The Ottawa descended from the Anishinaabe. They are related to the Ojibwe and Potawatomi but maintained an independent status from those tribes. They spoke a dialect of Ojibwe, which is part of the Algonquin family of languages. The original home of the Ottawa is Manitoulin Island on the Bruce Peninsula in the present-day province of Ontario, and the Lake Huron regions of Michigan and Ohio. The Ottawa were not nomadic, but they had seasonal homes.
In the summer, the Ottawa lived in villages of wigwams that measured approximately 15 feet in diameter and used animal tails for floors, and strips of bark for roofs and walls. In the winter, they lived in longhouses approximately 20 feet wide and 100 feet long.
The Ottawa name comes from the Anishinaabeg word for traders, and the early Ottawa were known for trading and bartering with neighboring tribes. Among the goods they traded were furs and skins, rugs and mats, tobacco, cornmeal and sunflower oil. The Ottawa developed a seasonal economy and also fished and hunted deer, bear and other small mammals for food. They also grew crops of corn, squash and beans. Fishing and trading expeditions made the Ottawa adept canoe builders.
When Europeans arrived, the Ottawa concentrated more on fur trading and became allied with the French, fighting with them in the Seven Years’ War. The Ottawa also attacked the colonists during and after the American Revolution in order to prevent settlement west of the Appalachians. The attacks on Americans continued until both parties signed the Treaty of Detroit in 1807, which granted each side portions of Michigan and Ohio.