When you spend time in the Great Lakes region, you are surrounded by traditional languages. So many of the lakes and rivers in this region are called by names that date back thousands of years. Many of our communities are named for features of the lakes, like harbours and navigation routes.
Words like “Ontario,” “Erie,” “Huron,” and “Michigan” are unique to this part of the world because they come from languages spoken by the region’s Indigenous peoples. Same with “Toronto,” “Oshawa,” “Mississauga,” “Ottawa” and many others.
Within the Great Lakes region, the most commonly spoken language groups are Algonquian and Iroquoian. Algonquian can can be broken down into Ojibwe (Anishinaabe), Oji-Cree, and Cree (including Cree, Swampy Cree, Northern East Cree, and Moose Cree). Iroquoian can be broken down into Mohawk, Oneida, and Cayuga.
Here are a few common Great Lakes place names and their roots:
Discover more Great Lakes place names
To learn more Great Lake place names, explore our map. If you click on a destination, you will also find the traditional territory and treaty information. You can also read more about why we acknowledge traditional territories and treaties.