The Ojibwe: Background information when reading The Round House

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The Round House

A Novel

by Louise Erdrich

The Round House by Louise Erdrich X
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
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    Oct 2012, 336 pages
    Sep 2013, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Ojibwe

Print Review

Known as the Chippewa; Ojibway; Ojibwa; and in their own words, the Anishinabe, (meaning "original man" and alluding to a creation story); the Ojibwe are thought to have migrated from the northeast (perhaps from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, according to late nineteenth-century history). They then settled in Southern Canada as well as the Great Lakes region of the United States. ClansThey organized by clans, often named after birds, animals, or fish, and maintained a woodlands lifestyle, including fishing, trapping, gathering wild rice, and maple sugaring. Excellent hunters, the Ojibwe prospered during the French fur trade, began acquiring weapons, and became one of the most powerful Native American groups. Ojibwe in the plains regions adapted to buffalo culture; in North Dakota, setting of The Round House, The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians is the group with federal recognition.

Today, The Turtle Mountain Band boasts a tribal enrollment of over 30,000; the majority live off the reservation. The reservation in Belcourt, Rolette County is twelve by six miles, though The Turtle Mountain Band's land holdings include public domain allotments, some of which are located in Montana and South Dakota. Poverty rates exceed half the population and unemployment is nearly one third. Since 2002, a community renewal initiative has been working with the aid of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to improve opportunities and services. Noteworthy resources in the area include Turtle Mountain Community College, a founding member of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. The current chairman of The Turtle Mountain Band is Merle St. Claire.

Did you know:

  • Ojibwe ("to pucker") refers to the unique seam in Ojibwe moccasins.
  • The Ojibwe are known for their use of birchbark in everyday items and lightweight canoes. Also for their floral beadwork designs, and a storytelling tradition.
  • Mary Bigwind and Maggie Skinaway Making Birch Bark Containers
  • The Ojibwe lived in wigwams, which were covered in birch bark or woven mats. They often gathered in groups of several wigwams in the summers, and spread out in the winters.
  • Ojibwe and Chippewa are the same word, but pronounced with different accents. The similarity between the two becomes apparent if an "O" is placed in front of Chippewa (O'chippewa).

To learn some Ojibwe words, go to The Ojibwe People's Dictionary.

Photo credit: Minnesota Historical Society Collections

Article by Karen Rigby

This article was originally published in October 2012, and has been updated for the September 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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