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the Ojibwe in the Chippewa Valley

Further Information

"A Good Way of Life"


In the Way of the White Man


Anishinabe Ahki
"Indian Country"


Choosing a Path
at Lac Court Oreilles

Related Reading

Paths of the People by Tim Pfaff Chippewa Valley Museum Press

Contact Us

(715) 834-7871

Chippewa Valley Museum
PO Box 1204
Eau Claire, WI 54702-1204

1204 E. Half Moon Drive
Eau Claire, WI 54703
(This is NOT a mailing address!)


The Ojibwe (Chippewa) Indians have lived in the Chippewa Valley of Wisconsin for 300 years. Paths of the People, a major exhibit at the Chippewa Valley Museum in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, traces Ojibwe history and the events that forced them to make vital decisions about the directions their lives would take.

The award-winning exhibit begins with a glimpse of the Wisconsin woodland as it appeared when the Ojibwe first arrived and moves up to the present. The exhibit features artifacts, documents and photographs from the fur trade to the tourist trade; from boarding schools to tribal schools; from treaties made and broken to treaties re-evaluated.

Anishinabe, Saulteur, Ojibwe, Chippewa -- all names of a people who have lived in the Chippewa Valley for the past three centuries. Anishinabe, "original or spontaneous people," is what they called themselves during their 500-year migration from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Lake Superior. French explorers and fur traders labelled them Saulteur, or "people of the rapids," because they first encountered them near the rapids of the St. Mary' s River between Upper Michigan and Ontario.

A persuasive theory outlined by Theresa Schenck suggests that Ojibwe means "The Voice of the Crane." Another theory holds that Ojibwe means "roast until puckered," and was a name used by their regional rivals, the Eastern Dakota (Sioux). The English and Americans corrupted the word Ojibwe to Chippewa. Since Chippewa was the name written on 19th-century treaties with the United States, it is the name that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has used since that time. People at Lac Court Oreilles and Lac du Flambeau, the two reservations in the Chippewa Valley, today most often refer to themselves as Ojibwe.

Ojibwe oral tradition speaks of life as a circular path, with parents passing on knowledge to children and grandchildren. Over the past 300 years, contact with Europeans and settlement by Americans have forced them to adapt in order to survive. The challenges each generation has faced-whether at treaty grounds, boarding schools, or boat landings-have influenced what knowledge has been passed down, what paths taken.

Kechewaiske (Great Buffalo), one of the great leaders of the Lake Superior Ojibwe.
Kechewaiske (Great Buffalo), one of the great leaders of the Lake Superior Ojibwe.

Important Ojibwe sites in the 1600-1700s.

The Chippewa Valley (in gray) showing important Ojibwe sites in the 1600-1700s. Map by Sean Hartnett.

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