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The Decline of the Ojibwe People
Amanda's EssayBibliography

Research Summary

By: Amanda Middlebrook
1600s - 1800sFor Research Summary sources go to the Bibliography link.

Climate and Geographic Factors:
  • Ojibwe mainly lived in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada.
  • Ojibwe used St Mary’s River and Sault Ste Marie as a regional meeting place during whitefish season.
  • Winters range from temperatures of -2.2 to -10.3 degrees.
  • Summers range from temperatures of 24.0 to 11.3 degrees .
  • Approximately average snowfall in a year is 302.9 cm.
  • Approximately average rainfall in one year is 634.3 mm.
  • Sault Ste Marie consists of forestry and plains.
  • Sault Ste Marie is right next to St Mary’s River.
  • Cold winters made it hard for Ojibwe to hunt and scavenge.
  • Ojibwe would leave their camps near the river and go deep into forests where pines would protect them from winter winds; it kept them warmer.
  • Ojibwe made snowshoes, toboggans, and sleds for winter.
  • Coordinates of Sault St. Marie : 46° 31′ 48″ N, 84° 21′ 0″ W.
Location of Sault Ste Marie

Events and Leaders:

  • Europeans arrive in 1600s.
  • Hudson Bay Company was established: 1670.
  • Ojibwe have friendship with the French traders; able to obtain guns, and many other items by trade.
  • Wars over land: The Sioux and The Fox .
  • Ojibwe drove the Sioux out from upper Mississippi region .
  • Ojibwe forced the Fox down to northern Wisconsin .
  • 1800s Ojibwe had an alliance with the Ottawa and Potawatomi peoples, called Council of Three Fires.
  • Council of Three Fires fought with Iroquois confederacy and the Sioux.
  • Ojibwe expanded eastward, taking over lands alongside eastern shores of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.
  • Ojibwe allied with French in French and Indian War.
  • Ojibwe allied with British in War of 1812.
  • Political leader of an Ojibwe tribe is called chief. Ojibwe chiefs were men chosen by tribal council members, often from the last chief's sons, nephews, or sons-in-law.
  • Wawatam was the name of an Ojibwe chief in the Michilimackinac region (Between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan). He was chief from 1762 to 1764.
  • Names of known Ojibwe chiefs are: Katawabeda (Broken Tooth), Bugonaygeeshig (Hole- in- the- day), Wawatam (Little Goose).
Ojibwe Chief

Plagues and Diseases:
  • Europeans came in the 1600s, brought with them diseases and illnesses.
  • Europeans gave diseases to animals: Ojibwe hunt and rely on animals for resources, causes the Ojibwe to become diseased.
  • Europeans brought smallpox to Ojibwe.
  • Ojibwe people have no immunity to diseases: never came in contact with these diseases before.
  • Ojibwe people got tuberculosis and trachoma from being un-hygienic.
  • Ojibwe traded land for health care.
  • High amount of drug addictions, diabetes, fetal alcohol syndrome, obesity, suicide, and accidental death.
  • Herbal cures include sumac fruit made into a tea with crushed roots to stop bleeding, blackberry roots boiled and drunk to stop diarrhea or prevent miscarriage, wild onions cooked and sweetened with maple sugar to treat children's colds, yarrow roots mashed into creams for treating blemishes, strawberry roots boiled and eaten to treat stomach aches, and plantain leaves chopped and used as a poultice for bruises, rheumatism, and snake bites.
  • Midewiwin were spiritual leaders and healers in a tribe.

Medicine Man

Art, Literature, and Music
  • Ojibwe artists use imagery to explain to a new generation the spiritual beliefs of their ancestors.
  • Ojibwe used petroglyphs, pictographs, pictoforms and totem poles as a form of storytelling.
  • After contact with Europeans, tools improved, and totem poles increased in size.
  • Each Ojibwe artist's art is different depending on were each artist grows up.
  • Ojibwe artist's art reflects their lives and their perspectives on their own culture.
  • Sounds of nature influences Ojibwe music.
  • Ojibwe who want to become a musician must earn the right to play an instrument.
  • Ojibwe incorporated the area’s landscape in their art designs.
  • Arrival of Europeans: Ojibwe start making quilts with new materials (cotton and silk).
  • Colour red symbolic: life's renewal and the continuity of the life force in both animals and men.
  • Ojibwa men responsible for creating sacred, ceremonial art that was symbolic, representational and documentary.
  • Sacred art has specific meanings: to portray spirit helpers and record ritual and mythological events and experiences.
  • Men produce public art for religious and ceremonial functions, women produce personal art.
  • Ojibwa medicine men responsible for a lot of the rock art produced in Ontario.
  • Midewiwin kept health records on birchbark scrolls.

Ojibwe Beadwork

Industrial and Artistic Technology:

  • Beads for jewelery and decoration were created with tiny stones, pieces of copper, silver and animal bones.
  • Strings of a dreamcatcher made from strands of sinew from animals.
  • Birch bark used for making writing paper, canoe construction, wigwam coverings (wigwams were Ojibwe homes), hunting and fishing gear, food storage containers, musical instruments, and children's sleds and toys.
  • Various types of wood used to make snowshoes, canoe frames, lacrosse rackets, bows and arrows, bowls, ladles, flutes, drums, and fishing lures
  • Before Europeans garments were made of buckskin and soft hides (caribou, moose, bear, etc).
  • Clay and stone were used to make pipes. Pipes were decorated in eagle feathers.
  • Glass beads introduced by European traders.
  • Ojibwe would embroider with moose hair.
  • Europeans introduce cotton and silk to Ojibwe.
Birchbark Canoe

Agriculture and Economy:

  • Ojibwa fished, collected wild nuts and berries, and planted small gardens of maize, beans, squash, and pumpkins.
  • Berries were dried and stored and eaten the following winter.
  • wild rice was harvested in the fall.
  • In winter Ojibwe move to hunting grounds where they rely on deer, moose, bear, and small game.
  • In spring maple sap is gathered and boiled to produce maple syrup (sugar). (Anne M. Todd, The Ojibwa: People of the Great Lakes, Pg 10)
  • Each family in a tribe had there own section within a maple forest (Anne M. Todd, The Ojibwa: People of the Great Lakes, Pg 9)
  • Ojibwa were involved in the exchange of mink, muskrat, beaver, and other animal pelts for European trade goods (blankets, firearms, liquor, tools, kettles, and clothing).
  • Ojibwe often relocated to let animals and plants in the area replenish themselves so there would always be enough game.
  • Ojibwe didn’t believe in taming wild animals, so they did not own any.
  • Children collected plants, plants would be dried and used as a tea.
Making maple sugar

Photo sources: