July 11, 2012

Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians


Ancestors of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians were Anishinaabeg fishing tribes whose settlements dotted the upper Great Lakes around Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, throughout the St. Marys River system and the Straits of Mackinac. Anishnaabeg legends recall the ice packs breaking on Lake Nipissing and archeologists have found Anishinaabeg sites from 3000 B.C. Legends speak of immigrations to and from the Great Lakes over the centuries.

Official Tribal Name: Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Address: 523 Ashmun St., Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783 
Phone: 906-635-6050 or Toll Free 1-800-793-0660 
Fax: 906-635-4969

Official Website:

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning: Anishinaabeg, which can mean ‘Original People’ or ‘Spontaneous Beings’

Common Name/ Meaning of Common Name:  Bahweting, a place name meaning Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced “Soo Saint”)

Alternate names / Alternate spellings: Sault Tribe, Soo Tribe, Anishinaababe (singular), Anishiaabeg (plural), Chipewa, Chipawa, Anishinababe, Ojibway, Ojibwe, Ojibwa, Chippewa, Algonquin,  More names for Ojibwe

Formerly the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Michigan

Ojibwe / Chippewa in other languages:

Aoechisaeronon or Eskiaeronnon (Huron)
Assisagigroone (Iroquois)
Axshissayerunu (Wyandot)
Bawichtigouek or Paouichtigouin (French)
Bedzaqetcha (Tsattine)
Bedzietcho (Kawchodinne)
Dewakanha (Mohawk)
Dshipowehaga (Caughnawaga)
Dwakanen (Onondaga)
Hahatonwan (Dakota)
Hahatonway (Hidatsa)
Jumper, Kutaki (Fox)
Leaper, Neayaog (Cree)
Nwaka (Tuscarora)
Ostiagahoroone (Iroquois)
Rabbit People (Plains Cree)
Regatci or Negatce (Winnebago)
Saulteur (Saulteaux)
Sore Face (Hunkpapa Lakota)
Sotoe (British)
Wahkahtowah (Assiniboine)

Regions: Northeast –> Plains Indians –>Chippewa Indians

State(s) Today: Michigan

Traditional Territory: The Chippewa remember a time when they lived close to a great sea, traditionally called the Land of the Dawn (Waabanakiing), where they were ravaged by sickness and death. It is theorized that they lived as far away as the Atlantic near the gulf of the St. Lawrence, but more than likely it was Hudson Bay.  They have a pictograph engraved scroll written on birchbark that records their migrations.

Colder weather forced the Chippewas south to the East side of Lake Huron.  They continued to expand west, south, and east through fur trade and wars with the Iroquois. 

By the early 1700s the Chippewa controlled most of what would now be Michigan and southern Ontario.  Further fur trade with the French brought them west of Lake Superior, and into a war with the Dakota Sioux in 1737.  During their battles in the next century, they were able to force the Sioux out of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

By 1800 Chippewa people were living in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. No other tribe has ever controlled so much land.   Canada recognizes more than 130 Ojibwe First Nations in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.  The United States gives federal recognition to 22 Chippewa groups. 

Confederacy:  Council of Three Fires, Ojibwe

Treaties: The Chippewa have signed 51 treaties with the U.S. government, more than any other tribe.  They’ve also signed more than 30 treaties with the French, British, and Canadians. The first treaties with the United States in 1820 were signed by chiefs whose signatories identified them as members of the Sault (Soo) Band and other bands. The tribe has lived in the Great Lakes region for at least a 1,000 years.

Reservations: Sault Saint Marie Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land

The Sault Tribe was accorded federal recognition by memorandum of the United States federal government Commissioner of Indian Affairs on September 7, 1972. Land was first taken in trust for the tribe by deed dated May 17, 1973, and approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on March 7, 1974. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs formally declared the trust land to be a reservation for the tribe on February 20, 1975 with notice published in the Federal Register on February 27, 1975. The land is located in both the city of Sault Ste. Marie and in Sugar Island Township, east of the city.

Today, the Sault Tribe is located across the eastern Upper Peninsula counties of Chippewa, Luce, Mackinac, Schoolcraft, Alger, Delta and Marquette, Michigan, with housing and tribal centers, casinos, and other enterprises that employ both Natives and non-Natives and fund tribal programs.
Land Area:
Tribal Headquarters: The modern tribal organization has its roots on Sugar Island in the St. Mary’s River between the U.S. state of Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario.
Time Zone:

Population at Contact: Made up of numerous independent bands, the entire Ojibwe bands were so spread out that few early French estimates of them were even close. 35,000 has been suggested, but there were probably two to three times as many in 1600. The British said there were about 25-30,000 Ojibwe in 1764, but the the Americans in 1843 listed 30,000 in just the United States. The 1910 census (low-point for most tribes) gave 21000 in the United States and 25,000 in Canada – total 46,000. By 1970 this had increased to almost 90,000.

Registered Population Today: Approximately 44,000 Sault Ste. Marie tribal members. In 1979 a resolution was passed allowing Mackinac Band members to enroll, thus doubling the number of members. Some claim more than 51 percent of today’s Sault Tribe consist of Mackinac Bands. Some Mackinac Band members continue work on receiving their own federal recognition and have formed the state recognized tribe the Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians.

Collectively, there are 130,000 Ojibwe in United States and 60,000 in Canada. The 190,000 total represents only enrolled Ojibwe and does not include Canadian Métis, many of whom have Ojibwe blood. If these were added, the Ojibwe would be the largest Native American group north of Mexico. 

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

In February 1998, the membership rolls for the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe closed to all adults. The biological minor children of full bonifide members are still being enrolled. To enroll a minor child, at least one biological parent must be enrolled with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe. Enrollment is free for children under 18. Applicants that are over 18 and under the age of 21 are subject to a $25.00 non-refundable enrollment application fee.

In 2011, the Tribal Membership Ordinance was amended to include applications for persons who were unable to trace ancestry due to sealed child custody records, unrecognized paternity, or out-of-home placements.  These applicants must still be able to trace their ancestry pursuant to Section 11.106 of the Membership Ordinance and are subject to a $25.00 non-refundable application fee. Contact the Enrollment Office at 800-251-6597 for more information. 

Genealogy Resources:


The board members represent the five units of the tribe’s service area in the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Five board members represent Unit I, two board members represent Unit II, two board members represent Unit III, two board members represent Unit IV, and one board member represents Unit V. The chairperson is elected at large and serves as a member of the board. 

Name of Governing Body: The governing body of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is the Board of Directors.

Number of Council members: There are 12 board members and one chairperson who are all elected into office. 
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers: Chairman, plus following each election, the board of directors selects from within its membership a Vice Chairperson, a Treasurer and a Secretary.

Elections: Board terms are four years. Elections are held every two years and half of the board seats are up for election during each cycle, with the chairperson seat up for election every four years.

Language Classification: Algic -> Algonquian -> Central Algonquian -> Ojibwe -> Chippewa

The Ojibwe language is known as Anishinaabemowin or Ojibwemowin. Ojibwemowin is the fourth-most spoken Native language in North America (US and Canada) after Navajo, Cree, and Inuktitut. Many decades of fur trading with the French established the language as one of the key trade languages of the Great Lakes and the northern Great Plains.

Its sister languages include Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Cree, Fox, Menominee, Potawatomi, and Shawnee among the northern Plains tribes. Anishinaabemowin is frequently referred to as a “Central Algonquian” language; however, Central Algonquian is an area grouping rather than a linguistic genetic one.

Language Dialects: Ojibwemowin 

Chippewa (also known as Southwestern Ojibwa, Ojibwe, Ojibway, or Ojibwemowin) is an Algonquian language spoken from upper Michigan westward to North Dakota in the United States. It represents the southern component of the Ojibwe language.

Chippewa is part of the Algonquian language family and an indigenous language of North America. Chippewa is part of the dialect continuum of Ojibwe (including Chippewa, Ottawa, Algonquin, and Oji-Cree), which is closely related to Potawatomi. It is spoken on the southern shores of Lake Superior and in the areas toward the south and west of Lake Superior in Michigan and Southern Ontario.

The speakers of this language generally call it Anishinaabemowin (the Anishinaabe language) or more specifically, Ojibwemowin (the Ojibwa language). There is a large amount of variation in the language. Some of the variations are caused by ethnic or geographic heritage, while other variations occur from person to person. There is no single standardization of the language as it exists as a dialect continuum: “It exists as a chain of interconnected local varieties, conventionally called dialects.” Some varieties differ greatly and can be so diverse that speakers of two different varieties cannot understand each other.

The Chippewa Language or the Southwestern dialect of the Ojibwe language is divided into four smaller dialects:

  • Upper Michigan-Wisconsin Chippewa: on Keweenaw Bay, Lac Vieux Desert, Lac du Flambeau, Red Cliff, Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, St. Croix and Mille Lacs (District III).
  • Central Minnesota Chippewa: on Mille Lacs (Districts I and II), Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, White Earth and Turtle Mountain.
  • Red Lake Chippewa: on Red Lake
  • Minnesota Border Chippewa: on Grand Portage and Bois Forte

Number of fluent Speakers:


Origins of the Ojibwes: The Ojibwe Peoples are a major component group of the Anishinaabe-speaking peoples, a branch of the Algonquian language family. The Anishinaabe peoples include the Algonquin, Nipissing, Oji-Cree, Odawa and the Potawatomi. 

Bands, Gens, and Clans:

Dodems (clans) vary regionally. There are seven original clans: Crane, Loon, Bear, Fish, Marten, Deer and Bird. Cranes and loons are leaders, playing two different roles. Bear are police and healers. Fish are intellectuals and mediators. Marten are warriors. Deer are poets and peacemakers. Birds are spiritual people. There are more clans now, such as Wolf and Eagle. See Ojibwa, Chippewa and Potawatomi for a more detailed account of the migration of the bands and clans from the east coast to their present locations.

Today the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe consists of more than 20 bands, about half of which are Mackinac Band members.

The Midewiwin Society is well respected as the keeper of detailed and complex scrolls of events, oral history, songs, maps, memories, stories, geometry, and mathematics.

Related Tribes:

Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians
Chippewa-Cree Indians of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation
Citizen Potawatomi Nation
Forest County Potawatomi
Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
Hannaville Indian Community
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
La Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Lac de Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians
Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Potawatomi
Minnesota Chippewa Tribe
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
Saginaw Chippewa Indians
Sokaogon Chippewa Community
St. Croix Chippewa Indians
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

Traditional Allies: Ottawa and Potawatomi. These three were once all part of the same Ojibwe tribe and are thought to have separated about 1550. For the most part, the Ojibwe were a peaceful nation.  The Chippewa were located well north of the early flow of European settlement, so they rarely had any conflicts with settlers.They were friendly with the white men, and even served as middlemen in trading between French fur traders and the Sioux. 

Traditional Enemies: Iroquois Confederacy and the Sioux. The Chippewa took scalps, but as a rule they killed and did not torture, except for very isolated incidents. Like other Great Lakes warriors, there was ritual cannibalism of their dead enemies. 

The Dakota Sioux were by far their biggest enemy.  For 130 years, the Ojibwe and Sioux battled contiuously until the Treaty of 1825, when the two tribes were separated.  The Sioux recieved what is now southern Minnesota, while the Chippewas received most of northern Minnesota.

The Chippewa were the largest and most powerful tribe in the Great Lakes area.  The Sioux are perhaps better known today, but the Chippewa were the tribe who defeated the Iroquois in wars, and forced the Sioux from their native lands. 

Ceremonies / Dances:

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

River of History Museum, Sault Ste. Marie, MI

Legends / Oral Stories:

Anishnaabek (Ojibwe) interpretation of the medicine wheel
Creation of Turtle Mountain
Father of Indian Corn How Bats Came to Be How dog came to be
How Rainbows Came to Be
Mother, we will never leave you
Nokomis and the spider: story of the dreamcatcher
Ojibway Creation Story
Ojibway Migration Story
Ojibway Oral Teaching: Wolf and man
The close your eyes dance
The Dreamcatcher Legend
The First Butterflies
Thunderbirds and Fireflies
Why birds go south in winter
Winabojo and the Birch Tree

Arts & Crafts: The Chippewa is best known for birch bark contaniners and intricate beadwork, usually with a floral pattern.

Are Dream Catchers Losing the Native Tradition?

Animals: Woodland Ojibwe rarely used horses or hunted buffalo, although there was a now extinct species of Woodland Bison in the Northeastern woods.  Dogs were the only domestic animal and a favorite dish served at their feasts.

The more southerly Chippewas did adopt the horse and hunted buffalo like other Plains Cultures.

Clothing: The Chippewa wore buckskin clothing, with a buckskin shirt and fur cape in colder weather. In warmer weather men wore just breechcloths and leggings. Women also wore leggings with long dresses with removable sleeves. Later, the Chippewas adapted European costume such as cloth blouses and jackets, decorating them with fancy beadwork.

The Chippewa had distinctive moccasins with puffed seams that were colored with red, yellow, blue and green dyes.  Men wore their hair in long braids in times of peace, and sometimes in a scalplock during wars. Women also wore their hair in long braids.

Many Chippewa warriors also wore a porcupine roach. In the 1800’s, Chippewa chiefs started wearing long headdresses like the Sioux. The Chippewas painted bright colors on their faces and arms for special occasions,using different patterns of paint for war and festive decoration. The Chippewas, especially men, also wore tribal tattoos.

Housing: Domed Wigwams covered with birch bark were the homes of the northern Chippewa. When a family moved, they rolled up the birch bark covering and took it with them, but left the pole frame behind. Plains Chippewa adopted the buffalo hide tipi of the Plains Culture, and took their poles with them when they moved, since trees were hard to find on the open Plains.

Subsistance: Most Ojibwe were classic Woodlands culture, but since different groups lived across such a wide area, there were significant differences in individual groups.  Some Ojibwe villages in the southern part of their range were larger and permanent with the cultivation of corn, squash, beans, and tobacco; while others in the plains adopted the Buffalo culture, and developed different ceremonies, art, and clothing. 

Most Chippewa lived in the northern Great Lakes area with a short growing season and poor soil. They were hunter-gatherers whose main harvests were wild rice and maple tree sap, which was boiled down into a thick syrup. The Chippewa generally mixed everything with maple syrup as seasoning.

Woodland Ojibwe had no salt to preserve food and kept their food in birch bark baskets because birch bark contains tannin, which is a natural preservative. Food in tightly sealed birch bark containers can be preserved for years. They often hid food in underground caches stashed along their seasonal routes, so when fresh foods were scarce there was always a stash of food nearby.

They were skilled hunters and trappers.  Fishing, especially for sturgeon, which grow to over six feet long, provided much of the protein in their diet and became progressively more important in the northernmost bands. 

Bark from birch trees was very important to the Chippewa.  They used birch bark for almost everything: utensils, storage containers, wigwam covers and, most importantly, canoes. Coming in a variety of sizes depending on the purpose they were to be used for, the birch bark canoe was lighter than the dugouts used by the Sioux and other tribes.

Economy Today: The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians owns a furniture and flooring store, a carpet cleaning business, two convenience stores, five casinos and hotels, and two rental apartment complexes. It also owns Chi Mukwa (Big Bear) Recreation Center, which holds Olympic and NHL-size ice rinks, a basketball court, a volleyball court, aerobics room, and fitness areas in Sault Ste. Marie.

Since 1993, the Sault Tribe has disbursed 2 percent payments twice annually to Upper Peninsula communities and organizations. Funds are distributed to communities extending from St. Ignace to Manistique, to Marquette to Sault Ste. Marie. To date, more than $31 million has been awarded by the tribe based on 2 percent of slot revenue from the tribe’s Kewadin Casino properties in Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, Hessel, Manistique and Christmas.

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs: The original religious society is known as Midewiwin or Grand Medicine. In modern times, the people may belong to the Midewiwin, one or more of the Big Drum societies, or a Christian Sect, primarily Catholic and Methodist.

Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs: A person is not allowed to marry someone within the same clan. Polygamy was rare.

Education and Media:

The tribe has emphasized education for its youth, offering several college scholarships for its members, and helped found the Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Anishnabe Public School Academy in Sault Ste. Marie. The school was renamed in 1998 to honor Lumsden, a late tribal leader who helped develop the tribe’s first housing, education and health programs.



Tribal elders named the Sault Tribe’s newspaper, now in its 36th year, Win Awenen Nisitotung, which means “One Who Understands.” Its role is to inform and educate tribal members and the public about Sault Tribe and important local, state and national issues that could affect the tribe or its members. But more than that, it brings tribal members news about their families and community.

The newspaper is published once each month and is mailed directly to elders and each tribal household requesting it. Paid subscriptions for the print edition are available to non-members and the digital edition is available at no charge. For a paid subscription or advertising information, or to submit a submission, contact 906-632-6398 or

Ojibwe / Chippewa People of Note

Renae Morriseau

Catastrophic Events:

Tribe History:

Long before European settlers came onto Indian lands, the Chippewas lived in the east. Their westward migration may have happened as far back as 11,500 years ago. They followed the Saint Lawrence River and settled in several location including Mooniyaang (Montreal) and Baweting (Sault Ste. Marie). At Baweting, the Chippewas agreed to colonize new lands to the south, north, and west.

Those Chippewas who migrated south into the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana are known as the Illini, Menominee, Miami, Potawatomi, Sac or Sauk, and Shawnee. Those Chippewas who migrated south all the way to the Gulf of Mexico including Florida, are the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. In the Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi region the Chippewas are known as the Atakapa, Natchez, Chitimacha, Tunica, and Tonkawa. In the far south, the Chippewas were largely mixed with other Indian Nations and blacks who all were under Chippewa protection.

The Chippewas who migrated to the north and northwest are the Chipewyan and Cree. The Chipewyan migrated northwest into far northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Alaska. The Cree migrated up to northern Ontario, central Manitoba, central Saskatchewan, and central Alberta.

From Baweting, the Chippewas and Odawa or Ottawa of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, migrated west along both the northern and southern shores of Lake Superior. They migrated into the region in northwestern Ontario, between the Ontario-Minnesota border and Fort Severn, Ontario. They eventually colonized the lands of southern Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan, southern Alberta, and southern British Columbia. They also colonized Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, California, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. In California, they are known as the Wappo, Wiyot, Yuki, and Yurok.

Once they learned that Europeans were settling westward, they followed prophecies that were part of their culture and attempted to stop the settlements of Indian lands by the whites. For nearly 400 years they were constantly at war with the white invaders and their Indian allies.

Baweting was a very important location. Baweting was the capital of the eastern Lake Superior Chippewas who are also known as the Saulteaux Indians and the Nez Perce. The Amikwa Chippewas are also known as the Nez Perce.

Chippewa Timeline

In the News:

Further Reading:

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