Origin and History
The Odawa (aka Ottawa, meaning “Traders”) people are an Algonquian-speaking group of Native Americans. In the early 1600s, they were approx. 8,000 and inhabited the Manitoulin Island, the Bruce Peninsula of the Georgian Bay, the northern reaches of Lake Huron and the valley of the Ottawa River. They were traditional allies of the Chippewa People and Potawatomi People, with whom they probably shared common ancestry. They were also allied with the Wyandot People and took part in their trade with the French.
In the 1630s, the Odawa people began to relocate to Mackinac in Upper Michigan.
After the defeat of the Wyandot at the hands of the Iroquois Confederacy, in 1649, the Odawa people assumed the role of middlemen in the fur trade with the French. In 1651, they were attacked by the Iroquois and took refuge in the region of present-day Green Bay. In 1658, some migrated as far as Keweenaw Bay in Lake Superior. A last group ended up on Chequamegon Bay in Northern Wisconsin after many tribulations.
In 1670, the French assured the Odawa people of their support and many of them returned to Manitoulin Island. Another group joined the Wendat of Detroit at Mackinac in present-day Michigan.
Throughout the French and Indian Wars (1689-1763), the Odawa people were an unfailing ally of the French.
In 1701, many Odawa bands moved from Mackinac to Detroit, where the French had established a trading post. By that time, their territory extended into present-day Ohio, along the Maumee, the Auglaize, and the Blanchard rivers.
In 1741, the Odawa bands established at Mackinac relocated to Grand Traverse Bay in Lower Michigan, with some bands moving as far south as the Grand River.
In June 1752, Odawa warriors took part in the expedition of Charles Langlade against the British trading post at Pickawillany (prresent-day Piqua, Ohio), which had been established among the Miami People. The trading post was destroyed on June 21.
In 1763, after the defeat of the French and the occupation of their former forts on the Great Lakes by British troops, Odawa warriors, led by Pontiac, rebelled against Great Britain. The uprising spread to several Native American peoples of the region but it was finally quenched.
By 1768, the British estimated the Odawa people to approx. 5,000.
From 1831 to 1867, many Odawa families were gradually relocated to Kansas. Later on, the Odawa people was forced to migrate to Oklahoma. In Canada, the Odawa still have reserves on Manitoulin Island and Cockburn Island.
Role during the War
On July 9, 1755, some Odawa warriors under Pontiac may have taken part in the Ambush on the Monongahela, although there is no direct evidence
On September 11, 1756, a party of 300 Native American warriors (Iroquois of Canada, Chippewas and Odawas) arrived at Carillon to take part in operations on Lake Champlain. On September 16, some of these warriors took part in an expedition in the direction of Fort Edward and Fort William Henry.
On January 21, 1757, Odawa warriors, under M. de Langlade, took part in a skirmish near Fort Carillon against a party Rogers' Rangers, where nearly half of the rangers were killed. By July 20, during the French expedition against Fort William Henry, 283 Odawa warriors from seven distinct bands under Chief Pennahouel formed part of Langlade’s Brigade. On July 29, some 200 Mississauga and Odawa warriors deserted from the French camp near Carillon. During that campaign, Odawa warriors contracted smallpox and brought back the disease to their villages that winter. The ensuing smallpox epidemic forced many Native American peoples out of the war.
At the beginning of September 1758, some Odawa warriors joined the reinforcements sent to the defence of Fort Duquesne.
On June 18, 1759 a party of Odawa warriors arrived at Québec to take part in the defence of the town. They were soon followed by 230 Odawa warriors on June 29. On July 9, a skirmish occurred near the fall of Montmorency, where Dank's Rangers were attacked and defeated by a party of Canadians and Ottawa warriors who were in turn repulsed by the grenadiers of the 28th Foot. In this affair, Dank lost 13 killed and 7 wounded, the 60th Royal American lost 14 killed and several wounded. The Canadiens lost 4 killed and 1 wounded, the Odawas 3 killed and 4 wounded.
In 1615, when Champlain first met Odawa warriors, he described them as follows:
- “Their arms consisted only of a bow and arrows, a buckler of boiled leather and the club. They wore no breech clouts, their bodies were tattooed in many fashions and designs, their faces painted and their noses pierced.”
N. B.: We have been unable to find more contemporaneous descriptions of the dress of this Native American people that would distinguish them from other peoples. If you can suggest sources documenting such characteristics, please do not hesitate to contact us with your suggestions.
Bows and arrows with flint tips were the traditional weapons of Odawa warriors. War clubs were also used. By mid XVIIIth century metal knives and hatchets were common, as well as tomahawks with iron blades.
After 1650, as the main trading partners of the French, the Odawa warriors soon acquired musket.
Sulzman, Lee: Ottawa History
Waldman, Carl: Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, Revised Edition, pp. 178-179
Wikipedia – Odawa
N.B.: the section Role during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.