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The Ojibwa. Indigenous Culture in North America. Geography!. Great Lakes Region Dense deciduous woodlands Intense Winters Hot Summers Fairly inhospitable soil Bad for growing just about anything Not just flat! Has large rolling hills dotting the landscape. Indigenous History.

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the ojibwa

The Ojibwa

Indigenous Culture in North America

  • Great Lakes Region
  • Dense deciduous woodlands
  • Intense Winters
  • Hot Summers
  • Fairly inhospitable soil
    • Bad for growing just about anything
  • Not just flat! Has large rolling hills dotting the landscape
indigenous history
Indigenous History
  • Anishinabe
    • Means “The People”
    • How the Ojibwa identify themselves
  • Very large indigenous group
  • Birch Bark used as a writing surface for pictographs
  • Today they occupy a number of reservations across the upper Midwest
indigenous history1
Indigenous History

Divided their territory into four parts:



South Eastern Ojibwa


indigenous history2
Indigenous History
  • Salteaux
    • Northern Group
    • North of Lake Superior
    • South and West of Hudson Bay
    • Flat with poor agricultural soil
    • Many small lakes and swamps
indigenous history3
Indigenous History
  • Bungee
    • Southern Group
    • Located in Southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba
    • Heavily forested
    • Large rolling hills
indigenous history4
Indigenous History
  • South Eastern Ojibwa
    • Michigan
      • Lower Peninsula
      • Eastern UP
      • Some small parts of Ontario
    • Deciduous forests
    • Prairies as well
indigenous history5
Indigenous History
  • Chippewa
    • South Western Group
    • Northern Minnesota
    • Northern Wisconsin
    • Michigan's UP
    • Ontario
      • From the shores of Lake Superior to the border of Manitoba
    • Again, Rolling hills with deciduous forests
early colonial contact
Early Colonial Contact
  • First Contact occurred around ~1650
  • Europeans after the natural resources of the area
    • Pelts from Beaver, Otters, Mink, Bears, and Wolves among others
  • This would eventually expand into mineral resources and Lumber
early colonial contact1
Early Colonial Contact
  • The Ojibwa did not fear the Europeans and in fact were eager to trade with them
  • Led to conflict between the Ojibwa groups
    • Differences in opinion over who owned, or had first claim to, the natural resources so coveted by the Europeans
early colonial contact2
Early Colonial Contact
  • Led to all out warfare between several of the Ojibwa groups as well as with other Indigenous groups in the area
  • The Iroquois and the Ojibwa were particularly powerful rivals
  • The Ojibwa eventually took over much of the Iroquoisterritory
early colonial contact3
Early Colonial Contact
  • The use of European weaponry played a large part in this warfare
    • Changed the traditional battle tactics
    • Influences in Hunting as well
  • The presence of infectious diseases such as smallpox also weakened both sides and decimated the population in general
early colonial contact4
Early Colonial Contact
  • Peace was eventually reached in the region
  • The 15 Indian Nations involved in the wide reaching conflict sat down and negotiated a settlement
early colonial contact5
Early Colonial Contact
  • Resulted in a very non-traditional division of territory
    • Hunters from each nation had very specific rights to tracts of land that were divided in a much more precise manner than at any time previously
    • This is what led to the division (4-Parts) that we looked at previously
early colonial contact6
Early Colonial Contact
  • Traditional ways of life were substantially altered
    • Game animals were no longer just taken for food
    • Now they were being hunted just for their pelts
    • With a greater degree of dependence upon the influx of European supplies came less of a reliance upon the higher maintenance, but more traditional, subsistence patterns
    • Less and less independence as European influence became more powerful
early colonial contact7
Early Colonial Contact
  • The economically motivated movement into non-traditional areas for the Ojibwa meant they had to adapt to new environments
    • Traits were borrowed from indigenous groups already living in these areas
early colonial contact8
Early Colonial Contact
  • Trade with the U.S. eventually began and the Ojibwa became even more dependent upon supplies gathered through trade with this new entity
    • Resulted in the use of their land as a bargaining chip
    • Pieces of territory were traded for goods and services from American traders
    • Beginning of the movement towards the Reservations System
early colonial contact9
Early Colonial Contact
  • The Ojibwa were encouraged by the government (US and Canadian) to try and integrate themselves into the respective societies
  • Tried to “Civilize” them by teaching them complex agricultural techniques that would never work in the environment of Southern Canada and the Northern US
  • The missionaries loved this because it centralized the population and made conversion much easier
early colonial contact10
Early Colonial Contact
  • Forced resettlement to areas far away from the Ojibwa’s traditional homeland failed
  • The Ojibwa began to object in earnest to the way they were being treated
    • Decimation of villages, theft of game from their land, and an unbalanced educational system were all among the grievances
early colonial contact11
Early Colonial Contact
  • Many had no choice but to accept the resettlement plans of the US Government
    • Put families on specific tracts of land within reservations
  • Drastic changes in the Ojibwa culture
    • Use of more and more modern technology
    • No need to hold onto traditional ways of life
    • Pressure to adopt an agricultural lifestyle and to integrate into US society
early colonial contact12
Early Colonial Contact
  • Dealing with a foreign economic system had dire consequences as well
    • Different concepts of when and how you should be paid
    • Credit was an unfamiliar concept
    • Meant that if you were an Ojibwa hunter it is likely that you almost always owed a trader some sort of payment
      • Not honorable arrangements most of the time
  • Kinship terms are used both to:

Identify your relationship to another person


Address other people and relatives

  • Each of these interpersonal terms comes with a specific set of guidelines for how you should act when interacting with a specific relative
social organization
Social Organization
  • The Ojibwa are organized as a Band society
  • There are a number of different bands that all operate independently of one another
    • But they are all related and belong to the larger Ojibwa culture
    • Vary in size
      • 50 to 300 individuals
social organization1
Social Organization
  • Patrilineal system of descent
  • Practice exogamy in general
    • Usually during the Summer months when it was easy to move around and interact with other bands
  • Marriages are very informal
  • Arranged by the parents
  • Monogamous as well
social organization2
Social Organization
  • Each clan (band) is associated with a particular totemic figure-head
    • Usually an animal or some other natural element that is related to their specific territorial ranges
social organization3
Social Organization
  • No chiefs among the Ojibwa
    • Very egalitarian
    • This changed with European contact
    • Europeans wanted a single person they could keep returning to
    • As a result this person gained prestige through their association with the Europeans as well as through the material objects they would receive and disperse to the rest of the band
social organization4
Social Organization
  • As the Ojibwa began to interact more and more with the new powers in the region their political organization began to change and adapt as well
  • More centralized reservations bred a more centralizedpolitical system
    • There was an official chief
    • Aided by advisors
    • Local councils provided more detailed representation
      • Typically composed of older and more experienced members
social organization5
Social Organization
  • However, there is still a great deal of emphasis placed upon an individuals power as well
  • The new political system was a governing and organizing force, but did not hold nearly as much real power as the spiritual healers
    • The abilities of these healers had real life consequences among the Ojibwa
how do the ojibwa live
How do the Ojibwa Live?
  • Seasonal movements of settlements
    • There were also variations of specific seasonal movements for each individual band
      • Fishing, planting gardens, hunting Bison on the Plains, etc
    • Needed to exploit resources in different areas during different parts of the year
how do the ojibwa live1
How do the Ojibwa Live?
  • Lived in more fertile hunting grounds in the winter in a very dispersed arrangement
    • Made sure that each band had enough natural resources to exploit during the winter months
how do the ojibwa live2
How do the Ojibwa Live?
  • During the summer months bands tended to come together into more permanent villages
  • For the rest of the year had to remain small and mobile in order to follow the migratory patterns of game animals
how do the ojibwa live3
How do the Ojibwa Live?
  • Crops that were exploited both through low-maintenance agriculture and opportunistically:







Wild Rice

supernatural belief
Supernatural Belief

Central theme of Ojibwa spiritual belief is the relationship between:



Other than Humans

supernatural belief1
Supernatural Belief
  • Humans
    • There are very important skills and knowledge that can be learned from other people, like your family
    • Dependent upon the advice and wisdom of the other than humans
supernatural belief2
Supernatural Belief
  • Other than Humans
    • Only way to have a truly successful life is to listen to and accept the wisdom of entities that are not human
    • Certain life lessons that can only be learned in this manner
    • Dependent upon these entities for affecting change or for gaining any sort of status in the real world
    • Creates a system of social norms and rules governing behavior
supernatural belief3
Supernatural Belief

The physical world is divided into two different types of objects:




supernatural belief4
Supernatural Belief
  • Animate Objects
    • Living objects found in the natural world
    • Animals
    • Plants
    • Natural Elements
      • Wind, Lightening, Rain, Snow, Sun, etc.
    • Mythical Animals also contained here as well, because they exist but are unseen
    • Humans are also classified in this category as well
supernatural belief5
Supernatural Belief
  • Inanimate Objects
    • Contains all manufactured items
    • Tools, clothing, pots, etc…
    • Except for Pipes
      • Why is that?
supernatural belief6
Supernatural Belief
  • The Owners
    • These entities (spirits) are associated with specific plants and animals
    • You must ask for the entities permission before using or hunting the particular plant or animal
    • The skills and knowledge passed down from generation to generation are not enough to ensure success in a hunt
supernatural belief7
Supernatural Belief
  • The Owners (cont)
    • The supernatural world must be on your side in order to succeed
      • This principle applies to all aspects of Ojibwa society
    • Must thank the Owners as well
      • Offerings are usually left to honor the sacrifice of the plant or animal
supernatural belief8
Supernatural Belief
  • Supernatural Beings
    • Classified along with humans as Animate
    • Called “Our Grandfathers”
    • Ancestral spirits
    • Obey the same moral code as the rest of the Ojibwa
    • Ojibwa children are exposed to these spirits at a very young age
    • When a story is told about these beings it is heard not just by the people listening to it, but also by these spirits
      • It pleases the spirits that the Ojibwa have not forgotten them
supernatural belief9
Supernatural Belief
  • Elders
    • Held in great regard
    • Usually the ones who tell stories of the supernatural beings
    • Teach the rest of the community important ritual behavior and life lessons
      • Includes songs and specific dances and when each should be performed
supernatural belief10
Supernatural Belief
  • Dreaming
    • This is where most of the contact between the Other than Humans and real people occurs
    • This is where the exchange of power and wisdom occurs
    • Realm where all of the most important spiritual events in a persons life happens
supernatural belief11
Supernatural Belief
  • Dreaming (cont)
    • Being asleep and dreaming allows the soul of an individual to wander around unrestrained by the body
    • Lets you get in touch with the supernatural beings much more closely
    • Dreams are not classified as such by the Ojibwa
      • Knowledge gained during this time is not separated from knowledge gained while awake from other members of the band
    • Dreams just allow you to ‘Zen Out’ and think reflectively on life
supernatural belief12
Supernatural Belief
  • How do you attain these visionary dreams?
    • Fasting is the most common method
    • Done by young children and older individuals alike
    • Duration of fasting varies widely
      • Can go for up to a week
    • Some people may never actually have a vision
supernatural belief13
Supernatural Belief
  • After the visionary dream
    • The lessons learned and the power received is not broadcast or discussed (aside from slight hints) to anyone at all within the band
    • Lest it be taken away
supernatural belief14
Supernatural Belief

What do you gain in these dreams?

Hunting or fishing skills

Healing powers

Skill in war

Insight into the mind of animals

supernatural belief15
Supernatural Belief
  • Supernatural forces and egalitarianism
    • These powers are bestowed upon individuals because the Grandfathers have enough power already
      • Thus the have to share it with the people
  • You also have certain obligations that come with these powers.
    • May not be able to eat a certain food
    • May have to perform certain rituals
supernatural belief16
Supernatural Belief
  • If you fail to use a certain power without performing the prescribed ritual or act then it may be taken away
  • Illness may also result
    • Signal to the rest of the band that you have done something immoral
  • The wrong you have committed will continue to plague your life and may affect your family as well
supernatural belief17
Supernatural Belief
  • Greed is a highly undesirable quality
    • This includes a desire for too much knowledge and power
      • Some have attempted to do this by fasting continuously
      • Stories in Ojibwa mythology are told to prevent this
  • These supernatural tales cross over into everyday life for the Ojibwa and help to maintain a social balance
supernatural belief18
Supernatural Belief
  • Shaking Tent
    • Divination ritual

Trying to find out information about:


Far off family members

Animal migrations

supernatural belief19
Supernatural Belief
  • Shaking Tent (cont)
    • Contains 3 elements
      • The Diviner (priest if you will)
      • An audience of Ojibwa people
      • The Spirits themselves
    • The diviner will be placed in a newly erected tent or structure and will commune with the spirits
    • The structure will sway back and forth to signal his success
supernatural belief20
Supernatural Belief
  • Midéwiwin
    • Society of individuals who have knowledge of how to heal people through natural (plants) means
    • Long apprenticeship in order to become a member
      • The teaching process is very individualized and varies greatly
    • Traditional knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation
supernatural belief21
Supernatural Belief
  • Midéwiwin (cont)
    • Represents through its rituals the focus on individual experiences and healing that is present throughout much of the culture
    • Not the only healers or shamans amongst the Ojibwa
    • Unsure of whether the group originated out of stresses cause by European contact or if it is a purely independent Ojibwa cultural construction
modern anishinabe issues
Modern Anishinabe Issues
  • Relocation and Resettlement into areas outside of the Ojibwa’s traditional territory has drastically altered their culture
  • As has prolonged contact with European/American culture
  • Casinos provide a great deal of income for the Ojibwa
    • Helps support communities, fund scholarships, etc.
    • Also of great help during legal disputes
  • The Ojibwa have had great success in battling the encroachment of American business interests into their traditional land
    • Particularly so in the arena of mining prevention
  • Have successfully protected their homeland not just for individuals from their own group, but also for the rest of us.


Despite this adoption (and mastery) of some aspects of American culture, there are still a great many traditional practices that are alive and well in the modern incarnation of Ojibwa culture.