Long before the Ojibwe people lived on reservations throughout northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, they lived in the northeast alongside what they called the Great Salt Water. It has been said that long ago their “people were so many and so powerful that if one was to climb the highest mountain and look in all directions, they would not be able to see the end of the Ojibwe nation” (Swan, Who We Are as Anishinabe). But, one day they were instructed by the great Megis (sea-shell) to migrate west or they would be destroyed. The great Megis said they were to stop once they reached an island shaped like a turtle and then later at the place where the food grows on water.
Around the 900 CE the Ojibwe, along with the Ottawa and Potawatomi people, began their migration, moving west along the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes , settling and resettling along the way. Once they reached the confluence of Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron, the three groups split up.
The Ojibwe split into two groups—one settling along the northern shore of Lake Superior and one settling along the southern shore. Those who migrated along the southern shore finally settled at Moningwunakauning, the place of the golden-breasted woodpecker. Today, this place is called La Pointe, or Madeline Island. Here the Ojibwe found Manomin (Wild Rice) growing on the waters in Chequamegon Bay. It was the place the creator had foretold—the place where food grows on water.
The Ojibwe thrived at Moningwunakauning, which became the spiritual and economic center of Ojibwe life. It is estimated that there once lived a large community of Ojibwe on the island that numbered over 10,000 people. Over time, it became their ancient homeland. Eventually, the Ojibwe people spread throughout the region into Wisconsin, Minnesota, and as far west as Montana.
Mike Swan, Who We Are as Anishinabe, Accessed May 28, 2018, http://anishinaabemodaa.com/data/upfiles/media/Who%20Are%20We%20-%20Seven%20Prophets.pdf.
“The Ancient History of the Ojibwe People to the Nineteenth Century,” Wiigwaasi-Jiimaan: Birchbark Canoe, Accessed May 28, 2018, https://canoe.csumc.wisc.edu/LdFCanoe_subpage_North_History_1.html.
Thomas Peacock and Marlene Wisuri, Ojibwe Waasa Inaabidaa: We Look in All Directions, (Afton, MN: Afton Historical Press, 2002).