a distinct tribe. Today there are 200,000 Ojibwe Indians living throughout their traditional territories.




History: The Ojibwe and Ottawa Indians are members of a longstanding alliance also including the Potawatomi tribe. Called the Council of Three Fires, this alliance was a powerful one which clashed with the mighty Iroquois Confederacy and the Sioux, eventually getting the better of both. The Ojibwe people were less devastated by European epidemics than their densely-populated Algonquian cousins to the east, and they resisted manhandling by the whites much better. Most of their lands were appropriated by the Americans and Canadians, a fate shared by all native peoples of North America, but plans to deport the Ojibwe to Kansas and Oklahoma never succeeded, and today nearly all Ojibwe reservations are within their original territory.

History and meaning of the Clan System

Posted by Ed Yaekle on January 31, 2012 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (71)




People of all nations in the world essentially have the same basic needs: food, protection, education, medicine and leadership. Traditionally, the Ojibway Clan System was created to provide leadership and to care for these needs. There were seven original clans and each clan was known by its animal emblem, or totem. The animal totem symbolized the strength and duties of the clan. The seven original clans were given a function to serve for their people.


The Crane and the Loon Clans were given the power of Chieftainship. By working together, these two clans gave the people a balanced government with each serving as a check on the other.


Between the two Chief Clans was the Fish Clan. The people of the Fish Clan were the teachers and scholars. They helped children develop skills and healthy spirits. They also drew on their knowledge to solve disputes between the leaders of the Crane and Loon Clans.


The Bear Clan members were the strong and steady police and legal guardians. Bear Clan members spent a lot of time patrolling the land surrounding the village, and in so doing, they learned which roots, bark, and plants could be used for medicines to treat the ailments of their people.


The people of the Hoof Clan were gentle, like the deer and moose or caribou for whom the clan is named. They cared for others by making sure the community had proper housing and recreation. The Hoof Clan people were the poets and pacifists avoiding all harsh words.



The people of the Marten Clan were hunters, food gathers and warriors of the Ojibway. Long ago, warriors fought to defend their village or hunting territory. They became known as master strategists in planning the defense of their people.



The Bird Clan represented the spiritual leaders of the people and gave the nation its vision of well-being and its highest development of the spirit. The people of the Bird Clan were said to possess the characteristics of the eagle, the head of their clan, in that they pursued the highest elevations of the mind just as the eagle pursues the highest elevations of the sky.


To meet all the needs of the nation, the clans worked together and cooperated to achieve their goals. The Clan System had built in equal justice, voice, law and order and it reinforced the teachings and principles of a sacred way of life. Today some people still follow their clan duties, but, for the most part, the original force and power of the Clan System has diminished to a degree of almost non-existence.




The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the OjibwayBenton, Banai, Edward.

Saint Paul, Minnesota: Indian Country Press, Inc. 1981

Song of Hiawatha

Posted by Ed Yaekle on January 31, 2012 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (8)
Song of Hiawatha


By the shores of Gitche Gumee, by the shining Big-Sea-Water, 
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis, daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest, rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them; bright before it beat the water, 
Beat the clear and sunny water, beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.
There the wrinkled old Nokomis nursed the little Hiawatha,
Rocked him in his linden cradle, bedded soft in moss and rushes, 
Safely bound with reindeer sinews; stilled his fretful wail by saying,
“Hush! the Naked Bear will hear thee!” Lulled him into slumber, singing,
“Ewa-yea! my little owlet! Who is this, that lights the wigwam?

With his great eyes lights the wigwam? Ewa-yea! my little owlet!” 
Many things Nokomis taught him of the stars that shine in heaven; 
Showed him Ishkoodah, the comet, Ishkoodah, with fiery tresses; 
Showed the Death-Dance of the spirits, warriors with their plumes and war-clubs,
Flaring far away to northward in the frosty nights of winter; 
Showed the broad white road in heaven, pathway of the ghosts, the shadows,
Running straight across the heavens, crowded with the ghosts, the shadows.

At the door on summer evenings, sat the little Hiawatha;
Heard the whispering of the Pine-trees, heard the lapping of the water,
Sounds of music, words of wonder; “Minne-wawa!” said the pine-trees,
“Mudway-aushka! said the water.

Saw the fire-fly Wah-wah-taysee, flitting through the dusk of evening,
With the twinkle of its candle lighting up the brakes and bushes, 
And he sang the song of children, sang the song Nokomis taught him:
“Wah-wah-taysee, little fire-fly, little flitting, white-fire insect, little, dancing,
white-fire creature, Light me with your little candle, ere upon my bed I lay me,
ere in sleep I close my eyelids!”

Saw the moon rise from the water, rippling, rounding from the water,
Saw the flecks and shadows on it, whispered, “What is that, Nokomis?”
And the good Nokomis answered: “Once a warrior, very angry, seized his grandmother, and
Threw her up into the sky at midnight; right against the moon he threw her;
‘Tis her body that you see there.”

Saw the rainbow in the heaven, in the eastern sky the rainbow, 
Whispered, “What is that, Nokomis?” And the good Nokomis answered:
“ ‘Tis the heaven of flowers you see there; all the wild-flowers of the forest,
All the lilies of the prairie, when on earth they fade and perish, 
Blossom in that heaven above us.”

When he heard the owls at midnight, hooting, laughing in the forest,
“What is that?” he cried in terror; “What is that,” he said, “Nokomis?”
And the good Nokomis answered: “That is but the owl and owlet, 
Talking in their native language, talking, scolding at each other.” 

Then the little Hiawatha learned of every bird its language,
Learned their names and all their secrets,
How they built their nests in summer, where they hid themselves in winter,
Talked with them whene’er he met them,
Called them “Hiawatha’s Chickens.”

Of all beasts he learned the language,
Learned their names and all their secrets,
How the beavers built their lodges,
Where the squirrels hid their acorns,
How the reindeer ran so swiftly,
Why the rabbbit was so timid,
Talked with them whene’er he met them,
Called them “Hiawatha’s Brothers."