An ethnohistory of the western Ojibwa, 1780-1830

Thumbnail Image
Peers, Laura Lynn,
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
This thesis traces the development of the western Ojibwa as an ethinic gorup. Reasons for Ojibwa movement into the area west of Red River are examined, inlcuding the nature of their involvement in the fur trade and the effects of the smallpox epidemic of the early 1780's. Their initial presence in the west was characterized by prestige and power gained from trading primarily in beaver. Their success in the trade was increased by rivalry between trading companies. As the beaver and large game populations diminised, the western Ojibwa diversified their economy to maintain the afflence they desired. Bison-hunting, potato horticulture, and the trading of less prestigious furs became increasingly important to the western Ojibwa after 1800. Their association with the Cree and Assiniboine produced cultural changes among the western Ojibwa after 1800 as well. Both their economic diversification and their incidence of co-residence with other Plains groups increased as trade conditions changed, especially after the merger of the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821. By 1830 a number of regional cultural adaptations had emerged among the western Ojibwa, including Peguis' band which was dealing with the influence of missionaries and the Red River settlement and the first "plains" or bison-oriented Ojibwa bands west of Lake Winnipegosis. By relying on the strength and flexibility of their culture, the Western Ojibwa were able to retain their autonomy and their ethnic identity thoughout this period of adaptation to new ecological conditions, cultural contacts, social networks, and trade conditions.