Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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The history of the Ottawa tribe of Oklahoma may be traced to Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula on northern Lake Huron, their tribal homelands. The name Ottawa in the Algonquian language means "to trade" or "to buy and sell." The Ottawa were noted traders among their neighbors.

In 1833 following a treat with the United States, the DeBouef and Blanchard's Fork bands of Ottawa moved to Iowa and then Kansas while the majority of the tribe remained on the lower peninsula of Michigan. Approximately five hundred tribe members who were removed from Michigan lived on their reservation in Kansas until 1867, when those who did not wish to accept individual allotments of land relocated to Indian Territory.

Ottawa Chief John Wilson arranged for the purchase of land in Indian Territory from the Shawnee tribe. The new home of the Ottawa in Indian Territory consisted of approximately 14,860 acres in the extreme northeastern corner of present eastern Oklahoma between Spring River on the east and the Neosho River on the west. By 1891, under the Dawes Act (General Allotment Act) of 1887, 157 Ottawa were allotted land in severalty, with the bulk of their land being placed on the open market. In 1900 there were 170 Ottawa in Indian Territory.

Upon Oklahoma's declaration of statehood in 1907, the Ottawa became citizens of the new state. At that time, many were prospering in the areas of business and agriculture. Due to prolonged association with Anglo-American society, the Oklahoma Ottawa had attained a high level of acculturation, and most of the tribe spoke English as their primary language.

In 1936 the Ottawa tribe in Oklahoma was organized under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act, but in the 1950s the Eisenhower administration they lost their federal status. However, in 1978 Pres. Jimmy Carter signed a bill restoring federal recognition to the tribe. The Oklahoma Ottawa tribal offices are located in Miami, and the Ottawa tribal cemetery is maintained in Ottawa County. At the beginning of the twentieth century the Ottawa in Oklahoma numbered approximately 400, of a total national tribal roll of 2,218. The Ottawa Tribe offers its members community, health, family preservation, housing, social services. Cultural preservation activities have included Ottawa language classes. The Ottawa Nation Powwow occurs annually on Labor Day weekend.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Velma Nieberding, The History of Ottawa County (Miami, Okla.: Walsworth Publishing, 1983). Muriel Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951).

John R. Lovett

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