The Ottawa first settled in the area on the eastern side of Lake Huron around 1400. They were known as a trading nation and their name derives from the Algonquin word "Adawe" meaning "to trade." Following native and European wars, the Ottawa spread southwest of the Great Lakes.
The Ottawa speak central Algonquin, almost identical to the language spoken by Ojibwe and Potawatomi, who originated in similar areas around Lake Huron. Europeans first encountered the Ottawa on the French river at Lake Huron and on Manitoulin Island. The Ottawa were a major trading tribe, even before European contact, and linked early French fur traders and their Huron allies with tribes further inland. The Ottawa lost influence after wars with the Iroquois in the 1600s and the defeat of their French allies by the British in 1760.
Before and after the French and Indian Wars, many of he Ottawa, along with remaining Huron, moved southwest into Michigan and Ohio, where they eventually started trading with the British. Some Ottawa also participated in the 1763 "Pontiac's Rebellion" against British incursions into their lands, but then also fought against the Americans during the Revolutionary War. American settlement and government actions in the 1800s removed Ottawa territory and pushed many Ottawa farther west, some into Kansas, and some as far as Oklahoma.
Most modern Ottawa still live in their old territorial regions, including Michigan, Ohio and Ontario, though the U.S. government does not recognize most of them as belonging to official tribes, as of 2015. The Canadian government also recognizes some Ottawa tribes in Ontario, including on Manitoulin Island.