Chippewa Adjust to the Plains
The Chippewa, also referred to as Ojibwa, traditionally have been people of the forest and lake country. They moved west, north of the Great Lakes, with the fur trade and developed close ties with the French fur companies. They were traders and trappers.
Some Chippewa followed the beaver into the region between the Red and Souris Rivers in the 1790s. They clustered around Alexander Henry’s fur post at Pembina after 1800 and were called the Pembina band. This was the beginning of the Turtle Mountain Band who is called the Plains Chippewa.
Quite a number of Chippewa women married European, mostly French, men of the fur trade. Their children and their descendents are known as Metis who for purposes of tribal affiliation are linked to the Turtle Mountain band of Chippewa.
Algonquian-speaking, the Chippewa who moved onto the prairies of the Red River Valley have had to change their way of living to survive in a place of few trees and rivers.
Unlike their livelihood in the woods to the east, the buffalo has become central to their lives for food, shelter and trade. They now use the moveable tipi and haul their goods on a horse travois, a pole and leather thong wheel-less cart-like device that is pulled behind a horse.
Kinship holds the tribe together. Mother and her sisters are called mother. Father and his brothers are called father. This assures a large family unit for mutual care. People are also tied together in clans, a larger group which hunt and work together.
The Plains Chippewa believe in a Great Spirit, Gitche Manitou, who makes all things possible. They seek the aid of the Great Spirit through the rituals of the Sun Dance and the mystical power of the Midewiwan, their medicine lodge.
The Plains Chippewa have adjusted to their new environment. They have blended the ways of the woods with the ways of the plains.
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.