By Stan Louttit and Elaine Keillor
The Anishinaabe, or Ojibwe, peoples are among the largest and widely spread aboriginal groups to live in northeastern America over the last 10,000 years (Bjorklund 1969: 14-15). We have other names too, such as the Chippewa, Ojibwa, Chippeway and Anishinaabek. All these names mean “the people who have puckered seams” or simply “the people” who lived mainly around the Sault Ste. Marie area in Ontario (Native Peoples of Canada 2005).
Anishinaabe oral histories say we originally lived along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, but gradually migrated east via the Ottawa River, Lake Nipissing and into the Great Lakes region. Europeans first noted our presence near the upper Great Lakes in the Jesuit Relations of 1640 (Ritzenthaler 1978: 743). Our ancestors eventually moved west from the Sault Ste. Marie area. We came to live in today’s Michigan, northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, Lakes Huron and Superior. We migrated as far west as the Turtle Mountains in North Dakota (ibid). Also, we went into northeastern and northwestern Ontario and westward across the Canadian prairies, where people called us the Saulteaux (ibid). Geographically, the Anishinaabe people have migrated, occupied and adapted to very diverse areas such as the Cambrian Shield, the Woodlands, the Prairies and the Rocky Mountains.
We belong to the Algonkian language family. Specifically, we speak Anishinaabemowin and are closely related to the Cree, Ottawa and Algonquin peoples. For many centuries we traditionally lived in small clans that hunted, fished and trapped in northeastern America. Across Canada, we have survived because we developed deep and intimate knowledge of animals, birds and fish in every place where we lived. We have been mainly hunter-gatherers, but some Anishinaabe communities also harvest wild rice and grow corn (Native Peoples of Canada 2005).
Like other aboriginal groups, the Anishinaabe traditions have celebrated important events such as successful hunts, harvest season and the arrival of neighboring peoples. The communities have honoured warriors and Elders with feasting that usually included singing, drumming, dancing and pipe smoking.
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