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Native American & Indigenous Studies



The Ojibwe (“oh-jib-way”) are an indigenous people of North America. Ojibwe country is often associated with the Great Lakes region of the upper Midwest, particularly with the shores of Lake Superior; it extends over 1,400 miles from Ontario to Saskatchewan on the Canadian side of the border and from Michigan to eastern Montana on the U.S. side of the border. Known for its cold winters and hot, dry summers, this area includes the northern portions of five states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana) and southern portions of three Canadian provinces (Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan). The Ojibwe call themselves the Anishinabeg (also spelled Anishinaabeg or, if singular, Anishinabe) for “first” or “original people.”

According to Barry M. Pritzer's A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples (2000), there were at least 35,000 Ojibwe people at the time of first contact with Europeans, in this case the French. Precontact culture was heavily influenced by the natural terrain as the Ojibwe adapted their lifestyle to survive in a heavily forested land traversed by a network of lakes and rivers. The Ojibwe lived a seminomadic life, moving a number of times each year in order to be close to food sources. While distinct from the Potawatomi and Ottawa peoples, the Ojibwe migrated west with these groups and were referred to as the People of the Three Fires.

Today Ojibwe people live in cities, towns near reservations, and on reservation lands. Federally recognized Ojibwe reservations are located in Minnesota (Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Nett Lake [Bois Forte Band], Red Lake, and White Earth), Michigan (Bay Mills Indian Community, Grande Traverse, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Saginaw, and Sault Sainte Marie), Wisconsin (Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, Lac du Flambeau, Lac Vieux Desert, Mole Lake or Sokaogan Chippewa Community, Red Cliff, and St. Croix), Montana (Rocky Boy), and North Dakota (Turtle Mountain). There are also Ojibwe reserves in Canada, especially in Ontario and Saskatchewan. The Ojibwe are known for their political involvement in the Red Power movement of the 1970s and for their many writers. In the early twenty-first century they have made important contributions to the study and recovery of their indigenous language, Anishinabemowin.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey estimates for 2009–2011, there were 187,410 people of Chippewa ancestry living in the United States. In addition to the states where Ojibwe reservations are located, other states where significant numbers of Ojibwe reside are California, Illinois, Oregon, and Washington. More recently, some Ojibwe have recognized reservation lands as homelands, and some members are working to preserve the reservations' natural resources while also recovering their traditional culture.

Entry from Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America

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