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Tribal flag
Regions with significant populations
United States (Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana)
English, Potawatomi
Christianity, other
Related ethnic groups
Ojibwe, Ottawa, and other Algonquian peoples
Rain dance, Kansas, c. 1920

The Potawatomi (also spelled Pottawatomie or Pottawatomi) are a Native American people of the upper Mississippi River region. They traditionally speak the Potawatomi language, a member of the Algonquian family. In the Potawatomi language, they generally call themselves Bodéwadmi, a name which means "keepers of the fire" and which was applied to them by their Anishinaabe cousins; however, they originally called themselves Neshnabé, which is a cognate of the word Anishinaabe.

The Potawatomi were part of a long term alliance with the Ojibwe and Ottawa, called the Council of Three Fires. In the Council of Three Fires, Potawatomi were considered the "youngest Brother".


The Potawatomi are first mentioned in French records which suggest that, in the early 17th century, they lived in what is now southwestern Michigan. During the Beaver Wars, they fled to the area around the Bay of Green Bay to escape attacks by the Iroquois and Neutral Nation.

Potawatomi warriors were an important part of Tecumseh's Confederacy and took part in Tecumseh's War, the War of 1812 and the Peoria War, although their allegiance switched repeatedly between the English and the Americans.

A band of Potawatomies were found near Fort Dearborn, in the current location of Chicago. In the war of 1812 a band of this tribe massacred the settlers here. A Potawatomi chief named Sauganash, or Billy Caldwell as the settlers called him, tried to prevent the massacre. For his aid to the settlers, he was allowed to remain in the Chicago area. There was also Potawatomi land in Crown Point, Indiana.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Indians purchased 1,280 acres of land near Shabbona, Illinois, in rural DeKalb County. The tribal leaders have been silent on what it plans to do with the land, though many residents believe the tribe intends to build a casino on the property.


There are several active bands of Potawatomi:


The Potawatomi first lived in lower Michigan, then moved to northern Wisconsin and eventually settled into northern Indiana and central Illinois. In the early 1800s, major portions of Potawatomi lands were annexed by the U.S. government. Following the Treaty of Chicago in 1833, most of the Potawatomi people were forcibly removed from the tribe's lands. Many perished en route to new lands in the west, following what became known as "The Trail of Death".


Main article: Potawatomi language

Potawatomi is an Algonquian language spoken by fewer than 100 people in Ontario and the north-central United States. The current speakers are all older people and there is fear that the language may die out in the near future. Many places in the Midwest have names derived from the Potawatomi language, including Allegan, Waukegan, Muskegon, Skokie and, most famously, Chicago. In the language, the suffix -gan means "land", and whatever prefix is attached would be a defining characteristic. Chicago, for example, has been written down by several people outside of the Potawatomi people, and the name itself has probably been distorted over time, but the original meaning was land of smelly onions, and was prounounced She-Ka-Gan.

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