The Ojibwa Indians, also known as the Chippewa Indians, are one of the largest Indian Nations in North America. Their original homeland is the northern United States and southern Canada. They eventually moved westward into the Midwest and Great Plains. Many Ojibwa bands still exist, living primarily in Michigan, North Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio, and Ontario, Canada.
The history of the Ojibwa Indians can be traced back to the 1600s. That was when the various Algonquian-speaking bands joined together to become the Ojibwa Nation. The name is thought to come from the Algonquian Indian term for puckered because of the style of moccasin the Ojibwa Indians wore.
The Ojibwa lived in groups called tribes, which were typically made up of family and extended family. They were mostly hunters, gatherers, and fishermen, and in the more southern climates, were also farmers. It is thought that their first contact with non-Native Americans was in the early 1600s, when the French made their way through the Great Lakes area. The French made friends with the Ojibwa Indians, trading goods with them and often marrying the Ojibwa women. The Ojibwa fought with the French during the French and Indian War. During the American Revolution, the Ojibwa allied with the British.
The early Ojibwa tribes who lived in the plains states were usually nomadic. They lived in tents or tepees made of animal skins, which were easy to pack up and move. In wooded areas, the Ojibwa were sedentary and lived in bark huts called wigwams. The women typically wore long dresses, and the men wore breech cloths and leggings. Both men and women wore their hair in long braids. In times of war, some men wore their hair in a Mohawk style.
The woodland tribes hunted mainly small game, fished, and gathered rice and berries. Those Ojibwa living on the plains ate primarily buffalo meat. The weapon of choice was the bow and arrow, until the Europeans introduced firearms.
Today, the Ojibwa Indians primarily live on reservations. Each tribal reservation is like an independent nation, with its own government, political system, schools, and legal system. The tribal leader or chief can be a man or woman, and is elected by the tribal membership. Since 1998, when the U.S. government passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory act, a significant portion of tribal income has come from gambling casinos on the reservations. The tribes have used the money to buy additional land, create schools and medical facilities, and upgrade housing.