We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.
Native American

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What is the Potawatomi Tribe?

By Jodee Redmond
Updated: May 17, 2024

The Potawatomi tribe is a group of Native Americans who eventually settled in the northeastern Wisconsin. This group of American Indians had an interesting existence; they farmed in the summer months and then the tribe divided up into smaller groups in the fall and moved to their winter hunting grounds.

This group of Indians takes its name from the word meaning "people of the place of the fire," and was originally from Michigan. As European settlers came to America and settled in the eastern portion of the continent, the Potawatomi Tribe, along with other Indian tribes, were pushed west.

The Potawatomi tribe didn't rely completely on hunting or agriculture to sustain itself. The men hunted for game and cought fish for the tribe to eat. The female members of the tribe were responsible for planting crops and tending to them in the warmer months of the year. When they were ready to be harvested, the women would take on these chores as well.

This tribe of American Indians lived in bark-covered houses during the spring, summer and early fall. When they moved to their winter hunting grounds, they fashioned wigwams for shelter. This type of dwelling is built in a dome shape and can be built and relocated, if necessary.

Poles are used to make a frame for the wigwam. Once this part of the shelter is in place, it can be covered with a variety of materials to keep out the elements. Grass, bark, cloth or hides could be used to cover the frame and keep the occupants warm and dry. An opening would be left in the roof of the structure to allow smoke from the fire to escape.

The tribe was made up of several bands who were located in specific geographic locations across the region. The Potawatomi tribe included clans of people who were descended from a single male ancestor. Marriages between different clans were arranged to create bonds between the various groups.

By the mid-1800s, the Potawatomi tribe had been relocated to a reservation in Kansas. They were known as the Prairie band at that point. Over time, the members of the Potawatomi tribe were exposed to the customs of the Plains Indians and adopted a number of them. In the 1860s, a number of the Potawatomi Indians moved to Oklahoma, which was called the Indian Territory then. In their new home, the tribe was called, Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By JaneAir — On Oct 25, 2011

I remember learning about this tribe in school when I was way younger. Their relocation in 1833 isn't as famous as the trail of tears, but they were mistreated also. From what I remember, about 40 or 50 of them died on their way to Kansas.

Then after they relocated, about half of them took up the customs of the plains Indians. However, some of them wanted to keep to their old way of life too. Eventually they split off into two groups, but were later reunited after those of them that became farmers were cheated out of their farms.

By chivebasil — On Oct 25, 2011

I went to college in Wisconsin and one time I made a trip to the northern part of the state and visited a restored Pottawatomi camp. It was run by actual member of the tribe and included a wigwam and a number of the traditional crafts made by the tribe.

It was a pretty incredible experience. I know it was all a recreation, but it felt real and you really got a sense for how these people once lived. To be honest, there are times when I wish I could live that way.

By truman12 — On Oct 24, 2011

I have never heard of any community that lived the way this one did. To live communally for half of the year and then to split into smaller groups during the lean months. It makes a lot of sense it just seems like it would be heard to organize.

It just goes to show that there is not one natural way to live. People tend to think that we have been progressing steadily through history towards a more perfect way of coexisting. But the truth is that it has been a constant experiment with lots of successes and failures. And there is no clear sign that we are now on the right path. So maybe the Pottawatomi tribe had something figured out.

Share
America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.