History of the Anishinabeg (Ojibwe) people


Last Updated: 19 years

History of the Anishinabeg (Ojibwe) people.. KEYWORDS: anishinabeg history anishinabe history ojibwe history ojibwa history ojibway history chipewa history chippewa history

The origin of the Anishinabeg begins in this way: “The Great Spirit once made a bird, and he sent it from the skies to make it’s abobe on Earth. The bird came, and when it reached halfway down, among the clouds, it sent forth a loud and far-sounding cry, which was heard by all who resided on the Earth, and even by the spirits who made their abode within its bosom. When the bird reached within sight of the Earth, it circled slowly above the Great Fresh Water Lakes, (Kitchi-Gumee) and again it uttered its echoing cry.Nearer and nearer it circled, looking for a resting place, pleased with the numerous whitefish that glanced and swam in the clear waters and sparkling foam of the rapids. Satisfied with its chosen seat, again the bird sent forth its loud but solitary cry, and the Bear clan, Catfish clan, Loon clan, and Marten clan gathered at his call. A large town was soon congregated and the Crane, whom the Great Spirit sent, presided over all.”

The Kitchi-Gumee Anishinabeg (the People of Great Lakes) are the end product of perhaps 50,000 generations on a continuum of pre-historic and historic period evolution and change. They are of the Algonquian speaking language stock, which today is separated by international borders, state or provincial jurisdictions, and tribal ethnocentricities. Never the less, they are “Anishinabeg” (the first or original people), they are one despite themselves and contempory western thinking. The diversity represented today among these people reflect many social, economic and political challenges to the concept on one people.

According to Nichols, “At the time of the European invasion, the Algonquian languages were spoken by Indians from the Carolinas north to Newfoundland along the Atlantic coast, inland across Canada to the Great Plains, and in the central region south of the Great Lakes. The Algonquian languages spoken today, other than Potawatomi (of course, the Ottawa) and those of the Ojibwa group, include Cree, Montagnais, and Naskapi, closely related languages spoken across Canada to Alberta; Mesquaki (Fox and Sauk), Kickapoo, and Shawnee in the central region (although one Kickapoo band migrated to Mexico); Menomini in Wisconsin; Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Blackfoot on the Great Plains; and the Eastern languages, Micmac, Malecite – Passamaquoddy, Eastern and Western Abnaki (Penobscot and St. Francis), and Delaware. Many of the other historic Eastern and Central Algonquian groups have lost their cultural identities and languages. Two small tribes in California, the Wiyot and the Yurok, spoke languages related to Algonquian.” Many other tribes such as the Miami, Illinois, and Soato? (SP) are not mentioned by Nichols. These Anishinabeg have the responsibility to forge and create what will be the next 50,000 generations.

Archaeologist have datings that Native peoples lived around the Great Lakes basin about 40 to 50 thousand years ago.

When the Wisconsin Ice Age ended, the northern reaches of the area “did not become habitable until about 10,600 years ago” (Conway) and formed the Great Lakes basin and various lake stages. This area is roughly halfway between the equator and the North Pole. The Great Lakes basin contains Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie. This area also includes much of Ontario in Canada, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York in the United States.

The Paleo Indians (Quimby) using fluted points of the Clovis type attached to a wooden shaft spear must have been Mastodon hunters. Other animals that could have been hunted include the Giant Beaver, deer, elk, and woodland caribou. According to a 1990 or 1991 (?) Detroit Free Press article, Dr. Daniel Fisher “found evidence that Paleo-Indians stored meat from mastodon kills by anchoring it to the bottom of a pond.”

The Early Archaic Period (8,000 B.C. to 6,000 B.C.) :

The Early Archaic Periodor Glacial Lake Algonquin stage (Quimby) provides evidence that native peoples made tools from Upper Peninsula and Isle Royale copper.

The Middle Archaic Period (6,000 B.C. to 3,000 B.C.)

The Middle Archaic Period or the Lake Chippewa-Stanley stage (Quimby) provides us with archaeological evidence of established settlements.

The Late Archaic Period (3,000 B.C. to 1,000 B.C.)

The Late Archaic Period or the Lake Nipissing Stage (Quimby) provides such sites as the St. Ignace Prehistoric Red Ocher burial site unearthed on July 26, 1994, by construction crews digging a water main in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The Woodland Period (1,000 B.C. to 300 B.C.)

The Early Woodland Period exhibits signs of “the use of nets as a fishing device” (Cleland) in the Great Lakes region.

The Middle Woodland Period (300 B.C. to A.D. 500)

The Middle Woodland Period for the Upper Great Lakes had the Mound Builder or Hopewell Peoples.

The Late Woodland period (A.D. 500 to 1620)

During the Late Woodland period the Anishinabeg oral traditions say that a migration to the Great Lakes region occured around A.D. 1400 from the Eastern coast.

The Historic Period:

The Anishinabeg life in this area was by and large nomadic. It revolved around an annual cycle of activities determined by the Seasons and food supplies. During the Spring the Anishinabeg moved to the Sugar bush, and spring time fishing spots such as the rapids of Sault Ste. Marie and rivers such as Garden River to spear spring runs of Sturgeon. As Spring rolled into summer, the people moved more to larger villages where fish was abundant and where planting of potatoes and corn could be done. During the mid summer, smaller parties would set out to berry picking camps, gathering, drying, berries, nuts and tubers. As the weather turn cold in the autumn, the Anishinabeg hunted deer, bear, and migratory birds such as geese and ducks. With the coming of the first snow and the bitter cold of winter the family units were back to their winter grounds near deer yards. With winter came a limited supply of fish and the ice cover stopped all lake and river canoe travel.

The French Period (1620 to 1763)

This period brought to the Anishinabeg the trappers, fur traders and jesuit missionaries (Blackrobes). The fishery trade and territorial wars with the Europeans begin. In 1763, the “British conquest of French Canada” (Clifton, p. 54) and the occupation of the Upper Great Lakes by British Interest, lead the great Anishinabeg Warrior and leader Pontiac to begin his rebellion. His forces almost single handedly captured and took almost every major British fort and trading post in the Great Lakes basin.

The British Period (1763 to 1814)

The British Period remained after the failure of Pontiac to drive the British from North America. The British influence gained strength with the Anishinabeg of the Upper Great Lakes. Only after the efforts of the Great Warrior Tecumseh to unite the Tribes in common battle with the invading Americans and the provocation of William Henry Harrison, did the British lose control of the Upper Great Lakes.

The American Period (1814 to Present)

Control of the Upper Great Lakes shifted in 1820 with the Cass expedition. At Sault Ste. Marie Warriors that stood with Tecumseh such as Shingwauk and Sessaba were convinced not to wage war with the Americans by John Johnson’s Indian Wife and Waub-o-jeeg’s daughter Susan Johnson, or known as Oshauguscodaywagqua. The head chief was Shingaubaywassin who presided over the councils that ceded 16 square miles of land for what was to become Fort Brady.

The Modern Era: Historical Background

According to the Tanner Report (1974), “the Indians living in the vicinity of present day Sault Ste. Marie are descendants of Chippewa bands identified with Lake Superior and the St. Mary’s river outlet for an estimated period of possibly four hundred and fifty years”. The Original Bands of Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Indians were an identifiable tribal organized entity long before their first contact with white explorers which occurred about the year 1620. The archaeological and historic records report that “evidence of Indian fishing at about 2500 B.C.” according to Cleland (June 1976). This group was formerly known as the Bahwehting Band (meaning the Rapids) of Sault Ste. Marie.

By the eighteenth century, the Anishinabeg bands were identified by the French and British governments with whom they negotiated as those bands living at various geographic locations throughout the Great Lakes basin. By March 28, 1836 the United State negotiated a Treaty [7 Stat. 491] with bands located at Maskigo, Grand River, Michilimackinac, Sault Ste. Marie, L’Arbre Croche, and Grand Traverse. The Sault Ste. Marie Bands identified in the Treaty were further subdivided by “Tacquimenon”, “Grand Island”, “Carp River”, “Mille Cocquin”, “Michilimackinac”, “Bay de Nocquet”, “Chocolate River”, “Grosse Tete”, “Beaver Islands”, “Ance” “Manistic” “North Shore of Lake Michigan” and “The Chenos”. These historic sites still have settlements of Anishinabeg people living on or near them today. These identifications were adopted by the United States of America following the War of 1812 and, in numerous treaties negotiated with our people, we were treated as a single unit of government.

Michigan needed to became a state by 1837 so that they could share in a five percent kickback from the sale of land within it’s boundaries from the federal government.

The Treaties

The Treaty of September 30, 1854 [10 Stat. 1109] with the Chippewas of the Mississippi and Lake Superior establishes the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, (Anishinabeg) L’Anse Reservation and was the basis for the 1972 Gurnoe vs. Wisconsin decision. This allowed treaty fishing in off reservation waters of Lake Superior.

The Chippewa and Ottawa Indians of Michigan entered into 44 separate Treaties with the United States Government. In the July 31, 1855 Treaty the U.S. negotiated at Detroit with Anishinabeg bands living at Sault Ste. Marie, Grand River, Grand Traverse, Little Traverse, and Mackinac, [11 Stat. 621] an accounting or consolidation treaty. This treaty also had provisions that there be several reservations around the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The promises and obligations of the United States government was not carried out and these bands had their lands stolen through tax fraud and outright robbery, the Anishinabeg lived a life of poverty and misery.

The Bay Mills Indian Community (Anishinabeg) Reservation near Brimley, Michigan is established by an Act of Congress in 1860.

The Saginaw Chippewa Tribe (Anishinabeg) in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan had the Isabella Indian Reservation established in 1864 by a United States Treaty.

In 1913, a Congressional Act establishes the Hannahville Indian Community (Anishinabeg) Reservation near Wilson, Michigan.

Hope arose in 1936 with the passage of the Wheeler-Howard Act or the Indian Reorganization Act [48 Stat. 984, 25 U.S.C. Sect. 461 et. seq]. The organization of Indian groups was mandatory under the provisions of the Act, and elections on acceptance of the Act had to be called at places identified by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In Michigan the Indian communities recognized included: the Bay Mills Indian Community, the Hannahville Indian Community, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe. The United States Government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, did not recognized some Indian groups. The mandate of Congress under the Indian Reorganization Act was not carried out mostly based on economic reasons. The Anishinabeg of these bands were culturally, socially, economically and educationally crippled by years of neglect and enforced isolation. They were unable to effectively protest.

In the late 1930’s the Anishinabeg living in the Upper Great Lakes were the most depressed segment of that area’s population. Through one means or another, out right fraud, taxes and many others of a questionable nature, almost all Indian lands were lost. For example, The “Comstock Agreement” transferred the Mt. Pleasant Indian School and the responsibility for Anishinabeg education from the Federal Government to the State of Michigan. Among the people, the symptoms of social, economic, and cultural deprivation and oppression were in evidence. Death, disease, alcoholism were commonplace facts of Anishinabeg life.

Tribal Organization

The Tribal elders decided to form a corporation known as the Sugar Island Group of Chippewa Indians and their Descendants for the purpose of establishing an organization to conserve the Tribes common property, develop its natural resources, and promote welfare of their members and descendants, and for community achievements. This group later became the Original Bands of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and their Heirs, Inc.

In the early 1950’s the Original Bands began yet another effort at organization. These efforts developed by the building of a roll of individuals who could trace their ancestry to members of the historic bands.

The organizational efforts were aided by the fact that throughout the 19th century the U.S. Government had kept census rolls. These rolls like the Durant Roll of 1908-1910 and many other Annuity rolls were done to make payments to the Anishinabeg for treaty obligations. These rolls made it possible to identify individuals whose ancestors were tribal members.

By the late 1950’s, the Sault Ste. Marie Anishinabeg had compiled membership rolls, researched their history, and were preparing to bring before the U.S. Government their case for recognition as a federally recognized tribe. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Shunk Road and Marquette Avenue area in Sault Ste. Marie had no paved road, it had no public housing, it had no businesses, it provided virtually no public or tribal services. The roads were so bad at times school buses wouldn’t drive down it to pick up children for school. The city of Sault Ste. Marie did not provide water and sewer services to the Shunk Road area. Ditches were cesspools especially in the Spring and Fall. The Tribe had no land until Mary Murray donated 40 acres of land on Sugar Island. Most of the Marquette Avenue and Shunk Road area was either wet lands or swamp.

According to Ted B. White, Chief, Division of Tribal Government Services, “On March 15, 1972, the Indian Claims Commission entered a net award of $10,109,003.55 in favor of the Ottawa and Chippewa Nations of Indians who negotiated the Treaties of July 6, 1820 and March 28, 1836.”

Through the 1960’s, the Anishinabeg life in the area revolved around an annual cycle of activities determined by the seasons and food supplies. During the Spring the Anishinabeg fished, hunted migratory birds, dipped and speared fish, and picked mushrooms. As Spring rolled into summer, the people got seasonal jobs at tourist places, construction sites, manual labor odd jobs, planted small gardens. During the mid summer, the Anishinabeg would set out to berry picking camps, gathering, drying, berries, nuts, pine cones and tubers. As the weather turn cold in the autumn, the Anishinabeg hunted deer, bear, and migratory birds such as geese and ducks, they traveled about cutting cedar and balsam boughs, gathering princess pine. With the coming of the first snow and the bitter cold of winter the families were back to their homes or pulp wood cutting camps. With winter came a limited supply of jobs and the ice cover stopped all tourist and construction business.

The recognition of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe: In 1972, a delegation of the Original Bands of Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Indians met in Washington with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The Commissioner determined that the Original Bands was an entity eligible for federal organization under the Indian Reorganization Act and accordingly extended federal recognition to the group in a memorandum dated September 7, 1972. The meaning of this federal recognition was further clarified in a memorandum by the Associate Solicitor for Indian Affairs on February 27, 1974. This memorandum paved the way for the Tribe’s acquisition of trust land. The federal government subsequently accepted the land in trust in March 17, 1974. Bureau of Indian Affairs Commissioner Morris Thompson granted federal reservation status to this trust land.

Constitution and By-Laws

The Tribe’s Constitution and By-Laws, adopted pursuant to the Indian Reorganization Act, were approved on November 13, 1975. The name adopted in this constitution was “The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians” (Anishinabeg). A Board of Directors serves as the governing body, with thirteen members, elected to staggered terms of four years each.

In 1984, the Secretary of Interior establishes at Suttons Bay, Michigan by Proclamation the Grand Traverse Band of Chippewa and Ottawa (Anishinabeg) Reservation.

The President of the United States in 1988 establishes the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Anishinabeg) Reservation near Watersmeet, Michigan.

On September 21, 1994 the President of the United States at the Whitehouse signs documents that establishes the Potawatomi Indian Nation, The Pokagon Band, located near Dowagiac, Michigan (Anishinabeg); the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, (Anishinabeg) located near Manistee, Michigan; and the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, (Anishinabeg) located near Petoskey, Michigan.

The Fishing Rights Fight: A prime fishing and hunting location, the area around the St. Mary’s Falls, presently Sault Ste. Marie, became one of the earliest permanent settlements of the Chippewa. The area proved to be a tough and cold country, ill suited for farming with the Chippewa depending primarily upon fishing and hunting for survival. Supplemental agricultural products were obtained from southern Michigan Indians who gathered here in the Spring and Fall and traded their wares for the Chippewa’s fish, furs, and other products.

In 1971 the Michigan Supreme Court decided the People vs. Jondreau Case out of Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. This case provided the basis and the spark to push forward the “LeBlanc Case”, and later “U.S. vs. Michigan”. Today, around the Great Lakes Basin, we have the “Voigt Decision” in Wisconsin, and many fishing rights struggles in Ontario.

The Casino Story: The Indian Casino gaming as we know it started on July 4, 1984 at the Bay Mills Indian Community. This was the first Tribally owned and operated Indian Gaming Casino in the United States that offered all Las Vegas Style Games. Earlier in March of 1983 the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in California started with poker and other card games. Fred Dakota of Keweenaw Bay Indian Community started the first commercially run Indian Casino. The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians authorized and opened Vegas Kewadin Casino on November 15, 1985. The Vegas Kewadin Casino has grown from 10,000 square feet to more than 80,000 in eight years. The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians owns and operates five Casinos in Michigan.

One fact that the Anishinabeg people of Michigan have to be boastful about is that they own and operate their casinos free from “Management Agreements”. One of our elders has stated that entering into a Management Agreement in Gaming is like letting the Department of Natural Resources Manage our Treaty Fishing Rights.

The Economic Revival: In the early 1990’s, after we had opened two casinos and started more non-gaming businesses, we grew and employed more than 400 people with a Tribal budget in excess of $12 million. By the fall of 1994, The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians owns and operates more than 30 businesses, that employ more than 2,700 and an annual operating budget in excess of $200 (confirm) million.