Native Languages of the Americas: Ottawa (Odawa, Odaawa)
Language:: The Ottawa people have always been politically independent from their powerful Ojibway
kin, but they speak the same language.
Ojibwe--known to its own speakers as Anishinaabe or
Anishinabemowin--is an Algonkian language spoken by
50,000 Ojibwe and Ottawa people in the northern United States and southern Canada. There are five main dialects of
the Ojibwe language: Western Ojibwe, Eastern Ojibwe, Northern Ojibwe, Southern Ojibwe, and Ottawa (Odawa or Odaawa).
Speakers of all five dialects, including Ottawa, can understand each other readily. Many linguists also consider the
Algonquin language to be an Ojibwe dialect, but it has
diverged more and is difficult for other speakers to understand. On the whole Ojibwe is among the heartiest of North American
languages, with many children being raised to speak it as a native language.
People: The Ottawa are generally considered to be an offshoot of the
Ojibwe tribe, with whom they continue to maintain
close and friendly relations. They lived on the northern shores of Lake Huron and were known as accomplished traders--
Ottawa means "traders," in fact. Like the Ojibwe, however, the Ottawa usually referred to themselves as
Anishinaabe (plural:Anishinabek), meaning "original people." There are 15,000 Ottawas in
Michigan, Ontario, and Oklahoma today.
History: The Ojibwe and Ottawa Indians are members
of a longstanding alliance also including the Potawatomi tribe.
Called the Council of Three Fires, this alliance was a powerful one which clashed with the mighty
Iroquois Confederacy and the
Sioux. The Ottawa were staunch allies of the French, and it was
an Ottawa chief, Pontiac, who led a devastating Indian rebellion against the British after they took over the French colonies in
1763. This rebellion ultimately failed, however, and despite making peace, Pontiac was assassinated by an
Illinois Indian the Ottawas suspected of being a British mercenary,
sparking the near-destruction of the Illinois at the hands of the angry Three Fires warriors. Though one Ottawa band was relocated
to Oklahoma where they remain today, most Ottawa people live on reservations on their traditional lands in Michigan and Ontario.
As a complement to our Ottawa Ojibwe language information, we would like to share our collection of indexed links
about the Ottawa people and various aspects of their society. The emphasis
of these pages is on American Indians as a living people with a present and future as well as a past. Abenaki history is
interesting and important, but the Ottawa are still here today, too, and we try to feature modern writers as
well as traditional folklore, contemporary artwork as well as archaeology exhibits, and the issues and struggles of
today as well as the tragedies of yesterday. Suggestions for new links are always
Tribal and Community Links
Official homepages of individual Ottawa tribes, bands, and nations, with information about tribal leadership, services, and events:
Advice for people researching traditional Ottawa religion and other American Indian spirituality.
Ottawa Beliefs and Practices:
Article on the Midewiwin, traditional healing, vision quests, and the Ottawa Feast of the Dead.
Collection of Odawa Indian legends and folktales.