There are three major tribal groups in Michigan today: the Chippewa (Ojibwe), Ottawa (Odawa), and Potawatomi (Bodawotomi). They comprise what is called the Three Fires Council.
Although these three tribes have similar cultures and share the same territory, there still are some historical differences.
In Michigan, the Chippewa people occupied the eastern half of the Lower Peninsula and most of the Upper Peninsula.
Members of the Chippewa tribe:
- Used the resources of the Great Lakes as well as inland lakes, rivers, and streams
- Moved their villages to follow the fish and game
- Developed a skill for treating illnesses using medicinal plants
- Engaged in fur trading with the French and English and had some involvement in European colonial conflicts
One hallmark of Ottawa life is the birch bark canoe. In Michigan, the Ottawa people occupied the western half of the Lower Peninsula.
Members of the Ottawa tribe:
- Wandered the land and explored the Great Lakes to gather wild rice, net fish, trap both large and small game, and hunt large game such as moose, deer, and caribou
- Adapted well to the fur-trading economy through solid trading skills and craftsmanship
- Avoided major military entanglements with the European colonial powers competing with each other for North American land and resource dominance
The Potawatomi tribe inhabited the
southwest corner of what is now Michigan in the areas of Kalamazoo and the St. Joseph River. They moved there deliberately from more northern regions to take advantage of the milder southern climate.
Members of the Potawatomi tribe:
- Shared many traits with the Chippewa and the Ottawa but lived a more sedentary lifestyle
- Established a stable food supply and a level of political unity unusual for Great Lakes tribes at that time
- Developed a favorable reputation for medicinal herb gardens in addition to growing the staples of corn, beans, and squash
- Bay Mills Indian Community (Ojibwe)
- Grand Traverse Bay Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
- Gun Lake Tribe of Potawatomi Indians
- Hannahville Indian Community (Potawatomi)
- Huron Potawatomi
- Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (Ojibwe)
- Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
- Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
- Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians
- Pokagon Potawatomi
- Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe
- Sault Ste. Marie Tribe