The Potawatomi lived mainly in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Ontario, Canada at the time of European contact in the early 1600s. They spoke an Algonquian language. The Potawatomi were closely related to the Objibwe and the Ottawa, and allied themselves together in a confederacy called the Council of Three Fires
During the late 1600s and the early 1700s, the Potawatomi struggled with the Iroquois over the Ohio Country. They also fought for territory with the Sioux in modern-day Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. By the mid 1700s, the Potawatomi had established villages in Illinois and in Indiana.
The Potawatomi sided with the French during the French and Indian War. Following France’s defeat, the Potawatomi assisted Pontiac in Pontiac’s Rebellion. During the American Revolution and again in the War of 1812, the Potawatomis allied themselves with the British. The nation feared that Anglo-American settlers would continue to occupy the Potawatomi land if they did not receive assistance from the British. The Potawatomi did not have a large presence in Ohio and, throughout the late 1700s and early 1800s, signed numerous treaties forsaking any land claims in Ohio. By 1841, under the U.S. Government's Indian Removal policy, many of the Potawatomi in Michigan, Wisconsin and the upper Midwest had been removed to promised U.S. government lands in Nebraska and Kansas. They were eventually forced to move to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), though some found ways to remain in Michigan.
Today, the U.S. government recognizes seven active bands of Potawatomi -- in Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, Oklahoma and Indiana; and other bands of Potawatomi are federally recognized First Nations in Canada.
- Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.