by Anton Treuer
For hundreds of years, Ojibwe Indians thrived in the land we call Minnesota. They survived cold, harsh winters without modern inventions such as electricity, central heating, and grocery stores. How did they do it?
The secrets to Ojibwe life began with a deep respect for the land and its natural resources. Ojibwe people, also known as Anishinaabe or Chippewa, believed that every animal and plant is a being that should be treated with respect. They used tobacco as a way to show the Creator that they were not taking the life of a plant or an animal just for fun, but because they were going to use it for food, lodging, or medicine.
Ojibwe people usually did a good job of harvesting the things they needed without using them all. They took only enough fish and other animals—grouse, deer, rabbits, moose, elk, and caribou—to feed their families.
Another secret to Ojibwe survival was a strong belief in hard work. Fishing and hunting can be fun, but there is no guarantee of success. You must try and try again to catch a fish or shoot a deer or snare a rabbit. Imagine hunting and fishing to keep your family from going hungry. Ojibwe people worked hard to survive.
Over time, the Ojibwe gained special knowledge about the land and waters and the plants and animals that grow there. They learned the best ways to gather and use Minnesota's natural resources. These traditional lifeways, learned by trial and error, have passed from adults to children, generation after generation. Many people still practice them.
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