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Anishinabe [archive]

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The Anishinabe are the third largest Indian tribe in North America, surpassed only by the Cherokee and Navajo. They were primarily located around the Great Lakes region, mostly in the Lake Superior area. They are known for their canoes and wild rice.

Called "Chippewa" in the United States and "Ojibwe/Ojibway" in Canada, they call themselves Anishinabe meaning "first men". They accept the name "Ojibwe" (even though they prefer Anishinabe), but intensely dislike the name "Chippewa". "Ojibwe/Ojibway" is an Algonquin word that refers to a unique puckered seam on the moccasins of the Anishinabe. "Chippewa" is considered to be an attempt by the French explorers to say "Ojibwe."

Anishinabe Culture and History

Fish were the principal food of the Anishinabe. The women wove nets with which they would catch an assortment of fish. They ate fish soup, boiled fish, fish eggs, and fish cooked over fire on a sharp stick. To preserve fish they would string them and freeze them in the snow. Fish were also dried and salted.

Along with fish, the Anishinabe hunted deer, ducks, pigeons, moose, fox, wolves, bears, rabbits, beavers, and other small game and waterfowl. They used bows and arrows for hunting which were much smaller than those used by the Dakota. Hunting deer did not call for the large equipment needed when hunting buffalo. In addition, they would gather wild rice with a canoe in the fall, and strawberries, cranberries, blueberries, wild plums, cherries, acorns, ginger, wintergreen, raspberries, leaves and twigs for teas, "Indian potatoes", and maple sap for making sugar according to season. They also planted gardens of corn, pumpkins, squash, and other vegetables.

The Anishinabe people usually lived in wigwams. These shelters were shaped like half walnut shells with entrances at one end. They were not easily portable and were made by using poles which were forced deep in ground. A smoke hole was created in the middle of the wigwam skeleton. The wigwam was covered with cattail rushes, basswood bark and birch bark. An animal hide was usually hung over the entrance as a door. The Anishinabe occasionally used tipis, similar to the Dakota, when they were camping or on short trips.

The Anishinabe used deerskins as the primary component of their clothing. Until a child was 5 or 6, s/he only wore a shirt and moccasins. Women's garments were made of 2 deerskins sewn together with sinew from deer. The sewing of the dress was accomplished by punching holes in the leather with sharp bones and threading sinew through the holes. The men wore leggings and a breechcloth, and often carried a blanket for covering.

Moccasins were primarily made of moose hide. That made them tough and long lasting. Deerskin was used to make moccasins for special occasions. They were soft and pretty, but didn't last as long as the moose moccasins. Anishinabe moccasins were unique in that they had a tongue in front, and a puckered seam. Later in Anishinabe history, they used velvet and ribbons on their moccasins.

Ribs or bones of animals were used for making knives and other tools. The large number of trees in their environment enabled them to create a large amount of their tools and possessions from wood. Knots of trees were used for making bowls and spoons, pointed sticks were used as cooking utensils, and dishes were made of birch bark. They also used items like clamshells for spoons and decorations.

The Anishinabe are known for their long, narrow birch bark canoes which were built for speed. They were used for transportation from place to place and for harvesting wild rice.

Like the Dakota, they did use dogs to carry heavy loads, but unlike the Dakota, they had no travois. It would have been impossible to drag a travois through the woods and along lakes and rivers. Their dogs could travel about 40-50 miles a day.

Snowshoes were a major source of transportation during the winter. The Anishinabe had 3 main kinds, each being constructed with wooden frames and rawhide netting. One was called the "bear-paw shoe". It was almost round and left mark in the snow resembling a bear print. Another kind was flat with a short piece of wood extended out back. It was good for level ground. The third kind had turned up toes which were better for walking around in the woods.


Densmore, Frances
1977 Dakota and Ojibwe People in Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society.

Leech Lake Ojibwe
Electronic document, Former link:

Minnesota Historical Society
1972 The Ojibway People. Gopher Historian Leaflet Series Number 6. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society.

Ojibwe Online
Electronic document, Former link:

A Short History of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe can be found here -

Additional Reading

 Anishinaabe Words
 Ojibwe Indians
 Ojibwe Language
 Ojibwe Mythology
 Indian Tribes of Minnesota

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