World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Dennis Esquivel, Odawa-Ojibwe artist[1]
Total population
Regions with significant populations
United States (Oklahoma, Michigan)
Canada (Ontario)
English, Odawa
Midewiwin, Animism, traditional religion, Christianity, other
Related ethnic groups
Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and other Algonquian peoples

The Odawa (also Ottawa or Odaawaa ), said to mean "traders," are a Native American tribe and First Nations band. They are one of the Anishinaabeg, related to but distinct from the Ojibwe and Potawatomi people. Their original homelands are located on Manitoulin Island, near the northern shores of Lake Huron, on the Bruce Peninsula in the present-day province of Ontario, Canada and in the state of Michigan, United States.[2] There are approximately 15,000 Odawa living in Ontario, Michigan and Oklahoma.

The Odawa language is considered a divergent dialect of the Ojibwe, characterized by frequent syncope. The Odawa language, like the Ojibwe language, is part of the Algonquian language family. They also have smaller tribal groups or “bands” commonly called “Tribe” in the United States and “First Nation” in Canada. The Odawa people formerly lived along the Ottawa River but now live especially on Manitoulin Island.[3]


  • Tribe name 1
  • Language 2
  • Early history 3
    • Oral histories and early recorded histories 3.1
    • Fur trade 3.2
    • Wars and refugees 3.3
    • Treaties and removals 3.4
  • Modern history 4
  • Known villages 5
    • Former villages not on reserves/reservations 5.1
    • Former reserves/reservations and their villages 5.2
    • Current reserves/reservations and associated villages 5.3
  • Governments 6
  • Notable Odawa people 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

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, Odawa, and Ojibwe. The Potawatomi spelling of Odawa and the English derivative "Ottawa" are also common. The Anishinaabe word for "Those men who trade, or buy and sell" is Wadaawewinini(wag), which was recorded by Fr. Frederic Baraga in his A Dictionary of the Otchipwe Language as "Watawawininiwok," but he recorded it as meaning "men of the bulrushes", from the many bulrushes in the Ottawa River.[4] This recorded meaning is associated with the Matàwackariniwak, a historical band of Algonquins living about the Ottawa River. Their neighbors applied the "Trader" name to the Ottawa because in early traditional times, and also during the early European contact period, they were noted as intertribal traders and barterers.[5] They dealt "chiefly in cornmeal, sunflower oil, furs and skins, rugs and mats, tobacco, and medicinal roots and herbs."[6][7]

Like the Ojibwe, the Odawa 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. The Odawa'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. The tribe is source of the name for Tawas City, Michigan, and Tawas Point, which reflect the syncope-form of their name. The county seat of Putnam County, Ohio is named Ottawa, and is located at the site of the last Ottawa reservation in Ohio.


The Odawa language is considered one of several divergent dialects of the Ojibwe language group, noted for its frequent syncope. In the Odawa language, the general language group is known as Nishnabemwin, while the Odawa language is called Daawaamwin. Of the estimated 5,000 ethnic Odawa and additional 10,000 people with Odawa ancestry, an estimated 500 people in Ontario and Michigan speak this language. The Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma has three fluent speakers.[8]

Early history

Oral histories and early recorded histories

Early sketch of an Odawa family by British soldier George Townshend

According to Anishinaabeg tradition, and from recordings in Wiigwaasabak (birch bark scrolls), Odawa people 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, the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi.

The Odawa, together with the Ojibwe and Potawatomi, were part of a long-term tribal alliance called the Council of Three Fires,[9] which fought the Iroquois Confederacy and the Dakota people. 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."[6] In 1616, Champlain left the Huron villages and visited the "Cheueux releuez" westward from the lands of the Huron Confederacy.

The Jesuit Relations of 1667 report three tribes living in the same town: the Odawa, the Kiskakon Odawa, and the Sinago Odawa. All three tribes spoke the same language.[10]

There is archaeological evidence that the Saugeen Complex people, a Hopewell-influenced group who were located on the Bruce Peninsula during the Middle Woodland period, may have evolved into the Odawa people. Some of these peoples constructed earthwork mounds for burials, a practice that ended about 250 CE.[11]

Fur trade

Due to the extensive trade network maintained by the Odawa, many of the North American interior nations became known by names which they used 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. From the start of New France, the Odawa became so important to the French and Canadiens in fur trade, that before 1670, colonists in Quebec, then called Canada, usually referred to any Algonquian speaker from the Great Lakes as an Odawa. In their own language, the Odawa (like the Ojibwe) referred to themselves as Anishinaabe (Neshnabek) meaning "people."

Wars and refugees

Odawa warrior with gunstock war club

The Odawa had disputes and warfare with other tribes, particularly over the lucrative fur trade. For example, the tribe once waged war against the Mascouten. in the mid-17th century the Odawa allied with many others against the Mohawk and their Iroquois allies in the Beaver Wars. The traditional balance of power in the region had been destroyed by the introduction of more powerful weapons, changing economic risks and rewards, and novel disastrous unintended consequences. All peoples on both sides were disrupted or decimated; many groups such as the Iroquoian Erie were exterminated.

The Odawa allied with the French against the British in the Seven Years' War, known as the French and Indian War in the North American colonies. They made raids against Anglo-American colonists. The famous Odawa chief Pontiac has historically been reported to have been born at the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize Rivers in modern Defiance, Ohio. In 1763, after the British had defeated France, Pontiac led a rebellion against the British, but he was unable to prevent British occupation of the region.[12] A decade later, Chief Egushawa led the Odawa in the American Revolutionary War as an ally of the British.[13] The defeat of the British by the United States had a far-ranging influence on Native American/First Nations tribes.

In the 1790s, Egushawa fought the United States in a series of battles and campaigns together with other regional tribes in what became known as the Northwest Indian War. The Indians hoped to repulse the European-American pioneers coming to settle west of the Appalachian Mountains, but were finally defeated.[13] In a campaign during 1794, Anthony Wayne built a string of forts in the Maumee River watershed, including Fort Defiance, across the river from the site of Pontiac's birth. Wayne's army defeated an Indian confederacy at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, near present-day Toledo.

Treaties and removals

In 1807, the Odawa joined three other tribes, the Ojibwe, Potawatomi and Wyandot people, in signing the Treaty of Detroit. The agreement, between the tribes and William Hull, representing the Michigan Territory, gave the United States a portion of today's Southeastern Michigan and a section of Ohio near the Maumee River. The tribes were able to retain small pockets of land in the territory.[14]

Modern history

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

Known villages

The following are or were Odawa villages:

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

Former villages not on reserves/reservations

Former reserves/reservations and their villages

Current reserves/reservations and associated villages


Flag of the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma
Seal of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
Recognized/status Odawa governments
Other recognized/status governments with significant Odawa populations
Unrecognized/non-status Odawa governments
  • Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Michigan (formerly "Northern Michigan Ottawa Association, Unit 8", currently recognized by Michigan)
  • Genesee Valley Indian Association (formerly Northern Michigan Ottawa Association, Unit 9)
  • Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians, Michigan (formerly Northern Michigan Ottawa Association, Unit 3, currently recognized by Michigan)
  • Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians, Michigan[17] (formerly "Northern Michigan Ottawa Association, Units 11 through 17", 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 Pottawatomi Indians of Michigan) (formerly part of Northern Michigan Ottawa Association, Unit 3)

Notable Odawa people

Famous Odawa Chief Pontiac speaking at a council on April 27, 1763
  • Andrew Blackbird (ca. 1814/7–1908), tribal leader, historian, and author
  • Kelly Church, blackash basket weaver and birch bark biter
  • Cobmoosa (1768–1866), chief
  • Egushawa (ca. 1726–1796), war chief
  • Enmegahbowh (ca. 1807–1902), first Native American to be ordained as an Episcopal priest
  • Magdelaine Laframboise, Odawa-French fur trader and businesswoman, also supported public education for children on Mackinac Island; added in 1984 to Michigan's Women's Hall of Fame
  • Ningweegon (aka Negwagon), chief of the Odawa of the Michilimackinac region of Michigan, sometimes known in English as "The Wing," or "Wing". Although some sources refer to him as "Little Wing", this does not have supporting documentation.
  • Daphne Odjig (b. 1919), Woodlands style painter and member of the Indian Group of Seven
  • Petosegay (1787–1885), merchant and fur trader
  • Pontiac (ca. 1720–1769), chief. In 1769, he attended a large meeting at Cahokia, Illinois, where drinking took place and he was assassinated by a Peoria Indian.

See also


  1. ^ "7 Artists, 7 Teachings." Mitchell Museum of the American Indian. 2009. Accessed 28 Jan 2014.
  2. ^ "First Nations Culture Areas Index". Canadian Museum of Civilization. 
  3. ^ Canadian Oxford Dictionary
  4. ^ Baraga, Frederick. (1878). A Dictionary of the Otchipwe Language, I, 300.
  5. ^ Beck, David (2002). Siege and Survival: History of the Menominee Indians, 1634–1856, p. 27. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-1330-1.
  6. ^ a b Burton, Clarence M. (ed.) (1922). The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, p. 49. The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.
  7. ^ 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 3-11-013417-9.
  8. ^ Anderton, Alice, PhD. Status of Indian Languages in Oklahoma. Intertribal Wordpath Society. 2009 (16 Feb 2009).
  9. ^ Williamson, Pamela, and Roberts, John (2nd ed. 2004). First Nations Peoples, p. 102. Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications. ISBN 1-55239-144-2.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "The Archaeology of Ontario-The Middle Woodland Period". Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  12. ^ Vogel, Virgil J. (1986). Indian Names in Michigan, pp. 46-47. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-06365-0.
  13. ^ a b Barnes, Celia (2003). Native American Power in the United States, 1783–1795, p. 203. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 0-8386-3958-5.
  14. ^ "Treaty Between the Ottawa, Chippewa, Wyandot, and Potawatomi Indians".  
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ "Domain Default page". Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  17. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-08-31. 


  • 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.

External links

  • Official website
  • "Ottawa History" Shultzman, L. 2000. First Nations Histories.
  • Handbook of American Indians north of Mexico"Ottawa" entry in by Frederick Webb Hodge.
  • The Archaeology of Ontario-The Middle Woodland Period
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.