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Four Words

To help you better understand the Chippewa and other Indigenous people, here are four words you need to know:


Anishinabe (meaning “The People”) are the Indigenous people of the Great Lakes region. There actually are three Indigenous nations that are considered Anishinabe: the Ojibwe (Chippewa), Ottawa (Odawa), and Potawatomi (Bodawotomi). These tribal nations are related linguistically and culturally and together are known as the “Three Fires.”


Ojibwe is the actual name of the Chippewa nation. Early explorers and traders had issues spelling words as there were no written languages, many versions and spellings were recorded. The word changed from Ojibwe to Jibwe, to Chipwe, Chippeway, Chippewa. Many Ojibwe people would prefer to be called Anishinabek (Anishinabe).


Many tribes have clan systems. For the Anishinabe, clan membership is passed down through the father and traditionally coordinates governance, family relationships and social obligations.


While clan members are related through kinship, band membership consists of people living in the same locale. Tribal nations normally are larger than bands or clans.