Michigan was home to various Native Americans centuries before colonization by Europeans. When the first European explorers arrived, the most populous and influential tribes were Algonquian peoples—specifically, the Ottawa, the Anishnabe (called "Chippewa" in French, after their language, "Ojibwe"), and the Potawatomi. The Anishnabe, whose numbers are estimated to have been between 25,000 and 35,000, were the most populous.
Although the Anishnabe were well-established in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, they also inhabited northern Ontario, northern Wisconsin, southern Manitoba, and northern and north-central Minnesota. The Ottawa lived primarily south of the Straits of Mackinac in northern and western Michigan, while the Potawatomi were primarily in the southwest. The three nations co-existed peacefully as part of a loose confederation called the Council of Three Fires. Other First Nations people in Michigan, in the south and east, were the Mascouten, the Menominee, the Miami, and the Wyandot, who are better known by their French name, "Huron".