Member of an American Indian people who had settled around lakes Superior and Huron (now Québec, Ontario, Michigan, and Minnesota) by the 16th century. They share Algonquian linguistic origins with the Algonquin, Ottawa, and Potawatomi. The Chippewa became one of the largest, most powerful peoples in North America. Known for their birch-bark canoes, they used the region's lakes and rivers as a highway network. They fought white encroachment throughout the 19th century, the last battle being at Leach Lake, Minnesota in 1898. Some Chippewa remain on reservations in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Montana in the USA, and in parts of Canada. Their population numbers about 105,900 (2000).
The Chippewa wore buckskin clothes and moccasins that were noted for their puckered seams. Their wigwams resembling domed tents. They hunted, fished, gathered plants, and some bands raised maize (corn), beans, pumpkin, and squash. Wild rice was native to the region and became a staple in the Chippewa diet. In the summer small family bands congregated at fishing sites which dispersed into territorial hunting areas in the autumn. Like other Great Lakes peoples, the Chippewa had a Midewiwin Society, an elite secret religious organization also known as a ‘Grand Medicine Society’. The Chippewa lacked a tribal chief although clan leadership was hereditary and became strengthened as the fur trade expanded. Many Chippewa maintained their aboriginal traditions although this became difficult with the disappearance of game; most are now Christian.
The Chippewa acquired guns from the French, which helped them defeat the Sioux and other peoples in the area and expand their territory from Ontario to the Missouri River, including parts of what are now the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and North Dakota. By the end of the 1700s their population had doubled.
In 1837 the Chippewa began to cede much of their newly gained territory to the US government in a series of treaties. By the 1860s they were living on small parcels of unusable land. In 1884 the remaining Chippewa land was divided into individual allotments, and in 1904 their lands began to be logged. Until World War II they lived on their land in poverty. After the war some migrated to Minneapolis where they were instrumental in the organization of the militant American Indian Movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Chippewa in each state maintain their own tribal council.