According to tradition, spiritual beings called miigis established 6 clans of Anishinaabe, which became the 6 nations of Algonquin, Nipssing, Misissauges, Ojibwa, Odawa, and Potawatomi. The Ojibwa, Odawa, and Potawatomi later formed the Three Fires Confederation. Potawatomi elder Shup-Shewana, using old birch bark scrolls ("midewiwin"), dated the formation of the Council of Three Fires to 796 AD. In 1785, they joined the Western Confederacy (which included the Shawnee, Deleware, and others) to oppose settler land grabs. By 1795, they were defeated and forced to surrender land in the Treaty of Greenville. The US government then attempted to relocate tribes to the west of the Mississippi River.

After the Sandy Lake Tragedy (resulting in several hundred deaths) the US changed to the reservation system, but many communities were still uprooted. Some self-governance was returned in the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Land struggles continue to this day. For example, in 1981, members of the Algonquin nation successfully blockaded a commercial rice-harvesting venture that was given federal permission to harvest the wild rice that the tribe has traditionally gathered by hand for centuries.

Today, technological innovation is an important tool for Anishinaabe resistance and revitalization. Mary Hermes, Professor at University of Minnesota, has developed multimedia tools to aid her Ojibwe language instruction program. Douglas Cardinal, of Algonquin/Metis heritage, pioneered the use of computers in architecture to bring Indigenous design to modern buildings. From the use of GIS for tracking wild rice at White Earth Tribal College, to the electronic dance music of A Tribe Called Red, hybrids of tradition and innovation are critical strategies for Anishinaabe cultural survival.

A map of the Great Lakes nations.

Lainey Fineday, great-great granddaughter of Chief Fine Day, one of the original signers of the 1867 White Earth Treaty. Here she works as a student researcher for NASA, "groundtruthing" data on water fluctuations in wild rice growth areas on White Earth Nation lands.

Douglas Cardinal, Anishinaabe architect. He was one of the first architects in North America to use computers as part of the architectural design process.