Chief Ogimaa Duke Peltier: NMAI’s Meet Native America Series
In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today.
Please introduce yourself with your name and title.
Duke Peltier, Ogimaa (chief) of Wiikwemkoong Anishinabek.
Can you give us your Native name and its English translation?
Niigaan Waasa Gaa Naabit—"one who looks very far ahead.”
Where is your nation located?
The Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve is situated on Odawa Mnis, now known as Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. We are in the middle of Lake Huron, historically known as the Odawa Lake, and we are the largest freshwater island in the world.
Where was your nation originally from?
From time immemorial, the Odawa Nation controlled Lake Huron and all the waterways flowing from it. The original territory stretched from the Ottawa River through to Michigan. Our island, Odawa Mnis, has always been the spiritual and political center of our nation. Some of Canada’s earliest explorers and the Jesuit missionaries from the early 1600s documented in detail our occupation, interaction in leadership positions with others, and jurisdiction of this territory.
Wikwemikong is the largest Anishinabek community on Odawa Mnis and has a long history of strong leadership. We have always fiercely defended our island against encroachments by other nations, as evidenced by oral and documented history. Since 1836, during encroachments and the removal of the Anishinabek from their homelands, the Ojibway and Potawatomi Nations became part of the Wikwemikong community. The Odawa, Ojibway, and Potawatomi are three distinct nations but are closely related as the Anishinabek. When we unite politically, culturally, and spiritually, we are known as the Three Fires Confederacy.
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