The Great Lakes in Ojibwe

great lakes1

Nayaano-nibiimaang Gichigamiin (The Great Lakes) in Anishaabemowin (Ojibwe). Research by Charles Lippert, map by Jordan Engel

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.

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12 thoughts on “The Great Lakes in Ojibwe

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  6. Ojibwe is only one dialect of the Anishinaabemowin language. I hope everyone realizes that there are three nations of the Anishinaabe – Odawa, Ojibwe and Pottawattami. Lake Huron was called Odawa M’Niss from time immemorial because it was the territory of the Odawa as guardians. The Ojibwe may have had names for these lakes but that is only the Ojibwe perspective.

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