Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) is the most-spoken indigenous language in the Great Lakes basin. Charles Lippert, a speaker of Anishinaabemowin, has helped tremendously by researching the lakes and translating into Anishinaabemowin. Below are the translations for all the Great Lakes:
Nayaano-nibiimaang Gichigamiin: The Great Lakes (The Five Freshwater Seas)
Anishinaabewi-gichigami: Lake Superior (Anishinaabe’s Sea)
Ininwewi-gichigami: Lake Michigan (Illinois’ Sea)
Naadowewi-gichigami: Lake Huron (Iroquois’ Sea), also known as Gichi-aazhoogami-gichigami (Great Crosswaters Sea)
Waabishkiigoo-gichigami: Lake Erie (Neutral’s Sea), also known as Aanikegamaa-gichigami (Chain of Lakes Sea)
Niigaani-gichigami: Lake Ontario (Leading Sea), also known as Gichi-zaaga’igan (Big Lake)
Gichigami (Sea) literally means “big (gichi) liquid (-gami)”. Gichigami can also refer to the Saltwater / Bitterwater Sea (i.e. ocean) — zhiiwitaagani-gichigami
The St. Louis River (MN / WI), St. Mary’s River (ON / MI), St. Claire River (ON / MI), Niagara River (ON / NY) and the St. Lawrence River (QC / ON) are all called Gichigami-ziibi (Sea River), as they all drain into or out of a Great Lake.
*A note on the compass – The Anishinaabe traditionally orient themselves to the East. Because the standard orientation is different in European and Anishinaabe cultures, we’ve included the English word “North” and the Anishinaabemowin word “Waabang,” meaning East, on the compass. The compass rose itself is in the form of a medicine wheel, an indigenous symbol used across the continent to denote the four directions.