The Chippewa people were divided into a number of doodem (clans) named for animals. This clan system served as a semi-formal structure of organization as well as a means of dividing labor in some cases. The five main totems among the Chippewa were Crane, Catfish, Loon, Bear and Marten.
There were at least twenty-one totems and sub-totems in all, recorded by William Whipple Warren: Crane, Catfish, Loon, Bear, Marten, Wolf, Reindeer, Merman, Pike, Lynx, Eagle, Rattlesnake, Moose, Black Duck, Sucker, Goose, Sturgeon, White Fish, Beaver, Gull, and Hawk. Some totems indicate non-Chippewa origins, such as the Wolf Clan for Dakota or Eagle Clan for American. There are other totems considered rare today among the Chippewa people because the totems have migrated to other tribes, such as the Merman Clan, which shows up as the Water-spirits Clan of the Ho Chunk people (Winnebago).
Each clan was ascribed different characteristics, and members of those clans were thought to exemplify these characteristic. For example, the Crane and the Loon Clans were given the power of Chieftainship. By working together, these two clans gave the people a balanced government with each serving as a check on the other. The people of the Catfish Clan were thought of as teachers and scholars. They helped children develop skills and healthy spirits. They also drew on their knowledge to solve disputes between the leaders of the Crane and Loon Clans. Members of the Bear Clan were reputed to be strong and steady police and legal guardians. Bear Clan members spent a lot of time patrolling the land surrounding the village, and in so doing, they learned which roots, bark, and plants could be used for medicines to treat the ailments of their people. The people of the Marten Clan were hunters, food gathers and warriors of the people. Long ago, warriors fought to defend their village or hunting territory. They became known as master strategists in planning the defense of their people.
Do you know your clan?