Odawa people

Odawa people
Total population
Regions with significant populations
United States (Oklahoma, Michigan)
Canada (Ontario)

English, Ottawa


Christianity, other

Related ethnic groups

Ojibwa, Potawatomi and other Algonquian peoples

The Odawa (pronounced /oʊˈdɒwə/ in Canadian English) or Ottawa, said to mean "traders," are a Native American and First Nations people. They are one of the Anishinaabeg, related to but distinct from the Ojibwe nation. Their original homelands are located on Manitoulin Island, near the northern shores of Lake Huron, on the Bruce Peninsula in present day province of Ontario and in the state of Michigan.[1] There are approximately 15,000 Ottawa living in Michigan, Ontario, and Oklahoma. The Ottawa language is considered a divergent dialect of the Ojibwe, characterized by frequent syncope. The Ottawa language, like the Ojibwe language, is part of the Algonquian language family. They also have a smaller tribal groups or “bands” commonly called “Tribe” in the United States and “First Nation” in Canada. The Odawa nation formerly lived along the Ottawa River but now live especially on Manitoulin Island.[2]


Tribe name

Odaawaa (syncoped as Daawaa, supposedly from the Anishinaabe word adaawe, meaning “to trade,” or “to buy and sell”) is a term common to the Cree, Algonquin, Nipissing, Montagnais, Ottawa, and Ojibwa. The Potawatomi spelling of Odawa and the English derivative “Ottawa” are also common. The actual Anishinaabe word for "Those men who trade, or buy and sell" is Wadaawewinini(wag), which has been recorded by Fr. Frederic Baraga in his A Dictionary of the Otchipwe Language as "Watawawininiwok" but was recorded to mean "men of the bulrushes", from the many bulrushes in Ottawa River,[3] though this recorded meaning is associated with the Matàwackariniwak, a historical band of Algonquins living about the Ottawa River. Nonetheless, the "Trader" name was applied to the Ottawa because in early traditional times and also during the early European contact period, they were noted among their neighbors as intertribal traders and barterers,[4] dealing "chiefly in cornmeal, sunflower oil, furs and skins, rugs and mats, tobacco, and medicinal roots and herbs."[5][6]

Like the Ojibwa, the Odaawaa usually refer to themselves as Nishnaabe (Anishinaabe, plural: Nishnaabeg / Anishinaabeg), meaning original people.

The name in its English transcription is the source of the place names of Ottawa, Ontario, and the Ottawa River, even though the Odaawaa's home territory (at the time of early European contact), but not their trading zone, was well to the west of the city and river named after them. It is also the source of the name for Tawas City, Michigan, and Tawas Point, which reflect the syncope-form of their name.


The Ottawa language is considered one of several divergent dialects of the Ojibwe language group, noted for its frequent syncope. In the Odaawaa language, the general language group is known as Nishnabemwin, while the specific language is called Daawaamwin. Of the estimated 5,000 ethnic Odaawaa and additional 10,000 people with Odaawaa ancestry, an estimated 500 people in Ontario and Michigan speak this language. The Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma has three fluent speakers.[7]

Early history

Oral histories and early recorded histories

According to Anishinaabeg tradition, and from recordings in Wiigwaasabak (birch bark scrolls), they came from the eastern areas of North America, or Turtle Island, and from along the east coast. Directed by the miigis (luminescent) beings, the Anishinaabe peoples moved inland along the Saint Lawrence River. At the "Third Stopping Place" near what is now Detroit, Michigan, the southern group of Anishinaabeg divided into three groups, of which the second group became the Odaawaa.

The Odaawaa, together with the Ojibwe (Ojibwa/Chippewa) and the Boodewaadamii (Potawatomi), were part of a long-term tribal alliance called the Council of Three Fires,[8] which fought the Iroquois Confederacy and the Sioux. In 1615 French explorer Samuel de Champlain met 300 men of a nation which, he said, "we call les cheueux releuez" near the French River mouth. Of these, he said: "Their arms consisted only of a bow and arrows, a buckler of boiled leather and the club. They wore no breech clouts, their bodies were tattooed in many fashions and designs, their faces painted and their noses pierced."[5] In 1616, Champlain left the Huron villages and visited the "Cheueux releuez" westward from the lands of the Huron Confederacy.

There is archaeological evidence that the Saugeen Complex people, a Hopewell influenced group of the Bruce Peninsula, may have evolved into the Odawa people.[9]

Economic dominance

Due to the extensive trade network maintained by the Odaawaa, much of the North American interior nations are known by the Odaawaa names[citation needed] rather than by the nations’ own names. For example, these exonyms include Winnebago (from Wiinibiigoo) for the Ho-Chunk, and Sioux (from Naadawensiw) for the Dakota.

Wars and refugees

There were many wars and disputes of the Odaawaa with other tribes;[citation needed] for example, the tribe once waged war against the Mascouten.

The Odaawaa allied with the French against the British, and Odaawaa Chief Pontiac led a rebellion against the British in 1763.[10] A decade later, Chief Egushawa led the Odaawaa in the American Revolutionary War as an ally of the British. In the 1790s, Egushawa again fought the United States in a series of battles and campaigns known as the Northwest Indian War.[11]

Treaties and removals

Extinguishment and survival

Modern history

Odaawaa population areas in Ontario, Michigan and Oklahoma. Reserves/Reservations and communities shown in red.

The population of the different Odaawaa groups is not known with certainty. In 1906 the Ojibwe and Odaawaa on Manitoulin and Cockburn Island were 1,497, of whom about half were Odaawaa; there were 197 Ottawa under the Seneca School, Oklahoma, and in Michigan 5,587 scattered Ojibwe and Odaawaa, in 1900, of whom about two-thirds are Odaawaa. The total Ottawa Tribe is therefore about 4,700.

Known villages

The following are or were Ottawa villages:

Former villages not on reserves/reservations

Former reserves/reservations and their villages

  • Auglaize Reserve, Ohio – Oquanoxa's Village
  • Blanchard's Fork Reserve, Ohio – Lower Tawa Town, Upper Tawa Town
  • North Maumee River Reserve, Ohio – Meshkemau's Village, Wassonquet's Village, Waugau's Village
  • Obidgewong Reserve, Ontario – Obijewong, Ontario (located 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) east of Evansville, Ontario)
  • Ottawas of Blanchard's Fork Indian Reservation, Kansas – Ottawa
  • Ottawas of Roche de Bœuf and Wolf Rapids Indian Reservation, Kansas
  • Roche de Bœuf Reserve, Ohio – Nawash’s Village, Tontaganie's Village
  • South Maumee River Reserve, Ohio – McCarty's Village ("Tushquegan")
  • Wolf Rapids Reserve, Ohio – Kinjoino's Village ("Anpatonajowin" (Aabitanagaajiwan))

Current reserves/reservations and associated villages

  • Grand Traverse Indian Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land, Michigan – Peshawbestown
  • Little River Indian Reservation, Michigan – Manistee, Muskegon
  • Little Traverse Bay Indian Reservation, Michigan ("Wequetonsing" (Wiikwedoonsing)) – Charlevoix, Cross Village, Harbor Springs/L'Arbre Croche ("Waganakisi" (Waaganaakizi)), Middle Village, Petoskey
  • M'Chigeeng 22 Indian Reserve, Ontario – M'Chigeeng (formerly known as "West Bay")
  • Ottawa OTSA, Oklahoma – Miami
  • Point Grondine Indian Reserve, Ontario – Beaverstone
  • Sheshegwaning 20 Indian Reserve, Ontario – Sheshegwaning
  • Walpole Island 46 Indian Reserve, Ontario (Bakejiwanong [Bkejwanong]) – Foreplex, Myersville, Wallaceburg, Walpole Island, Williamsville
  • Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, Ontario – Buzwah, Kaboni, Maiangowi, Murray Hill, South Bay, Two O'Clock, Wabozominissing, Wikwemikong, Wikwemikonsing
  • Zhiibaahaasing 19 Indian Reserve, Ontario (formerly known as "Cockburn Island 19 Indian Reserve")
  • Zhiibaahaasing 19A Indian Reserve, Ontario – Zhiibaahaasing


Ed Pigeon, Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish cultural coordinator and language instructor, with son
Recognized/status Odaawaa governments
Other recognized/status governments with significant Odaawaa populations
Unrecognized/non-status Odaawaa governments
  • Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Michigan (formerly Northern Michigan Ottawa Association, Unit 8, currently recognized by Michigan)
  • Consolidated Bahweting Ojibwas and Mackinac Tribe, Michigan[14] (currently recognized by Michigan)
  • Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians, Michigan (formerly Northern Michigan Ottawa Association, Unit 3, currently recognized by Michigan)
  • Gun Lake Band of Grand River Ottawa Indians, Michigan (currently recognized by Michigan)
  • Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians, Michigan[14] (currently recognized by Michigan)
  • Maple River Band of Ottawa, Michigan
  • Muskegon River Band of Ottawa Indians, Michigan (formerly Northern Michigan Ottawa Association, Unit 5)
  • Ottawa Colony Band of Grand River Ottawa Indians, Michigan (currently recognized only as part of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Potawatomi Indians of Michigan)

Notable chiefs

  • Chief Pontiac. An Ottawa chief, born about 1720, probably on Maumee River, Ohio, about the mouth of the Auglaize. In 1769 he attended a drinking carousal at Cahokia, Illinois, where he was assassinated by a Peoria Indian.
  • Chief Negwagon. A chief of the Ottawa of the Michilimackinac region of Michigan, commonly known as Little Wing, or Wing, and also called Ningweegon.

See also


Cappel, Constance, Odawa Language and Legends: Andrew J. Blackbird and Raymond Kiogima, Xlibris, 2006.

Cappel, Constance, The Smallpox Genocide of the Odawa Tribe at L'Arbre Croche, 1763: The History of a Native American People, Edwin Mellen Press, 2007.

Wolff, Gerald W., and Cash, Joseph H. The Ottawa People, Phoenix, Arizona: Indian Tribal Series, 1976.

  1. ^ "First Nations Culture Areas Index". Canadian Museum of Civilization. http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/tresors/ethno/etb0170e.shtml. 
  2. ^ Canadian Oxford Dictionary
  3. ^ Baraga, Frederick. (1878). A Dictionary of the Otchipwe Language, I, 300.
  4. ^ Beck, David (2002). Siege and Survival: History of the Menominee Indians, 1634–1856, p. 27. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803213301.
  5. ^ a b Burton, Clarence M. (ed.) (1922). The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, p. 49. The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.
  6. ^ Wurm, Stephen A., et al. (eds.) (1996). Atlas of Languages of Intercultural Communication in the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas, p. 1118. Walter de Gruyter & Co. ISBN 3110134179.
  7. ^ Anderton, Alice, PhD. Status of Indian Languages in Oklahoma. Intertribal Wordpath Society. 2009 (16 Feb 2009).
  8. ^ Williamson, Pamela, and Roberts, John (2nd ed. 2004). First Nations Peoples, p. 102. Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications. ISBN 1552391442.
  9. ^ "The Archaeology of Ontario-The Middle Woodland Period". http://www.ontarioarchaeology.on.ca/summary/middlew.htm. Retrieved 10=7=2009. 
  10. ^ Vogel, Virgil J. (1986). Indian Names in Michigan, pp. 46-47. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0472063650.
  11. ^ Barnes, Celia (2003). Native American Power in the United States, 1783–1795, p. 203. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 0838639585.
  12. ^ http://www.gtb.nsn.us/
  13. ^ http://www.sheshegwaning.org
  14. ^ a b http://www.mackinacbands.com/

External links

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