Potawatomi (pŏtˌəwŏtˈəmē) [key], Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). They are closely related to the Ojibwa and Ottawa; their traditions state that all three were originally one people. The Potawatomi are of the Eastern Woodlands cultural area (see under Natives, North American).
In the early 17th cent., when first encountered by the whites, the Potawatomi lived near the mouth of Green Bay in Wisconsin. By the end of the century, however, they had been driven (probably by the Sioux) S along Lake Michigan and were settled on both sides of the southern end of the lake. After the Illinois were conquered (c.1765), they advanced into NE Illinois, S Michigan, and later NW Indiana. They were friendly to the French and aided them against the English. The Potawatomi supported Pontiac's Rebellion, fought against the United States in the battles headed by Little Turtle, took part in the battle of Fallen Timbers, and signed the Treaty of Greenville (1795). They sided with the British in the War of 1812. With the advancing frontier, the Potawatomi retreated westward to Iowa and Kansas, although a portion went to Walpole Island in Canada. From the reservation in Kansas where they had gathered, a large group moved (1868) to Oklahoma Indian Territory; this group, which held lands in severalty, became known as Citizen Potawatomi. They also have reservations in Michigan and Wisconsin. In 1990 there were close to 17,000 Potawatomi in the United States; another group has a reserve in Ontario. Their name is also spelled Potawatami, Pottawatami, and Pottawatomi.
See R. Landes, The Prairie Potawatomi (1970).