Native American Audio Collections

Social Dance Song
Legend of Manitou Islands
Description of Early Life


Chief Ettawageshik, 1948
Chief Ettawageshik, 1948

The Ottawa (Odawa) song and stories presented here were collected by the anthropologist Jane Willets during the late 1940s. Dr. Willets learned linguistic methods, such as the phonetic transcription of sounds and interlinear translations, from Dr. Frank Speck at the University of Pennsylvania. Speck encouraged her to do field work in Harbor Springs, Michigan, where she conducted interviews with elders Joe Chingwa, Victoria Cooper, and Speck's long-time friend, Chief Fred Ettawageshik. The recordings made by Dr. Willets were later transcribed and translated by Odawa language teacher, Howard Webkamigad.

Joe Chingwa and Chief Ettawageshik sang songs and shared their knowledge of traditional Odawa stories and teachings, while Victoria Cooper shared traditional stories and accounts from her own life, all of which Dr. Willets preserved on a wire recorder. In return, she taught Chief Ettawageshik how to make interlinear translations (a style wherein a line of translation is inserted between lines of Odawa language transcriptions). Jane Willets and Chief Ettawageshik were later married.

The Odawa are part of the Three Fires Confederacy, which also includes the Ojibwe and the Potawatomi Nations. Together they are referred to as the Anishinaabeg, with the Ojibwe being the oldest brother, the Odawa the middle, and the Potawatomi the youngest brother. This alliance dates back to when the three Nations were living on the Atlantic coast, centuries ago. The Ojibwe are recognized as the keepers of the sacred Midewiwin (‘Grand Medicine Society’) scrolls, the Odawa as the keepers of trade, and the Potawatomi as the keepers of the fire.

Excerpt of David Kenosha's Grass Dance, 1954
Excerpt of David Kenosha's Grass Dance, 1954

Collections with Ottawa audio recordings:

Jane Willets Ettawageshik, collector. Ottawa material, 1947-1948.

Gertrude Kurath, collector. Songs and Dances of the Rural Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, 1953-1955.

Gertrude Kurath, collector. Songs and Dances of Great Lakes Indians, 1952-1956.