HISTORY OF THE OJIBWAY
Ojibwe, Ojibwa, or Ojibway.
All are correct in their spelling.
It depends on how you were taught.
The Ojibway, commonly referred to as The Anishinabe, ascribed their appearance on this continent to an act of creation. The word Anishinabe translates to "first" or "original man".
The Ojibway, were composed of a number of small bands each in their own territory. They were culturally closely related to their neighbours the Ottawa, Nipissing, Potawatomi and others. After the epidemics and the Iroquois wars of the early 17th century the remnants of these bands coalesced into what are now known as the Ojibway, of whom the Salteaux and the Mississauga are the largest components. During subsequent years of peace those groups expanded in population and spread out from their original homeland in the Sault Ste. Marie
- Georgian Bay area to cover most of Ontario.
Their territory covered the glaciated Canadian Shield within the mixed coniferous - deciduous forests of the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River region near the northern limit of maize cultivation. The Ojibway, Mississauga and the Ottawa tribes were forced north and west by the Iroquois in the mid 17th century. The Ottawa were, however, allied with the Hurons from whom they learned to cultivate maize. About twenty years after the Hurons had been decimated by the Five Nations Iroquois, the Mississauga and Ottawa moved back into their territory around Lake Huron, eventually even pushing back the Iroquois to the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
Ojibway tribes were subdivided into bands, each politically independent with its own well-defined hunting territory but connected through intermarriage based upon an exogamous totemic clan system. Clans were the "super-families" of the Anishinabe and were named after animals. These clans were the great fish clan, loon clan, marten clan, crane clan and the bear clan. Subsequent clan divisions trace their ancestry back to one the five original clans. In all, there have been many different clans, but these are only subdivisions of the original five clans. It was the clan system, along with spiritual beliefs, that imposed order in the Anishinabe society. All members of the same clan, regardless of whether they were "blood" relatives or not, were brothers and sisters. No two clan members of the opposite sex could ever marry.
The children were usually named during their first year by an elder or a family member. A feast was usually held for the occasion, and during the evening, the name would be bestowed on the child. Anishinabe children had nicknames as well
as formal given names. They were known and referred to by both names, but the use of the nickname was very personal and affectionate. The Anishinabe did not use a system of family names, there was no need for this practice since clan identity served this function.
Anishinabe children accepted a great deal of responsibility at an early age. Young women learned from their mothers and grandmothers, and these tasks were practiced in games and activities. Men and women's roles in the Anishinabe society did not change significantly over time. Children grew up to be like their parents and were educated to be Anishinabe, and to do the things that have always been done.
The Ojibway were renowned as brave warriors whose weapons consisted of the bow and arrow, clubs, knives and a moosehide shield for protection. As a hunting, fishing and gathering society, they pursued moose, deer, beaver and other small game. They were skilled at fishing and gathered a wide range of vegetable foods. They harvested wild rice, collected maple sap and picked many varieties of berries and nuts.
They were renowned for the quality and style of their birchbark canoes which were highly prized even by their enemies, the Iroquois. Birchbark was also used in dwelling construction and for making highly prized decorated utensils. Some of the more southern bands made clay pots. Both mats and baskets were made by weaving roots or split twigs. The Ojibway had a rich social life, holding feasts and dances to show respect to the spirits and to honour a broad range of activities. As food was generally plentiful, they participated in a variety of leisure-time activities, including lacrosse, ball games and gambling games using bones.
Both the Ojibway and the Cree developed a highly skilled knowledge of herbal
remedies. The practice of medicine was closely tied to their religious beliefs
and involved the use of visions and the beneficial help of supernatural forces.
A major focus for activity was centred on a secret religious medicine society that exercised considerable influence on all aspects of Ojibway lifestyle. Native people — were and still are — reluctant to share their knowledge and practices of medicinal and spiritual activities with a skeptical Christian European society, but their healing ways are highly successful and still widely practised today.
Historic leadership among the Anishinabe was provided by the elders, usually men, who had demonstrated to their village members that they looked out for the best interests of the people. These leaders were generous, and people followed them because they respected their judgement in civil and political matters. They led by influence and example rather than by controlling wealth.