Published on May 30, 2012 by Amy
The Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma is one of four federally recognized Native American tribes of Odawa Indians. The other three tribes, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, are located in Michigan.
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The headquarters of the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma is Miami, Oklahoma, and their tribal jurisdictional area is in Ottawa County. Currently, there are 2,500 enrolled tribal members, with only 737 of them living within the state of Oklahoma. John R. Ballard is the elected Chief. Membership to the tribe is based on lineal descent; that is, they have no minimum blood quantum requirement.
The Ottawa Tribe issues its own tribal vehicle tags. They operate two tribal smoke shops; one gas station, the Otter Stop Convenience Store; and one casino, the High Winds Casino. Their annual economic impact is estimated by the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commissions to be $3 million.
The tribe operates a Community Health Program and the Healthy Living Center in Miami, as well as a Department of Environmental Protection. The tribe publishes the Adawe News for its tribal members and offers Ottawa language classes.
The Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma’s annual powwow is held every Labor Day weekend.
“Ottawa” or “Odaawaa” comes from the word, Adaawe, which means “to trade.” They traded with other tribes and eventually the French. Ottawas are part of the Three Fires Confederacy, with the Ojibwe and Potawatomi. The Oklahoma Ottawas are descended from Ottawa bands that moved from Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula, both in Ontario, Canada, south into Michigan. They agreed to settle near Fort Detroit and the Maumee River in Ohio.
Pressured the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Ottawa of Blanchard’s Fork, Roche de Bœuf and Auglaize Reserves of Ohio signed a treaty in 1833. The treaty ceded their lands in Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois in exchanged for lands in first Iowa, then Kansas. They did not relocate until April 1837. Of the 600 Ottawa who emigrated to Kansas, “more than 300 died within the first two years, beccause of exposure, lack of proper food, and the great difference between the cool, damp woods of Ohio and the dry, hot plains of Kansas.”
To survive as a people, the tribe made a remarkable investment in their children’s future. Of the 74,000 acres (300 km2) the Ottawa controlled in Kansas, they set aside 65 acres (260,000 m2) for a school and sold 20,000 acres (81 km2) of land to fund its construction and maintenance. The Baptist university would educate both Indians and non-Indians and was named Ottawa University. The university still offers free tuition to any enrolled member of the tribe today.
The present day town of Ottawa, Kansas grew up around the Ottawa Reservation. They remained there until 1867, when, under the guidance of Chief John Wilson,the tribe sold their lands in Kansas and purchased 14,863 acres (60 km2) of land in Indian Territory from the Eastern Shawnee. More of the tribe died during relocation and only 200 Ottawa arrived in their new lands.
Tribal lands were broken up under the Dawes Act of 1887. In 1891, 157 Ottawa were allotted land, and the US federal government sold the rest of their tribal lands. In 1936 tribe organized under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act and gained federal recognition; however, under the US’s Termination policy, the federal government terminated the Ottawa tribal government in 1956. The tribe persevered and federal recognition was restored under a bill signed by President Jimmy Carter on May 15, 1978. In 1979 the US Congress recognized the tribal council and ratified the tribal constitution.