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Period Image of Ojibwe
Two Anishinabe men, Cass Lake Minnesota, 1920. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

European Contact
The Woodlands people along the eastern seaboard were among the first Native Americans to feel the impact of European immigration. In the beginning, traders' demand for furs created an economic opportunity for the American Indians. At the same time, increasing numbers of white settlers eventually forced the Woodlands people west or north into Canada in order to survive.

The Ojibwe People
Among the Woodlands people to be affected were the Ojibwe, who moved into the Great Lakes region from the east in the 18th century. Today, the Ojibwe, or Chippewa, are among the largest of American Indian nations. They live in parts of Canada, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Minnesota. There are seven Ojibwe reservations in Minnesota. In their own language, the Ojibwe refer to themselves as Anishinabe, which means "original people."

The Cycle of Life
In the past, the seasons of the year guided the lives and occupations of all Ojibwe people. In winter, small communities based on family groups lived in the forests, where they constructed wigwams of bent saplings and birchbark. Men hunted game. Women tanned hides and made and decorated objects for everyday use. With the first snowfall, the people gathered by the fire in the evenings to tell stories, teaching their children history and tradition.

Sugar Camp
Seth Eastman, Indian Sugar Camp, ca. 1850, watercolor. Courtesy W. Duncan and Nivin MacMillan and the Afton Historical Society Press.    Enlarge
In spring, the people gathered in the maple groves to collect sap to make sugar. During the summer, villages were set up on lakeshores. Here, the men fished, and women planted crops like corn, squash, and pumpkins, and gathered wild berries. By late August, it was time to harvest the wild rice that grew in the shallow lake waters. When harvest was complete, the Ojibwe trapped and fished to stock up for winter. The cycle began again as they moved back to the forests for the winter months.

In the words of the people of the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota, "To be an Ojibwe is to sense the movement of nature, to learn from the winds, the waters, and the richness of the earth. Our land was always our teacher and always will be. That is why we cherish it and seek to save it for our children and grandchildren and all generations to come."

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