Ojibwa - History and Cultural Relations

Contact with Europeans was initiated in the early 1600s, and by the end of the century the Ojibwa were deeply involved in the fur trade and heavily dependent on European trade goods. As a result, the Ojibwa underwent a major geographical expansion that by the end of the eighteenth century had resulted in the four-part division of the tribe. Their migration in some cases led to significant modifications in their aboriginal hunting, fishing, and gathering subsistence pattern. These modifications were most evident among the Northern Ojibwa, who borrowed extensively from the Cree and adopted a subarctic culture pattern, and the Plains Ojibwa, who took up many elements of the Plains Indian way of life. During the first half of the nineteenth century the SouthEastern Ojibwa were forced by White demands for farmland to cede their territory for reservation status. Similarly, in the mid-nineteenth century the Southwestern Chippewa and in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the Plains Ojibwa and the Northern Ojibwa were resettled on reservations and reserves in the United States and Canada. Since the 1950s a major theme of Ojibwa cultural change has been migration off the reservations to urban centers where the People have become integrated into the Canadian and American work forces. The 1960s, however, saw a resurgence of native consciousness among the Ojibwa on many of the reservations in the United States and Canada, as the people saw their traditional culture eroding under the impact of government education programs, urban migration, and other acculturative forces.

Aboriginally and in the early historic period the Ojibwa were closely tied to the Huron to their south. After the Huron were defeated by the Iroquois in 1649-1650 in their contest for control of the western fur trade, the Ojibwa came under strong pressure from the Iroquois. By the end of the seventeenth century, however, some Ojibwa were pushing Southeastward, sometimes by force, at the expense of the Iroquois. Those who moved into the lower peninsula of Michigan became closely allied with the Ottawa and Potawatomi. During the eighteenth century Ojibwa, who had obtained European firearms from French traders, expanded to the southwest where they had a strategic military advantage over their neighbors and displaced the Dakota, Cheyenne, Hidatsa, and other groups from their traditional homelands. Intermittent and sometimes costly warfare between the Southwestern Ojibwa and the Dakota persisted for more than a century until ended by U.S. government-enforced treaties in the 1850s. The Northern Ojibwa who moved onto the Canadian Shield became closely associated with the Cree peoples to their north and west. With the acquisition of the horse, the westernmost of the Ojibwa had by 1830 evolved a pattern of seasonal migration to the open plains and adopted many elements of the Plains Indian way of life, including the preoccupation with bison hunting, the Sun Dance, and decorative tailored skin clothing.

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