The Potawatomi tribe originated from the upper Mississippi River area. They were in close alliance with two other Indian tribes, and together they formed The Council of the Three Fires. The Potawatomi Indians were considered to be the youngest group of the three. Over time, they earned themselves the nickname Potawatomi Indians, keepers of the fire.
The entire group of all three tribes traveled down the eastern shore of North America, until they split up near Canada. The remaining members of the Potawatomi Indians, keepers of the fire, ended up living mostly in the Michigan area. Although the name of the tribe has been subject to various different translations, in general the word Potawatomi means “people of the place of the fire.” Today the tribe likes to call themselves the Nishnabec, with the meaning “true people.”
Around the 1650’s, the Potawatomi Indians began establishing a very impressive fur trading business between themselves and the French. When the French approached them, they were very impressed with the tribe’s ability to grow healthy plants such as corn, and hunting fish and gathering wild rice. This impressive act encouraged a flourishing business between their own tribe and the Europeans.
It’s been said the Potawatomi Indians, keepers of the fire, were actually very intelligent and savvy business owners who knew how to get the most out of their dealings with people from Europe. Although the following century was prosperous for the tribe, by the late 1700s and nearer to 1800, a large number of members of the tribe known as the Mission Band were forced to move and travel across a span of about 5 states. Eventually the Potawatomi tribe settled in what is now known as Oklahoma, although many members also ended up in places such as California, Oregon, Colorado, and Idaho.
Joseph Paige © 2006