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Northern Saulteaux also known as “Ojibwa” Pitek, Emily
The Ojibwa are comprised of “numerous communities ranging mainly from southern and northwestern Ontario, northern Michigan and central Manitoba and Saskatchewan (Brown and Beierle, 2000).” The term “Ojibwa” describes a larger ethnic and linguistic group that is not politically unified. Historically, Ojibwa contact with Europeans began in the 1640’s with the arrival of fur traders and French Jesuit missionaries. The 1800’s brought an end to treaties and marked the Ojibwa relocations to reservations, occurring after the War of 1812 in the United States, and after the establishment of the Dominion Government in 1867 in Canada (Hallowell, 1955:117). This entry focuses specifically on the Northern Saulteaux (around the time of 1930), an Ojibwa people who migrated to the more remote area east of Lake Winnipeg. In part, this migration helped the Northern Saulteaux to “conserve a great deal of their aboriginal culture during a period when armed conflicts with an expanding white population, the effects of the fur trade, and Christianization led to more rapid culture changes among the Ojibwa elsewhere (Hallowell, 1955:112).” This entry primarily utilizes ethnographic information obtained by Alfred Irving Hallowell (the principal ethnographic authority), who completed field work among the Northern Saulteaux from 1930-1940. At this time, the Saulteaux had had contact with Christian missionaries, but native religious beliefs were still held. These native beliefs include several supernatural entities such as ancestral spirits and other non-human beings. Ethnographers have referred to Saulteaux religious practitioners as shamans, medicine men, or conjurers. These individuals had supernatural abilities (often acquired in a religious fast/dream state) including the ability to access knowledge from and communicate with people far away, foretell the future, communicate with supernatural beings and the dead, and solve mysteries. Additionally, these shamans had the power to abduct souls, causing sickness, mental distress, and death. Due to these supernatural abilities, as well as their knowledge and skill, shamans held effective leadership roles (despite the absence of an official political office and official religious leaders). Because religion does not exist in a distinct sphere, but rather pervades all aspects of life, this entry considers the religious group to be coterminous with the society itself.
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