Ojibwa Indians
And Their Influence

On Northern Michigan Life

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The Ojibwa Indians history is fascinating and important to all of northern Michigan. Anyone who visits Northern Michigan and wants to know about the history of the Straits of Mackinac should take the time to learn a bit about the wonderful history of the Anishinabe or First People as they refer to themselves.

They are now known by two different names and a multitude of spellings given to them by the French and English as the Chippewa and the Ojibwa Indians.

Long before the first white man set foot on American soil the Anishinabe roamed the woods, lakes and streams of Michigan. Originally, this group of people lived near the St. Lawrence Seaway but over 500 years ago a vision guided them to move on to a new land and to follow their vision's quest. At the Straits of Mackinac where the two great Lakes of Huron and Michigan meet, the vision ended.

The Anishinabe then divided into three groups which would become known as the three fires.

  • The first group now known as the Pottawatomie would settle between the two lakes,
  • the second group the Ottawa would later settle north of Lake Huron,
  • and the Ojibwa Indians settled in the area that is now known as Sault Ste. Marie.

When Europeans began to explore this region, first Jesuit Priests, then trappers and hunters, and later the armies of French, English and Americans they found a people who were rich in culture and heritage; and, who taught them how to survive in the rugged land they saw spread before them.


It was the Ottawa and Ojibwa Indians primarily who taught the white man how to build birch bark canoes, gather maple sap and turn it into sugar and how to fish and hunt the lakes, rivers and woods in order to survive especially during the frigid winters.


Visitors to this area have to simply take the time to look around them to see how much the Ojibwa Indians culture still affects Northern Michigan.

Not only do many places such as Mackinac Island still bear a name associated with the First People who once lived on the Island and fished its waters but one cannot visit such historical sites as Fort Mackinaw and Fort Michilimackinac without feeling the contributions these great people played in the forming of such strong and loyal communities.

So much of the history of Michigan particularly northern Michigan is the history of the Ojibwa.

  • It is almost impossible to take a boat ride on any of the lakes, to walk through the wooded trails, or to visit any historical site without thinking about the people who came before and how great their ability was to survive when this area was nothing more than a wilderness.

  • It is difficult to go fishing and catch that prize trout or pike without feeling something of the pride that those people felt when they brought home their catches to feed their families.

  • It is almost impossible to take that ferry over to the Island or cross the Straits via the Mackinac Bridge and not wonder how the Ojibwa Indians made such a trip in a birch bark canoe when the wind was strong and the waves were high.

Somehow it is reassuring to know that the Ojibwa live on and flourish. They remain the third largest Native American Nation in the United States.

Only the Navajo and Cherokee have larger nations. And the influence of the Ojibwa nation reaches across the Northern United States from Michigan to Montana and in Canada from Western Quebec to British Columbia.

However, it is here in northern Michigan where their presence continues to be felt and their traditions and culture admired.

Click here for more information about the Ojibwa culture and to learn more about the Museum of Ojibwa Culture in St. Ignace. It is fabulous and a must see!

Their history is our first history as Northern Michigan residents - we are grateful.

We Would Love To Hear From
Our Ojibwa Friends

Do you have a great story and photos about your Ojibwa family heritage? Please share with us for we are thankful to know you as the First People of the land we all love.

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My Reacclimation To Tribal Life. Not rated yet
When I was young, about 5 or so, I lived near Detroit in Michigan's Lower Peninsula. I had no idea of my past heritage other than the knowledge of my …

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