According to the oral history of the Anishinabek and from their recordings in birch bark scrolls, the Ojibwa came from the eastern areas of North America, or Turtle Island (the English language translation of many Native American tribes' name for the continent of North America), and from along the east coast. They traded widely across the continent for thousands of years and knew of the canoe routes west and a land route to the West Coast.
When the Anishinabek were living on the shores of the "Great Salt Water" (presumably the Atlantic Ocean near the Gulf of St. Lawrence). They were instructed by seven prophets to follow a sacred miigis shell, a whiteshell (cowry) toward the west, until they reached a place where food grew upon the water. They began their migration sometime around 950 C.E., stopping at various points along the way, most significantly at Baawitigong, Sault Ste. Marie, where they stayed for a long time, and where two subgroups decided to stay (these became the Potawatomi and Ottawa). Eventually they arrived at the wild rice lands of Minnesota and Wisconsin (wild rice being the food that grew upon the water) and made Mooningwanekaaning minis (Madeline Island: "Island of the yellow-shafted flicker") their new capital. In total, the migration took around five centuries.
Following the migration there was a cultural divergence separating the Potawatomi from the Ojibwa and Ottawa. Particularly, the Potawatomi did not adopt the agricultural innovations discovered or adopted by the Ojibwa, such as the Three Sisters crop complex, copper tools, conjugal collaborative farming, and the use of canoes in rice harvesting (Waldman 2006). Also, the Potawatomi divided labor according to gender, much more than did the Ojibwa and Ottawa.The Potawatomi (also spelled Pottawatomie or Pottawatomi) are a Native American people originally of the Great Lakes region. They traditionally speak the Potawatomi language, a member of the Algonquian family.
The Potawatomi controlled a vast amount of territory in the 1700s and served as middlemen for the fur trade between the French and various Great Lakes Tribes. Among the first Native Americans to intermarry with the Europeans, they fought alongside the French in the French and Indian Wars and later as allies of the British in the War of 1812.
Descendant’s numbers between 30,000 to 40,000 in the early twenty-first century, scattered throughout Canada and the United States, with many settled on or near the ten (official and unofficial) reservations. Most of today's Potawatomi also claim European descendancy.