Early Settlement and Economy
The farming, fishing, hunting and trading economy of the Ottawa resembled that of other Great Lakes people. The Ottawa were closely tied to their Huron neighbours and, in fact, were a vital part of the so-called "Huron Trading Empire." When HURONIA was destroyed by the IROQUOIS in the mid-17th century, the Ottawa fled west. After two decades they were back on MANITOULIN ISLAND, but they continued to occupy settlements elsewhere on the shores of the Great Lakes. They located their principal settlements near the French fort at Michilimackinac, though many migrated to the Detroit area when the French built a fort there in 1701. During the final struggle for northeastern North America, the Ottawa supported the French.
After the French defeat, the Ottawa, under PONTIAC of the Detroit region, organized a pan-Aboriginal uprising against the English, who threatened to encroach on Aboriginal lands. Though unsuccessful, the uprising encouraged the British to issue the ROYAL PROCLAMATION OF 1763, which recognized the legal right of Aboriginal communities to claim title to the lands they occupied. The proclamation is critical to Aboriginal land rights in Canada, and still applies today (see INDIAN TREATIES; LAND CLAIMS).
During the American Revolution and the War of 1812, the Ottawa (or Odawa as they prefer to be called) sided with the British, Chief Jean-Baptiste Assikinack being one of their leaders in the War of 1812. After signing treaties in the 1820s and 1830s with the Americans, many Ottawa in Michigan moved to Manitoulin Island. Assikinack, who had become a Roman Catholic catechist, persuaded many of his people on the island to become Christians. Although Assikinack supported the surrender of Manitoulin Island to the government of the Province of Canada in 1862, many Ottawa refused and the eastern section of the island, at Wikwemikong, remains unceded land.
Because the Ottawa tended to settle in mixed communities, it is difficult to state population figures. Many Ottawa descendants are identified as Ojibwa or Potawatomi. In 1996 there were 7386 registered Ottawa in Canada. Some 5000 lived in the US, on reservations in Michigan, Wisconsin and Oklahoma.
In the 19th century many Ottawa operated their own farms, or worked as farm labourers and lumbermen. Since 1945 a number of Ottawa have moved from Wikwemikong to Sudbury and Toronto to find employment. Daphne ODJIG, a well-known Aboriginal artist, is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Assikinack.
Author DONALD B. SMITH
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge
The website for the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge, which features Canada's largest essay writing competition for Aboriginal youth (ages 14-29) and a companion program for those who prefer to work through painting, drawing and photography. See their guidelines, teacher resources, profiles of winners, and more. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples
The website for the "Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples." Click on the links for feature articles about Canada's many multicultural communities, access to their extensive digital archives collection, learning modules, and much more. From "Multicultural Canada."
The website for the Galafilm documentary series "CHIEFS," which is devoted to the life stories of First Nations leaders, including Sitting Bull, Pontiac, Joseph Brant, Black Hawk, and Poundmaker.
Languages of Canada
A comprehensive online database of languages currently in use in Canada. Also provides details about extinct languages. Check out the "language maps" for more information. Based on "Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition." From SIL International, a US website.
A CBC feature about Ottawa native leader Chief Pontiac and his struggle against British colonization of aboriginal lands.
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.
This series is the saga of five great First Nations chiefs -- Sitting Bull, Pontiac, Joseph Brant, Black Hawk and Poundmaker. Their stories form a central drama of the history of the North American continent. Features still photos and video clips. A National Film Board website.
Former Ottawa mayor Marion Dewar dies
A CBC obituary for former Ottawa mayor Marion Dewar.