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Potawatomi

Potawatomi

ETHNONYM: Potewatmi

In early historic times, the Potawatomi, an Algonkian-speaking tribe closely related to the Ottawa and the Ojibwa, lived in the lower peninsula of Michigan, eastern Wisconsin, northeastern Illinois, and northwestern Indiana. Between 1836 and 1841 a large segment of the tribe moved west of the Mississippi to Iowa, Kansas, or ultimately Oklahoma. Others moved to Canada and Wisconsin, and still others chose to remain in lower Michigan. Their descendants now live on a number of reserves in Canada, intermingled with other Canadian Indian groups, and on a number of reservations and trust areas in the United States. These include the Potawatomi Indian Reservation in Kansas (the Prairie Potawatomi, a very conservative group), the Citizen Band Potawatomi Tribe of Oklahoma, the Potawatomi Indian Reservation in Wisconsin, and the Hannahville Community in Wilson, Michigan. In addition, many Potawatomi have merged with the general U.S. population or with other Indian groupsfor example, with the Kickapoo in Mexico and the United States. Their estimated population in 1600 was about 4,000; in the first half of the nineteenth century there were probably 9,000-10,000 Potawatomi. The population in recent times is difficult to establish, with estimates ranging from about 2,700 to about 13,500. It is not possible to make meaningful comparisons of these latter figures with earlier estimates because of the lack of comparability of degree of blood or sociocultural characteristics between the groups.

The Potawatomi do not seem to have had an overarching tribal organization. The most important political unit was the village, which was moved periodically. Each village had its own chief who was assisted by a village council and a specialized warrior sodality, which acted as a police force. An important local chief might dominate a large number of villages. There was a strongly functioning patrilineal corporate clan system, with a secondary emphasis on matrilineal bonds. There may have been as many as thirty clans, later organized into six phratries or larger units. At one time the clans may have been localized, but with the historical population movements they became distributed among numerous villages. The clan system added cohesion to the tribe as a whole and acted as a means of social placement.

Villages were shifted annually from summer to winter quarters and varied greatly in size, from fifty inhabitants to more than a thousand. Nuclear and extended families existed, with some of the larger extended families running to four generations under the same roof. Polygyny was the preferred form of marriage.

Subsistence was based on a seasonal mixed economy with the summer devoted to horticulture (maize, beans, melons, and squash), the collection of a variety of plant foods, hunting of large game (deer, bear, and in some areas bison), and some fishing. In the winter they dispersed to smaller camps where they continued to hunt. The winter camps combined in the spring for communal hunting drives and fishing expeditions.

Each clan had an associated medicine bundle, origin myth, ritual practices, and obligations. Clans had sodalities (including the Midewiwin, a society of influential sorcerers) and various types of shamans and diviners. The individual vision quest was very important. In later years, they were heavily missionized by several religious denominations.

Bibliography

Clifton, James A. (1977). The Prairie People: Continuity and Change in Potawatomi Culture, 1665-1965. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas.

Clifton, James A. (1978). "Potawatomi." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15, Northeast, edited by Bruce G. Trigger, 725-742. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

Landes, Ruth (1970). The Prairie Potawatomi: Tradition and Ritual in the Twentieth Century. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

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Potawatomi

POTAWATOMI

POTAWATOMI. Closely allied with the Ottawas and Ojibwes, the Potawatomis occupied a broad homeland; from southern Wisconsin it stretched across northern Illinois, northern Indiana, and southern Michigan, to Detroit. From the seventeenth century onward, the Potawatomis were close allies of the French, and of ten assisted them in their colonial wars with the British. During the American Revolution, the easternmost Potawatomi bands supported the British, while Potawatomis from Wisconsin and Illinois were neutral or assisted the Americans. In the post-Revolutionary period, Potawatomis joined the Indian coalition that resisted the American occupation of Ohio and participated in the border warfare of the 1790s. Many Potawatomis later became followers of Tecumseh and the Shawnee Prophet and fought with the British during the War of 1812.


After the War of 1812, many Potawatomis, both men and women, were prosperous traders in the Midwest. During the 1830s, part of the tribe was removed to Iowa and Kansas, and in the decade that followed, consolidated on a reservation near Topeka, Kansas. After the Civil War, the Citizen Band moved to Oklahoma, where they maintained tribal offices in Shawnee. The Prairie Band, a more traditional community, continues to occupy a reservation near in Mayetta, Kansas. Since 1913, the Forest Band has resided on a reservation in Forest County, Wisconsin. Other Potawatomis maintain reservation communities in Michigan and southern Ontario.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Clifton, James. The Prairie People: Continuity and Change in Potawatomi Indian Culture, 1665–1965. Lawrence: The Regents Press of Kansas, 1977.

Edmunds, R. David. The Potawatomis: Keepers of the Fire. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978.

———. Kinsmen through Time: An Annotated Bibliography of Potawatomis History. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1987.

Sleeper-Smith, Susan. Indian Woman and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounters in the Western Great Lakes. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001.

R. DavidEdmunds

See alsoPottawatomie Massacre; Tribes: Prairie; Wars with Indian Nations, Colonial Era to 1783; Wars with Indian Nations, Early Nineteenth Century (1783–1840).

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Potawatomi

Potawatomi (pŏt´əwŏt´əmē), Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). They are closely related to the Ojibwa and Ottawa; their traditions state that all three were originally one people. The Potawatomi are of the Eastern Woodlands cultural area (see under Natives, North American).

In the early 17th cent., when first encountered by the whites, the Potawatomi lived near the mouth of Green Bay in Wisconsin. By the end of the century, however, they had been driven (probably by the Sioux) S along Lake Michigan and were settled on both sides of the southern end of the lake. After the Illinois were conquered (c.1765), they advanced into NE Illinois, S Michigan, and later NW Indiana. They were friendly to the French and aided them against the English. The Potawatomi supported Pontiac's Rebellion, fought against the United States in the battles headed by Little Turtle, took part in the battle of Fallen Timbers, and signed the Treaty of Greenville (1795). They sided with the British in the War of 1812. With the advancing frontier, the Potawatomi retreated westward to Iowa and Kansas, although a portion went to Walpole Island in Canada. From the reservation in Kansas where they had gathered, a large group moved (1868) to Oklahoma Indian Territory; this group, which held lands in severalty, became known as Citizen Potawatomi. They also have reservations in Michigan and Wisconsin. In 1990 there were close to 17,000 Potawatomi in the United States; another group has a reserve in Ontario. Their name is also spelled Potawatami, Pottawatami, and Pottawatomi.

See R. Landes, The Prairie Potawatomi (1970).

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Potawatomi

Potawatomi Algonquian-speaking Native Americans. Originally united with the Ottawa and the Ojibwa, these semi-sedentary hunter-farmers were driven by the Sioux se from Wisconsin, migrating as far as Indiana before being driven w by white settlers. They were eventually settled on reservations in Oklahoma, Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin, where they now number about 2,000.

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