About Our Culture
It is commonly believed that the Anishnaabeg had neither a form of written language nor a recorded history. This belief is incorrect. Although the Anishnaabeg did not have a written alphabet, they did have a set of picture symbols or pictographs.
The Anishnaabeg divided into three groups each going separate ways. Those who settled along Lake Michigan, taking with them the national fire, which according to tradition was sacredly kept burning, received the name Pottawatomie, interpreted as “those who keep the fire”. The group which located on Manitoulin Island, and around Georgian Bay were most easterly. They acted as middlemen in the fur trade between the western groups and the white traders in the 17th century, thus receiving the tribal identity of Odawa, a word meaning “traders”.
Of the groups remaining, some took to the southern shore of Lake Superior, while others pushed along the north shore of Lakes Superior and Huron. These groups became known collectively as Ojibwa, again a comparatively new name, originating in the early 1600s. The southern division of the Ojibwa located in the area which is now the state of Minnesota, also migrated into the region of Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake (near the U.S. Canada border). In this territory fierce battles took place with the Dakotas well into the 19th century.
The Ojibwe on the northern shores of the Great Lakes were more mildly dispositioned, thus were characteristically named by their more warlike brothers, Wabose (rabbit). The northern division was the smaller one consisting mainly of the families claiming as dodems the Bzhiw (Lynx), Gnoozhe (Pike), Amik (Beaver), Mgizi (Eagle), Chijaak (Crane), Mkinaak (Turtle), Mkwa (Bear) and the Atik (Reindeer).