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   In 1600 the Potawatomi lived in the northern third of lower Michigan. Threatened by the Ontario tribes trading with the French (Neutrals, Tionontati, Ottawa, and Huron) during the late 1630s, the Potawatomi began leaving their homeland in 1641 and moved to the west side of Lake Michigan in northern Wisconsin. This was completed during the 1650s after the Iroquois defeated the French allies and swept into lower Michigan.
The History of Native American Tribes. Potawatomi seal

Potawatomi seal

The History of Native American Tribes. Potawatomi home

Potawatomi home

   By 1665 all of the Potawatomi were living on Wisconsin's Door Peninsula just east of Green Bay. They remained there until 1687 when the French and Great Lakes Algonquin began driving the Iroquois back to New York. As the Iroquois retreated, the Potawatomi moved south along the west shore of Lake Michigan reaching the south end by 1695. Shortly after the French built Fort Ponchartrain at Detroit in 1701, groups of Potawatomi settled nearby. By 1716 most Potawatomi villages were located in a area between Milwaukee to Detroit. During the 1760s they expanded into northern Indiana and central Illinois.

   Land cessions to the Americans began in 1807 and during the next 25 years drastically reduced their territory. Removal west of the Mississippi occurred between 1834 and 1842. The Potawatomi were removed in two groups: the Prairie and Forest Bands from northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin went to Council Bluffs in southwest Iowa; and the Potawatomi of the Woods (Michigan and Indian bands) were relocated to eastern Kansas near Osawatomie. In 1846 the two groups merged and were placed on a single reservation north of Topeka. Arguments over allotment and citizenship led to their separation in 1867. The Citizen Potawatomi left for Oklahoma and settled near present-day Shawnee. Most of their lands were lost to allotment in 1889. The Prairie Potawatomi stayed in Kansas and still have a reservation. Several Potawatomi groups avoided removal and remained in the Great Lakes. Three are in Michigan: the Huron Potawatomi in the south-central; the Pokagon Potawatomi in southwest and northern Indiana, and the Hannaville Potawatomi of upper peninsula. The Forest County Potawatomi live in northeast Wisconsin, and the Canadian Potawatomi in southern Ontario have become part of the Walpole Island and the Stoney Point and Kettle Point First Nations.

The History of Native American Tribes. Potawatomi Man

Potawatomi man

   Estimates of the original Potawatomi population range as high as 15,000, but 8,000 is probably closer to the truth. Although they had undergone 30 years of war, relocation, and epidemic, the French estimated there were about 4,000 in 1667. Since all Potawatomi bands had gathered into four villages near Green Bay at that time, this probably was fairly accurate. Later estimates vary between 1,200 to 3,400, but the Potawatomi had separated into many bands, and these estimates failed to list all of them. Accurate counts were not possible until the Potawatomi had been moved to Kansas. In 1854 the Indian Bureau listed 3,440 on the reservation, but some had left with the Kickapoo for northern Mexico. The report also mentioned 600 "strolling Potawatomi," who had avoided removal and were somewhere in Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. It also failed to include the 4,600 Potawatomi in Canada. The 1910 census listed 2,440 Potawatomi in the United States, with another 180 in Canada - total of 2,620. The current population of all Potawatomi in Canada and the United States is almost 28,000.

The History of Native American Tribes. Potawatomi woman

Potawatomi woman
   The Potawatomi name is a translation of the Ojibwe "potawatomink" meaning "people of the place of fire." Similar renderings of this are: Fire Nation, Keepers of the Sacred Fire, and People of the Fireplace - all of which refer to the role of the Potawatomi as the keeper of the council fire in an earlier alliance with the Ojibwe and Ottawa. In their own language, the Potawatomi refer to themselves as the Nishnabek or "people" (similar to the Ojibwe name for themselves, Anishinabe (Anishinaubag, Neshnabek).

The History of Native American Tribes. Simon Kanquados Potawatomi Chief, Rat River, Wisconsin

Simon Kanquados
Potawatomi Chief,
Rat River, Wisconsin

   Citizen Potawatomi - Federally recognized, the Citizen Potawatomi are the largest Potawatomi group. Most are descended from the Potawatomi of the Woods (southern Michigan and northern Indiana) including the Mission Band from St. Joseph in southwest Michigan. Acculturated and mostly Christian, it was easier for them to accept allotment and citizenship in 1861 than the more traditional Prairie Potawatomi. This led to a separation (not on the best of terms) in 1870 when the Citizens moved to Oklahoma. Allotment took most of their land in 1889, and they have kept only 4,371 acres, less than two acres of which is tribally owned! Most Citizen Potawatomi have remained in Oklahoma - the Indian Bureau listing 1,768 of them in 1908 - but during the dust bowl of the 1930s, many left for California. Headquartered in Shawnee, they are organized under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act with a current enrollment of more than 18,000.


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