Ojibwe Unit: A Year-Long Study (Part 2-Seasonal Economy)

The Ojibwe way of life centers on respect for the earth, seasonal subsistence activities, sustainability, and cooperation. Students will identify the location and features of Ojibwe seasonal communities and be able to identify some traditional subsistence activities. Students will also connect the activities to a way of live and values that are centered on respect for the Earth and balance.

Materials Needed


Art Materials

Activity Process


Read together as a class The Birchbark House, by Louise Erdich and have students summarize each chapter in summary booklets that they create and keep.


Along with The Birchbark House, we also used the thirteen moons on CD ROM, this allowed students to be introduced to the idea that Ojibwe life was closely tied to seasonal activities. The idea that the Great Lakes Ojibwe took only what they needed, when the time was right, is an important concept.According to the Ojibwe, the world was created when muskrat brought mud from the bottom of the flood to be placed on turtle's back. The turtle's shell has thirteen central plates, called scutes. The traditional Ojibwe calendar year follows a thirteen moon lunar cycle. The names of each moon are influenced by natural phenomena, animal activity, and cultural practices and beliefs. Because the area in which Ojibwe is spoken is so vast, not all Ojibwe people use the same names for the moons.


  1. Divide students into pairs, each pair is assigned a different moon to view on the CD.
  2. After viewing the assigned moon, student pairs will discuss the "moon" and think aboutwhat other activities Ojibwe people might have done during that time of year.
  3. Students brainstorm a list.
  4. Each student pair should then present to the entire class what they have discovered abouteach moon and the activities associated with it.
  5. Discuss how it is different from the current mainstream American way of obtaining food.
  6. Have students discuss values that are expressed in the traditional economy of the Ojibwe.(May compare this to values expressed in the capitalist American system.)


Watch Wassa-inaabidaa Episode Three, Gaa miinigooyang, "That Which Is Given To Us", this examines the patterns of Anishinaabe/Ojibwe economic survival in the Great Lakes environment over time.Discuss the fact that the Anishinaabe are an indigenous American culture of the Great Lakes region with a long history of trade and economic activity. The traditional economy was reflected in the activities associated with each of the fourseasons:

Cultural contact with Euro-American explorers and traders resulted in the adaptation of thisseasonal cycle to new tools, weapons, and trade goods.

Trade with Euro-American groups for desired goods resulted in the accumulation of debt bythe Ojibwe and an imbalance in their relationship with the environment.


Discuss guide questions-1. What happened to Ojibwe culture when traditional economic activities were disrupted or no longer allowed?2. What traditional economic activities continue today? What new economic activities are tribes involved in today?

Vocabulary Words


See additional Ojibwe unit lesson plans that supplement part 2.

Grade Levels

Primary Content Area

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards


Language Arts


Social Studies