History Archives Library

The Ottawa Tribe Of Oklahoma

The name “Ottawa” is from the Indian word “adawe” meaning to trade. This name was appropriate because of the extensive trading with other tribes and their eventual involvement with the French. The Frenchman, Champlain, in 1615, recorded meeting the Ottawa near the French River in Canada. The Ottawa were very important to the fur trade. The Ottawa would go out and trade the other tribes for their fur and then they would trade that to the French. The Ottawa were generally counted as allies of the Huron and the French during the French and Indian war. The Ottawa lived in wigwams, or wikis. They wore buckskin clothing.

One of the greatest Indian chiefs to appear on the American continent was Chief Pontiac. Pontiac was the head of a loose confederacy consisting of Ottawa, Ojibwa, and Pottawatomies.

The Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma is made up of descendants of the Ottawa who after migrating from Canada into Michigan agreed to live in the area around Fort Detroit and the Maumee River in Ohio. After the passage of President Jackson’s Indian Removal Bill in 1830 there were villages in Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. In 1833, they signed over their lands in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. They were very hesitant to move, and it wasn’t until April 1837, that the Ottawa of Blanchard’s Fork, Roche de Boeuf, and Oquanoxies’s Village agreed to immigrate to a new site in Kansas. Within five years of the move nearly half of the Ottawa had died.

The Ottawa knew that in order to survive their children must be educated. In 1862 the Ottawa were allotted 74,000 acres of land. The Ottawa gave 20,000 acres of that land to be used and sold to raise money to build a Baptist school for the education of whites and Indians. This university was named after the Ottawa. The Indians made an arrangement with the university that the Ottawa children would be educated free of charge. The reservation where the Ottawa lived became a township named after them. They lived there until 1867.

In 1867, the Ottawa sold their land in Kansas and moved to Indian Territory, in Oklahoma. There they entered into a contract with the Shawnee tribe to purchase approximately 14863 acres, which was part of the Shawnee reservation. When the tribe moved to Oklahoma in 1867 more of the Ottawa had died and only about 200 were left.

In 1956 The United States Government decided that the Ottawa Tribe served no purpose and terminated them. This was a long dark period in the Tribes history but we did not give up and on May 15, 1978 the Ottawa Tribe was restored. The Ottawa Tribe was reestablished as a federally recognized government when the Ottawa Council and U.S. Congress ratified the Constitution in 1979.

The Government structure of the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma was made up of band chiefs who formed a governing council with a head chief. Each band elected their own chief and then these chiefs would elect a head chief. Now we have a chief, second chief, sec/tres, first councilman, and second councilman. These people are elected from every member of the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma age 18 and over.

For more information concerning Tribal history or the Tribal library contact librarian Rhonda Dixon  Hayworth at 918-542-6162