People of the Three Fires Native Genealogy

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"People of the Three Fires":

There are three major tribal groups in Michigan today: the Chippewa (Ojibwe), the Ottawa, and the Potawatomi. They comprise what is called the Three Fires Council. Although these three tribes have similar cultures and share the same territory, there are still some differences.

Ottawa are found in the northern reaches of the Great Lakes; in michigan they occupy the western half of the Lower Peninsula. The Ottawa people were seasonal wanderers of the land and sailors of the Great Lakes gathering wild rice, netting fish, trapping both large and small game, and hunting large game such as moose, deer, and caribou.

Ottawa people continue to be great traders and craftsmen. One hallmark of Ottawa life is the birch bark canoe. When the French came, the Ottawa people adapted well to the fur-trading economy and managed to avoid major military entanglements with the European colonial powers competing with each other for North American land and resource dominance. They did, however, fight with the Iroquois throughout the early 1600's.

At the point of European contact, the Potawatomi tribe inhabited the southwest corner of what is now Michigan in the areas of Kalamazoo and the St. Joseph River and adjacent parts of Indiana. They moved there deliberately from more northern regions to take advantage of the milder southern climate. Although they shared many traits with the Chippewa and the Ottawa, they lived a more sedentary lifestyle.

The addition of horticulture to the Potawatomi cultural pattern allowed them to establish a more stable food supply and eventually a level of political unity unusual for Great Lakes tribes at that time. Not only did they grow the American staples of corn, beans, and squash, the Potawatomi were famed for their medicinal herbal gardens. Besides enjoying the advantages of farming, the retention of the canoe and a fondness for trading helped the Potawatomi become a strong tribe through the early 1800's when many of them were forcibly removed to Kansas and Oklahoma by the U.S. military.

The Chippewa, also known as the Ojibwe, are the second largest tribal group in the United States with bands in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota, as well as Ontario. In Michigan, the Chippewa's occupied the eastern half of the Lower Peninsula and most of the Upper Peninsula except the northern shore of Lake Michigan. Besides using the resource of the Great Lakes, the Chippewa also intensively used the resources of inland lakes, rivers, and streams.

The Chippewa were nomadic like the Potawatomi and the Ottawa, moving their villages to follow the fish or game. They also were highly skilled at treating illnesses by using the medicinal plants from the territories with which they were so familiar. Like the Ottawa, the Chippewa engaged in fur trading with the French and English and had some involvement in European colonial conflicts.

from American Indians: Past and Present
David Staddon, Director
American Indian Programs, Central Michigan University

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The best bet in looking for your native ancestors is check out the specific county they were from, if unsure check out the counties that have or had Indian villages, don't forget surrounding counties.

Other Native Genealogy Links

MiGen Graphic In March and April, 1996, a group of genealogists organized the Michigan Comprehensive Genealogy Database. The idea was to provide a single entry point for all counties in Michigan, where collected databases would be stored. In addition, the databases would be indexed and cross-linked, so that even if an individual were found in more than one county, they could be located in the index.

At the same time, volunteers were found who were willing to coordinate the collection of databases and generally oversee the contents of the web page. My name is Rose Edwards and I'm responsible for Native Genealogy in Michigan. Please contact me if you would like to contribute to this database. If you would like to host a Michigan county, please contact Joan Brausch.

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Please note That I do not do personal research. I do not have the time nor resources available to me, nor can I find a researcher for you .Everything that I have at this time is posted here. I will continue to search for new information that can be added to these pages.
Thank-you for your understanding and cooperation, Rose

1997-2004 by Rose Edwards ([email protected])

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