Anishinaabeg? Who are they?

from left to right: daughter Giiwe Martin with Rose Martin. Both are citizens of the Lac Vieux Desert Lake Superior Band of Chippewa.

This Great Lakes Anishinaabe Ethnobotany website features elders, culture bearers and traditional knowledge holders of many Anishinaabe tribes. Who are the Anishinaabe? The Anishinaabe Three Fires Confederacy is made up of the Odawa (traders), the Ojibwe (faithkeepers), and the Bodwe’aadamiinh (the firekeepers).

“We have always been a nation and we knew each other as Anishinaabek. It was not until the French and European settlers arrived on this part of the continent that we became known as the tribes now called Ojibwe, Odawa and Bodwe’aadamiinh.”

– Kenny Pheasant, Anishinaabemowin Program 

The upper Great Lakes region (Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario) is home to numerous Anishinaabe tribes. History has shown us that treaties were made with the larger collective groups such as the Anishinaabe Three Fires Confederacy. Treaties were then made with individual tribes within a confederacy such as the Ojibwe or Odawa. As time went on treaties were made with smaller specific bands of tribes such as the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

The Ojibwe, Odawa and Bodwe’aadamiinh have distinct but similar language. Revitalization efforts to keep the Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe language) from extinction is a primary goal of several communities. It is not only a way of speaking, it is a way of thinking. This way of thinking relates directly to the relationship with the earth and in particular this ethnobotany site. For example the word kinomaage literally translates as “the earth shows us the way” but also refers to “education.” The Anishinaabe believe that education stems from what the earth will show us. What do plants and trees teach us?

Anishinaabe elders teach us about the individual’s connection to all living things. We are taught that the community comes before the individual; that community includes the water, earth and sky and all those who reside there. It is believed that “the individual is an important concept, but the individual is strongly interconnected to the family, the community, the clan, and, through relationship to the Creator, to all living things.”

– PBS series “Ojibwe/Waasaa-inaabidaa: We Look In All Directions.”

The Anishinaabe people who shared their knowledge and stories for this ethnobotany site will give you only a glimpse into the community, which is ultimately the earth itself.  For more specific information about the Anishinaabe people, visit the “Links of Interest” page.