(By Juan Fernandez)
Odawa or Ottawa comes from the Algonquin word "Adawe" meaning "to trade" and originates from their role as traders even before contact. Variations are: Atawawa, Odawa, Outaouacs, Outaoua, Tawa, Tawaw, and Utawawea. The Ottawa became so important in the French fur trade, that before 1670, it was common practice in Quebec to call any Algonquin from the Great Lakes an Ottawa. In their own language, the Ottawa (like the Ojibwe) refer to themselves as Anishinabe (Neshnabek) meaning "people." Other names for the Ottawa were: Andatahourat or Ondatawnwat (Huron), Dewagunha (Mohawk), Udawak (Penobscot), Ukuayata (Huron), Waganhae or Waganis (Iroquois), Watawawininiwok (Ojibwe), and Wdowo (Abnaki).
The Ottawa language is considered a divergent dialect of the Ojibwe, characterized by frequent syncope. The Ottawa language, like the Ojibwe language, is part of the Algonquian language family. They also have a smaller tribal groups or “bands” commonly called “Tribe” in the United States and “First Nation” in Canada. The Odawa nation formerly lived along the Ottawa River but now live especially on Manitoulin Island.
Along with the Ojibwe and Potawatami, the Ottawa first arrived on the east side of Lake Huron sometime around 1400. While the Ojibwe and Potawatomi continued west towards Sault Ste. Marie, the Ottawa remained near the mouth of the French River and on the large Islands in Lake Huron. Over the years. The Ottawa lived in many places but always considered Manitoulin Island as their original homeland.
This island was on the route between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast, and the Ottawa used the birchbark canoes to travel great distances for trade. In 1615 their villages were concentrated on Manitoulin Island, but they began relocating to Mackinac (upper Michigan) during the 1630s. By 1649 they had left Manitoulin Island. Iroquois attacks forced them to move to Green Bay (Wisconsin) in 1651 and then to the south shore of Lake Superior in 1658. They remained there until they returned to Mackinac in 1670. As the French and their allies drove the Iroquois from the Great Lakes during the 1690s, some Ottawa returned to Manitoulin Island where they have remained ever since.
However, the majority stayed at Mackinac until 1701 when most left for Detroit and Saginaw Bay. They spread south into northern Ohio with one village located as far east as Venango in western Pennsylvania. The Ottawa at Mackinac stayed until the soil wore out in 1741, and they relocated to Grand Traverse Bay in lower Michigan, with some bands moving as far south on the east side of Lake Michigan at the Grand River. A few bands settled on the opposite side of the lake at Milwaukee and spread into northern Illinois. The Wisconsin and Illinois Ottawa were removed with the Potawatomi to southwest Iowa in 1834. By 1846 they had merged with the Potawatomi and moved with them to Kansas. The Ohio and Detroit bands of Ottawa were removed to Kansas 1831-34. Some chose allotment and citizenship in 1867 and remained in Kansas while the remainder moved to northeast Oklahoma. However, the vast majority of the Ottawa were not removed and still live in the northern part of lower Michigan or southern Ontario.
During the late 1600s, there were four to five Ottawa divisions: Keinouche (Pickerel), Kiskakon (Kishkakon) (Bear), Nassawaketon (Fork People, Nation of the Fork, Nassauaketon, Nassauakueton, Ottawa de la Fourche), Sable, and Sinago (Akonapi) (Gray Squirrel). These were subdivided into numerous local bands.
Villages and Bands 1615 to 1855
Aegakotcheising, Anamiewatigong, Apontigoumy, Cheboygan, Keweenaw, L'Arbre Croche, Machonee, Manistee, Menawzbetaunaung, Michilimackinac (Mackinac), Middle Village, Muskegan, Obidgewong, St. Ignace, Saint Simon, Waganakisi (Waganaski, Waganukizze), Wequetonsing.
Agushawas, Blanchard's Fork, Meshkemau, Ogontz, Oquanoxa, Roche de Boeuf, Tawa Town, Tondagonie (The Dog),