The Great Lakes: An Ojibwe Perspective

Nayanno-nibiimaang Gichigamiin (The Great Lakes) in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe), by Charles Lippert and Jordan Engel

Nayaano-nibiimaang Gichigamiin means “The Five Freshwater Seas” in Anishinaabemowin. The cultural impact of the Anishinaabe on the region is everywhere, as evidenced by this map.

The toponyms that appear on this map are listed below. They include the Anishinaabemowin name, translation, and the English name.

Aabitibiiwi-zaaga’igan (In-Between Waters Lake): Lake Abitibi (ON / QC)

Aazhawayi’iing (At the Canoe-crossing): Oshawa, ON

Adikokaan (Caribou Grounds): Atikokan, ON

Amikwag-endaad (Beaver Abode): Beaver Islands, MI

Animbiigoo-zaaga’igan (Dog Waters Lake): Lake Nipigon (ON)

Anishinaabewi-gichigami (Anishinaabe’s Sea): Lake Superior (MI / MN / ON / WI)

— ALSO AS Ojibwewi-gichigami (Ojibwa’s Sea): Lake Superior (MI / MN / ON / WI)

Baawitigong (At the Cascades): Sault Ste. Marie, MI/ON

Baketigweyaang (At the Side-flow): London, ON

Bakeyaabashkiikaang (At where a Muskeg is off to its Side): Hayward, WI

Biidaasige (Shine): Petosky, MI

Biidaaweweng (At where It Is Heard Approaching): Petawawa, ON

Binesii-wiikwedong (At the Thunderbird Bay): Thunder Bay, ON

Boojwiikwed (Horn Bay): Green Bay (MI / WI)

Dakwaanikwaan (Buzz-cut Hair): Ft. Wayne, IN

Eshkwesing (The End): Oakville, ON

Gaa-biskising (At the Turn-around): Kapuskasing, ON

Gaagaagiwinzhi-minitigoong (By the River Island of Hemlocks): Steven’s Point, WI

Gaa-ginwaajiwanaang (At the Place of Long Rapids): Grand Rapids, MI

Gaa-niiyogamaag (Place of the Four Lakes): Madison, WI

Gaa-zhigaagowanzhigokaag (At the Place Abundant with Skunk-grass): Chicago, IL

— ALSO AS Zhigaagong (On the Skunk): Chicago, IL

Gakaabikaang (At the Waterfall): Minneapolis, MN

Gakiiwe-onigamiing (At the Foot Portage): Hancock / Houghton, MI

Gete-oodenaang (At the Old Town): Superior, WI

Gichi-biitoobiigong (At the Great Harbour): Sandusky, OH

Gichigami-ziibi (Sea River): St. Louis River (MN / WI) / St. Marys River (MI / ON) / St. Claire River River (MI / ON) / Niagara River (NY / ON) / St. Lawrence River (NY / ON / QC)

Gichi-namebini-ziibiing (At the Big Sucker River): Marquette, MI

Gichi-nibiinsing-zaaga’igan (Big Little-Waters Lake): Lake Nippising (ON)

Gichi-wiikwedong (At the Big Bay): Grand Traverse Bay (MI)

Gichi-ziibi (Big River): Ottawa River (ON / QC)

Ginoogamaa-zaaga’iganiing (At the Long Lake): Longlac, ON

Gitigaani-ziibiing (At the Garden River): Maniwaki, QC

Gojijiing (At the Inlets): Fort Frances, ON / International Falls, MN

Ininwewi-gichigami (Illinios’ Sea): Lake Michigan (IL / IN / MI / WI)

— ALSO AS Mishii’igan (Grand Lake): Lake Michigan (IL / IN / MI / WI)

— ALSO AS Mishigami (Great Lake): Lake Michigan (IL / IN / MI / WI)

Maadaawaang (At the Confluence): Mattawa, ON

Manidoowazh (Spirit Cave): Manitouwadge, ON

Miinoong (Blueberrying): Isle Royale, MI

Minjikaning (At the Fence): Orillia, ON

Minwakiing (At Milwaukee): Milwaukee, WI

— ALSO AS Mino-akiing (At the Good Land): Milwaukee, WI

Mishibikwadinaang (At the Grand Hill): Michipicoten, ON

Mishibikwadin-minis (Grand Hill Island): Michipicoten Island, ON

Misi-zaaga’igan (Grand Lake): Mille Lacs Lake (MN)

Misi-ziibi (Great River): Mississippi River (MN / WI / IA / IL / MO / KY / TN / AR / MS / LA)

Mooniyaang (At Montréal): Montréal, QC

Naadawekwe-neyaashiing (At the Iroquois Woman’s Point): St. Ignace, MI

Naadowewi-gichigami (Iroqois’ Sea): Lake Huron (MI / ON)

— ALSO AS Odaawaawi-gichigami (Odawa’s Sea): Lake Huron (MI / ON)

— ALSO AS Gichi-aazhoogami-gichigami (Great Crosswaters Sea): Lake Huron (MI / ON)

Name-wiikwedong (At the Sturgeon Bay): Owen Sound, ON

Niigani-gichigami (Leading Sea): Lake Ontario (NY / ON)

— ALSO AS Gichi-zaaga’igan (Big Lake): Lake Ontario (NY / ON)

Niswaakamog (The Three Trails): Sudbury, ON

Odaawaa (Odawa): Ottawa, ON

Odaawaa-minis (Odawa Island): Manitoulin Island, ON

Onigamiinsing (At the Little Portage): Duluth, MN

Opwaaganasiniing (At the Pipe-stone): Nipigon / Red Rock, ON

Waabishkiigoo-gichigami (Neutral’s Sea): Lake Erie (MI / NY / OH / ON / PA)

— ALSO AS Aanikegamaa-gichigami (Chain of Lakes Sea): Lake Erie (MI / NY / OH / ON / PA)

Waaninaawangaag (At the Sandy Depression): Sioux Lookout, ON

Waasekaasing (The Brightly Shining): Parry Sound, ON

Waaseyaagami-wiikwed (Shining Waters Bay): Georgian Bay (ON)

Waawiyaataan (Curved Shores): Lake St. Claire (MI / ON)

Waawiyaataanong (At the Curved Shores): Detroit, MI

Wayaa-gonaatigweyaa-ziibiing (At the Clearwater-flowing River): Eau Claire, WI

Wayaanag-gakaabikaawang (At the Curved Waterfalls): Niagara Falls (NY / ON)

Wewebijiwang (At the Intermittent Current): Little Current, ON

Wiikwe-wayekwaa-gichigami (Bay at the Far end of the Sea): Fond du Lac Bay (MN / WI)

Wiinibiigoo-zaaga’igan (Murky Waters Lake): Lake Winnebago (WI)

Zaagiinaad-wiikwed (Of the Outlet Bay): Saginaw Bay (MI)

Zaagiinaang (At the Outlet): Saginaw, MI

Zhooniyaang-zaaga’igan (Of the Silver Lake): Lake Simcoe (ON)

***A note on the compass – The Anishinaabe traditionally orient themselves to the East, which is why East appears at the top of this map. 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.

Map: Jordan Engel. As always, the Decolonial Atlas’ original media can be reused under the Decolonial Media License 0.1.



  1. Hello, where can one buy the de colonial map of Ojibway perspective, if they are for sale. Thanks very much for this website and information.


  2. Is there any information on Anishnaabe names for the features of the Thunder bay region, on the forty fifth parallel shore of lake Huron? I am referring in particular to Thunder Bay, and within it “Squaw Bay”, named by surveyor Robert McMullen in 1851 after Neiote-ka zhik- oquay, daughter of Michiquis. Sorry for defective spelling.


  3. […] kayakers who access the Detroit River were asked to register for NEXUS. Detroit was known as Waawiyaataanong (At The Curved Shores) by the Indigenous people who used the river and shores for at least the last 10,000 years. […]


  4. please put these on wikipedia to allow for people who are familiar with the tribes to contribute valuable information about them.


      • the Cuyahoga feeds into Lake Erie, as for the Ohio, it’s such a large river that even though it really begins further South of Lake Erie it would seem it would have an Ojibwe name all the same


  5. wawayah kakehpapikong would also refer to as Niagara Falls. The first part wawayah means something that is curved or semi-circular. The last part refers to something being on the way or a natural obstruction like kehbosin. I’m a fluent Ojibway speaker and my first spoken language and aware of dialectal variances as I have travelled both in Canada and the Great Lakes States. Your right on about Montreal being called Moonihyong. It’s translation means place of the whiteman. Montreal was an early settler society in Canada and therefore the name. Mooniah is another name saying a white person in some areas of the Ojibway country as much as Gitchi mokamon in the US.

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  6. I have been following your site as I’ve been doing something kind of similar, adding some indigenous toponyms into OpenStreetMap as one way to acknowledge first nations. In particular I’ve added a number of Ojibwe and Dakota names in the Minnesota. (For example, you can see labels for the lake and city of Bemidji in this rendering: I’ve mostly sourced from Wikipedia since I’m concerned about potential copyright issues if I use book sources and don’t know of other sources. But not being a speaker, I’ve wondered about the things Charles mentioned such as spelling (I’ve seen variations) and/or regional differences. I’ve also wondered about how appropriate it is to use an indigenous name for a modern city. For example, is it really true that Gakaabikaang=Minneapolis? Or do they overlap such that Gakaabikaang really just refers to the part of Minneapolis which is the immediate area around St Anthony Falls? I’d be interested in any thoughts!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah, someone else adding Ojibwe place names to OSM — good stuff!

      The main problems I have are: 1) lack of familiarity with the many orthographies and ISO 639-* codes for them, and; 2) some well-meaning but even less informed overseas OSM editor smashing my edits down to the two-letter oj language code anyway …


  7. Just as a note. The Anishinaabemowin on this map is shown written in “Southern” Fiero-Nichols orthography, with more western “Ojibwe” bias. For more eastern forms of Anishinaabemowin (such as for Eastern Ojibwe, Mississauga, and Odaawaa), one must apply vowel syncope in a Fiero-Rhodes orthography. Or for Algonquin, Cuoq Orthography. Or for Saulteaux, Cree-Saulteaux Standard Roman Orthography (SRO). Or for Oji-cree, “Northern” Fiero-Nichols orthography. For Northern Potawatomi, WNALP orthography (with syncope). And for Southern Potawatomi, BWAKA Orthography. Why? Because Anishinaabemowin is a diverse set of languages with diverse set of writing styles.
    An idea for future map series could be to present the identical map in each of these different orthographies, to better reflect the diversity of Anishinaabemowin.

    Liked by 2 people

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