Derived from the Algonquian word adawe, meaning "to trade" or "to buy and sell."
It was an apt name for the tribe, who had an active trading relationship with the Chippewa and Potawatomi, as well as others in the region.
Like the Chippewa, they built birch bark canoes and harvested wild rice.
The Ottawa tribe belongs to that portion of the Algonquian linguistic family which originally had villages in the southern part of what is now Michigan, in the vicinity of Grand River, as well as in Ohio and Indiana.
Some of the early Ottawa were located near the mouth of the French River, Georgia Bay, in the early seventeenthy century.
A large portion of the tribe was living on Manitoulin Island.
Wars moved them west to the Green Bay, Wisconsin area.
By 1700, the tribe had migrated in every direction to the St. Joseph River, southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, the shores of Lake Huron near the Chippewa, the shores of Lake Erie near the Wyandotte and from Detroit eastward to Pennsylvania.
It was in the vicinity of present-day Detroit that the celebrated Ottawa chief, Pontiac (one of the most important Indian leaders of the era), waged war in 1763.
Pontiac was bitterly opposed to the invasion of Indian country by the British, but when his plan for an uprising of all the tribes against the British was unsuccessful, he finally made a peace treaty in 1765.
In 1831, three groups of the Ottawa tribe ceded their lands in Ohio to the United States.
These Ottawa resisted removal to a reservation in Kansas but moved five years later.
Under pressure in Kansas for the opening and sale of their Indian lands, the Ottawa concluded a treaty in 1862, providing for an allotment of land in Indian Territory.
An unusual provision in this treaty set aside 20,000 acres of the tribal domain as a foundation for a school for the Ottawa, which is known today as Ottawa College.
The Ottawa tribe then moved to their new home, a 14,860-acre reserve bounded by the Neosho River on the west and lying both south and east of present Miami in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, where they are located today.
The Ottawa were agriculturists as far as the northern climate would permit.
They were great hunters and especially skillful in fine handwork and the invention of small toys and trinkets.
Plus, they were noted as intertribal traders and barterers, dealing in pelts, floor coverings and medicinal herbs.