Traditionally the group subsisted on harvesting wild rice, ice and spear fishing, tapping maple syrup, the forging of sugar from maple sap, and hunting and trapping. Ojibwe people were also fur traders and suffered when fur trading saw its decline. Shelters were mainly constructed of birch bark, which was lightweight and could be transported easily as the people moved from one area to another with the seasons.
The Ojibwe language belongs to the Algonquian linguistic group. They also developed pictorial writing that was used in religious rites and recorded on birch bark scrolls. Due to the Ojibwe people’s relative isolation and the fact that they were not forced from their lands to the extreme that many other bands of American Indians were, much of their culture and traditions have been preserved. People still actively speak the language and practice the traditions, and pow-wows and other celebrations are frequent. Classes on Ojibwe crafts, language, traditions and more are commonly found on college campuses in the region.
Today several Ojibwe bands in the United States partake in the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, which manages treaty hunting and fishing rights in the Lake Superior-Lake Michigan areas.
To learn more about Ojibwe history and culture, visit the George W. Brown Jr. Ojibwe Museum Cultural Center and Waswagoning, a re-created Ojibwe Indian Village, both near the community of Minocqua.
The Minocqua area is steeped in logging lore.
Virgin forests with mammoth, hundred-year-old trees covered nearly 90 percent of the state when early settlers arrived in Wisconsin. The area was viewed as a limitless bounty of lumber, and loggers soon arrived to harvest thousands of acres of old-growth timber, ultimately removing nearly all of the hard wood and pine forests of the north woods before 1900 and leaving the smaller, younger trees you see today.
Settlers were originally transported to the area via the Chicago - Milwaukee - St. Paul railroad when the railroad company promoted Minocqua as a tourist attraction. With its proximity to what are now known as the Chequamegon and Nicolet National forests and the pristine Northern Highland - American Legion State Forest, Minocqua was originally established in 1888 as a logging town with the name Maniwaki. The town’s current name is thought to have been derived from the Ojibwe word “Ninocqua,” which means “noon-day rest.” Others believe the name came from Ojibwe Indian Chief Noc Wib or Minocquip, who lived on the island.
Today Minocqua offers numerous cultural events honoring its Ojibwe heritage, including traditional pow-wows and craft-making classes. There’s even a re-created Ojibwe Indian village and museum nearby. There are also museums and exhibits exploring the community’s history as a logging town.
Minocqua became a popular vacation destination early in its history with the decline of the logging industry in the upper mid-west. With its abundance of fishing and other recreational opportunities, it wasn’t long before fishermen and adventure-seekers from all over, and at least one president, were making a trip to Minocqua an annual event.