Who Were Michigan’s First Native Tribes?


August 9 is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. It is a day when we can recognize and learn about the indigenous peoples who lived and thrived on our continents before their lands were “discovered” by explorers.

Obviously, Michigan has a rich history with indigenous peoples. Four major Native American tribes lived in what we know today as Michigan.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says that the original inhabitants of Michigan’s peninsulas were all native tribes of the Algonquian language group, long considered “First Nations” in Canada. They settled in the Great Lakes region around the 17th century, also in what is now Canada. But obviously, before the European settlers, there were no national borders, only territories held by each of the tribes in the region.

Many of them worked together. In fact, the Odawa, Ojibwe and Potawatomi formed a loose alliance known as the “Three Fires”. This alliance often met in a central location, Michilimackinac, aka… Mackinac Island.

The OdawaWhere “Ottawa” tribe was scattered throughout what is now the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. When they began settling in the Great Lakes region, their original home was on the Canadian side – Manitoulin Island, near the north shore of Lake Huron, and the Bruce Peninsula, which is today Ontario today. After the 17th century, however, they settled along the Ottawa River and found their way to Michigan. They were known as the “Middle Brother” of the three lights Council, due to their size at the time.

They were influential in the fur trade with the French and British when they arrived, moving fur between Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Sault Ste. Mary, Michigan.

Like most tribes, they were heavily displaced and influenced by European settlers who embarked on their lucrative trading businesses with the other tribes.

Today, approximately 15,000 Ottawas live on reservations in Ontario, Michigan and Oklahoma.

Better known today as “Chippewa,“The Ojibwe tribe are most familiar on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes, however, they settled in parts of what would be the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They were a crucial part of the “Three Lights” covenant in Algonquian families, known as “Big brother.” For Canada, they are the largest and second largest population among the First Nations population.

Many of the early tribes were given names related to their services, but to this day “Ojibwe” and none of its various forms have no known translation or meaning. However, closely resembling words could possibly define them as “those who cook/roast until it puckers”. (Ojibwawwe); “Those who keep records [of a Vision]” (Ozhibii’iwe); “Those who speak stiffly” (Ojiibwe).

They were known for their birchbark canoes, scrolls, mining and copper trade, AND, possibly one of the first indigenous peoples to cultivate wild rice and maple syrup in North America. North.

Today, their total population is around 170,000 in the United States – still mostly in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota – and around 160,000 live in Canada.

From the western Great Lakes region, the Potawatomi are actually called Neshnabe, which is a name inherited from the Algonquin language. They are the “younger brotherof the “Three Fires” alliance between the Ojibwe and Ottawa tribes of the Great Lakes. Peoples.

They were primarily located in southwestern Michigan, but during the Beaver Wars they were pushed west to Green Bay to escape attacks from the Iroquois and the Neutral Nation. In the 17th century, their number was only about 3,000.

During the American withdrawal they were pushed south into Kansas and Oklahoma, although some still remained in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Some even still live in Canada, but their numbers are still very small, totaling only about 29,000 people.

Only one tribe is recognized as one of Michigan’s original Native tribes but not part of the Three Fires, and that is the Miami. They were also in southwestern Michigan and western Ohio. Their name translates roughly from an older Algonquian language meaning “downstream people”.

The primitive culture of the people of Miami associates them more closely with Mississippi societies, the culture of corn-based agriculture, and a chief-style social organization. They were closely involved in regional trade networks and were heavily engaged in hunting, like other Mississippians.

But the Miamis were much farther north than most tribes in Mississippi. During the Iroquois Wars they had locations in what is Niles, Michigan, but were badly displaced as they were very small. They were also forced west into Illinois and Wisconsin. However, they had known locations in the St. Joseph River area and the Kalamazoo River area of ​​Michigan. They also established a Detroit village in the early 18th century.

But they, too, were displaced during the American move and found homes in southern Kansas and Oklahoma. In 2011, the tribe had only about 4,000 citizens. Today they have established tribes in Oklahoma and Indiana.

Chief Baw Beese (Potawatomi)

When the Treaty of Chicago was signed in 1821, Chief Baw Beese was not a signatory and perhaps did not even know he would have to move his tribe away from white settlers. The treaty would cede all land in Michigan Territory south of the Grand River to the U.S. government. However, Chief Baw Beese remained, and in many cases he and his band of Potawatomi proved useful to families crossing over and settling in the state, even saving them from starvation and loss in the wild. dense.

Andrew Jackson Blackbird (Odawa)

He was the son of an Ottawa chief, Blackbird participated in the 1855 treaty negotiations, which established a large reservation for the Odawa tribe near Harbor Springs. He served as an interpreter, translator, and official witness for Native Americans in negotiations, and eventually became instrumental in helping secure pensions and land claims for Odawa veterans.

Indian Dave of Tuscola County (Chippewa)

He was the last Chippewa to hunt, fish and trap the old fashioned way in Tuscola County. According to legend, he attended the gathering at the Saginaw River where 114 chiefs and natives signed the Treaty of Saginaw. This treaty ceded approximately six million acres in eastern Michigan to the United States. Indian Dave, or his Chippewa name “Ishdonquit”, would entertain and fascinate children with his native tales and customs. He died in 1909 and is said to be 106 years old and one of the last to make bows and arrows and to live by traditional “Ojibwa” ways.

Pontiac (Odawa)

Chief Pontiac oversaw his tribe to safety during attacks from northern tribes in the 1700s. He is best known for defending Detroit and assumed he led the warriors from Ottawa and Chippewa during the defeat of Braddock.

He fought tirelessly to repel the British when they attempted to take Detroit, even trying to bring in tribesmen from the Mississippi River to help them. but in the end, he failed and finally made peace in Detroit, August 17, 1765. However, four years later, during a drink carousel in Illinois, he was murdered by a Kaskaskia Indian. However, Pontiac’s Rebellion, fought between 1763 and 1766, is still considered one of the most important wars between Native Americans and Europeans.

Arch Rock, Mackinac Island: 1880-2000


Comments are closed.