The Ojibway moved from the Great Salt Lake in the east to their westward locations in the center of America. William Warren (1885) told about the migration by sharing a story that was told during a ceremony he attended. According to Warren, the spiritual leader held a Me-da-wa-me-gis, a small white shell, in his hand as he related the following:
While our forefathers were living on the great salt water toward the rising sun, the great Megis (Sea Shell) showed itself above the surface of the great water, and the rays of the sun for some long periods were reflected from its glossy back. It gave warmth and light to the An-ish-in-aub-ag (red race).
All at once it sank into the deep, and for a time our ancestors were not blessed with its light. It rose to the surface and appeared again on the great river which drains the waters of the Great lakes, and again for a long time it gave life to our forefathers, and reflected back the rays of the sun.
Again it disappeared from sight and it rose not, till it appeared to the eyes of the An-ish-in-au-baug on the shores of the first great lake. Again it sank from sight, the death daily visited the wigwams of our forefathers, till it shown its back, and reflected the rays of the sun once more at Bow-e-ting (Sault Ste. Marie).
Here it remained for a long time, and once more, and for the last time, it disappeared, and the An-ish-in-aub-ag was left in the darkness and misery, till it floated and once more showed its bright back at Mo-nig-wun-a-kuan-ing (La Pointe Island), where it has ever since reflected back the rays of the sun, and blessed our ancestors with life, light, and wisdom. Its rays reach the remotest village of the wide spread Ojibways.
The spiritual leader explained the story to Warren:
The “Megis” he spoke of referred to the Me-da-we religion. According to the leader, each time the Me-da-we lodge was erected, it was indicated as the “Megis” in the story. The final lodge [in this narrative] was erected on the Island of LaPointe.
This is where the Me-da-we-win was practiced in its purest form. It remained so until the Europeans appeared among them. It is from this site that all of the Ojibway tribe first grew and like a tree it has spread its branches in every direction, in the bands that now occupy the vast extent of the Ojibway earth.
The Ojibway migrated in many directions. They lived on the eastern shores of Turtle Island (North America) around 900 A.D. and eventually established their aboriginal territory in the woodlands of Canada, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and eventually North Dakota and Montana. Around the beginning of the 17th Century or shortly thereafter, the Ojibway moved westward to the shore of Lake Superior.
This migration was taking place on both the north and south shores of Lake Superior. The tribes that were to the north of the lake were mainly Ojibway and Cree with whom they shared familial ties. The Ojibways to the south of the lake were called “Chippewa” – an English mispronunciation of Ojibway.