The Ottawa [Or Odawa, Canadian] originally lived along the Ottawa River in eastern Ontario and western Quebec at the time of European arrival in the early 1600s. Their historic homelands also included Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, and what is now Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Ottawa moved into northern Ohio around 1740. They spoke an Algonquian language; and are thus related to the Delaware (Lenape), the Miami, and the Shawnee. Historically, the Ottawa were enemies with the Iroquois nation, and with the Wyandot because of the former's ties to the Iroquois.
The Ottawa's political alliances were complicated and changed with the times. Some Ottawa were allies of the French until British traders moved into the Ohio Country in the early 1700s. Many Ottawa moved into northern Ohio so that they could participate in the fur trade with the British. They lived in villages along the Cuyahoga, Maumee, and Sandusky Rivers, but the British were not content just to trade. Unlike the French, the British wanted to build forts and towns.
Pontiac was a famous Ottawa leader. In 1763, he led a number of American Indians across several tribes in a resistance effort, in attempt to drive the British from American Indian-held lands. The so-called "Pontiac's Rebellion" destroyed nine out of eleven British forts in the Great Lakes region. The American Indian coalition united under Pontiac, however, could not defeat the strong British forts at Detroit (Fort Detroit) and Pittsburgh (Fort Pitt). Pontiac’s Rebellion came to an end after Colonel Henry Bouquet led a large army from Fort Pitt into Ohio to force the American Indians to make peace.
During the American Revolution, the Ottawa fought for the British against the Americans. When the British surrendered to the Americans, the British turned their backs on their American Indian allies. The Ottawas continued to fight the Americans.
General Anthony Wayne defeated the Ottawa and other Ohio Country nations at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. They, like many other nations, were forced to surrender most of their lands in Ohio with the signing of the Treaty of Greeneville (1795).
In 1804, the Ottawa -- along with the Chippewa, Wyandot, and Potawatomi -- were involved in the signing of the Treaty of Detroit, which gave up large swathes of American Indian territory in Southeastern Michigan and Northwestern Ohio to the U.S. Government. In 1833, the United States forced the Ottawa to give up their few remaining lands in Ohio. The United States government sent them to a reservation in Kansas.
Today, the United States government recognizes four tribes of Ottawa, one in Oklahoma and three in Michigan -- the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. Several bands are also recognized by the Canadian government in Ontario.
- Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.