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Michigan State University

Native American Studies Research Guide: Michigan Notable Indians


A collection of noteworthy Michigan Indians, both historical and current.  Suggestions welcome.  Under construction.

Jean Baptiste Assiginack (Odawa, 1768-1866)

Odawa warrior during the War of 1812

Born in Waganakising (Middle Village) in 1768, Odawa warrior and orator Assiginack led his war party from the shores of Little Traverse Bay to fight in the Niagara Theater in the War of 1812. Assiginack’s war party included Mookmanish (Little Bad Knife), Kishigopenasi (Day Bird), Makadepenasi (Blackbird), Eshquagonabe (Looking Back) and Clap of Thunder at Night. The war party traveled by canoe to fight American soldiers throughout the Great Lakes. Assiginack and his warriors followed a long lineage of Odawa warriors who fought against the Muschodesh, Fox, Iroquois, Winnebago, Chickasaw, British and American forces.

Assiginack was a renowned orator for the Odawa, once giving a speech from sunrise to sunset for the purpose of securing warriors to fight the Americans. In addition to his speaking skills, Assiginack also led by example. He successfully led warriors from Little Traverse into combat, including the Niagara Theater. The Odawa war party was successful in every battle they fought in. After the war ended, Assiginack recognized new enemies that must be confronted, one of which was the disastrous effects alcohol had on his people. On one occasion, Assiginack got word that a boat planned on bringing a large quantity of rum to his village. Assiginack quickly gathered his warriors, boarded the vessel and dumped all the rum overboard.

At the conclusion of the war, Assiginack became an interpreter for the British on Drummond Island, Michigan. Assiginack returned to his home at Waganakising in 1827 to help create a Catholic mission at Little Traverse along with his brother Apawkausegun. Apawkausegun was instrumental in helping the Little Traverse Bay Odawa negotiate the treaty of 1836. American policies were not favorable to Assiginack so, by 1832, he had already removed his village to original Odawa homelands on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. Assiginack and his brother constantly worked to improve their tribe’s position and rights, whether it was through battle, treaty negotiations or finding a more suitable village location

Source : Turning Point : The War of 1812 from the Native American Perspective. Painting of Assignack for exhibit attributed to Jane Cardinal.

Chief Baw Beese, Potawatomi

Long before white settlers came to Hillsdale County, the Huron-Potawotamies called it home.  Led in the early 1800's by Chief Baw Beese, a band of about 150 hunted and fished in the numerous lakes.  They had a small base camp at the large lake now named Baw Beese.  There, a few permanent dwellings stood and some maize grew but, like most Native Americans before the coming of the white man, they operated on the principle that a territory was inhabited by the tribe and no one owned a specific piece of land.

In 1821 the Treaty of Chicago was signed, ceding to the American government all lands in Michigan Territory south of the Grand River.  Chief Baw Beese wasn't a signatory and perhaps didn't even know about the expectation that he would move his tribe out of the way of the white settlers. But he also wasn't territorial, accepting Moses Allen when he brought his family to Hillsdale County on the Chicago Pike (US 12).  In fact, Baw Beese and his band of Potawotamies proved helpful to the Allen family and the white settlers that followed them, in many cases saving them from starvation or being lost in the dense wilderness.

Numerous accounts of white settlers describe the mutual friendship and respect between them and the Potawotami tribe of Baw Beese.  Supposedly, at least in the early days, the settlers learned the language of the natives and all conversations with the Potawotamies were in that language.  The children played together and competed in sports while the Potawotami braves watched.

In 1834 Richard and Anna Hill Fowler brought their large family to Hillsdale County and settled on a desirable farming location about six miles southwest of Jonesville.  According to an account from a Fowler daughter, one winter day the sons of the family, out skating on their frozen pond, were approached by Baw Beese.  He scoffed at the size of their pond and took them to his camp on the shores of a truly large lake.  The boys were suitably impressed and declared that it would be named "Baw Beese Lake."  And so it was.
In his later years Chief Baw Beese became a bit fat and lazy.  He remained at his lake on the northwest shore, where the water supply plant is now located (on Waterworks Avenue).  The younger members of the tribe wanted a bit of freedom from the control exerted by the chief and chose another camp to call their own, where the Hillsdale Golf and Country Club is now located.

In 1840 the federal government got serious about relocating the Native Americans who remained in the Michigan Territory.  The government certainly received no support from the white settlers of Hillsdale County.  When a contingent of government troops arrived to escort the Potawotamies to a reservation in Iowa, there was widespread dismay.  Tears were shed on both sides.  The white residents of the county lined the roads, bidding a sad farewell to their Potawotami friends as they walked to their exile.

A Second View

The rolling countryside of the aptly-named Hillsdale County has more than its fair share of water: streams and rivers that were harnessed to power the early mills, ponds and lakes that provided fishing opportunities and recreation for the people who have lived here over the centuries. The approximately 350 ponds and 42 lakes in the county also serve as headwaters for five major watersheds. Baw Beese Lake is the largest of the lakes.

It was one of the camping sites of the Potawatomi people led by Chief Baw Beese when whites first settled in the county in the late 1820s. Stories handed down from the early years of the white migration tell of a comfortable interaction between the Potawatomi and the whites. Most first-hand accounts of the Potawatomi demonstrate a paternalistic attitude toward the county natives that fails to honor them as equals. But the memories also gratefully acknowledge how the Potawatomi were helpful to the whites who arrived on their hunting grounds. When the Potawatomi were forcibly removed from the county, many of their white friends stood tearfully on the edge of the Chicago Military Road (now US-12) to bid them farewell. 

Until his removal Baw Beese remained at the lake named for him, on the northwest shore where the water supply plant is now located (on Waterworks Avenue). The younger members of the tribe wanted a bit of freedom from the control exerted by the chief and chose another camp to call their own, where the Hillsdale Golf and Country Club is now located. 

Source : History of Baw Beese Lake, Hillsdale County Historical Society

Madeline Bertrand (Potawatomi, 1778-1846)


Madeline Bertrand Park Marker


The Catholic church records from St. Anne's in Detroit show that Madeline Bertrand was the biological daughter of Daniel Bourassa thru what was noted as "marital relations with a savage of the Potawatomi Nation". She was named Madeline. Her birth year was given as 1781. However, her tombstone at Bertrand shows she was 67 at the time of her death in 1846 making her born in 1778 or 1779. A mission priest from St. Anne's in Detroit ratified the marriage of Joseph and Madeline Bertrand on August 13, 1818. The following children were noted and recognized at that time: Joseph (11 1/2), Luc (8 1/2), Benjamin (6), Laurent (4 1/2), and Therese (1).

Because of his knowledge and relationship with the Potawatomis, Joseph Bertrand Sr. was able to attain significant amounts of land during his assistance in the negotiations between the Americans and Potawatomi. Madeline Bertrand (1/2 Potawatomi) herself obtained land in the treaties of 1821, 1826, and 1828 because of her husband's prominence. Madeline Bertrand died October 14, 1846.

A number of parks near Niles, Michigan are names in her honor

Source : Joseph and Madeline Bertrand website, based on research by Susan Sleeper-Smith, associate professor of history at Michigan State University, and coeditor of New Faces of the Fur Trade: Selected Papers of the Seventh North American Fur Trade Conference. Information gathered for her book, Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes, was from thorough research of the Michigan historical societies and old documented church records for accurate historical preservation.

Agatha Biddle (1797-Mar. 23, 1873)



A historic photo of Biddle House – the oldest structure on Mackinac Island which dates to about 1780 – will undergo a makeover to present history through the eyes of Agatha Biddle, an Odawa chief who married a Philadelphia fur trader and was a front-row witness to key events on the island in the early 19th century.

Born Agatha LeVigne (in 1804?) in the Mackinac area, she was the daughter of an Ottawa woman and a European father. Her mother married Joseph Bailly in 1818. Agatha was very beautiful and fair for an Indian woman. Edward Biddle came to the Island from a wealthy and influential Philadelphia family to make his fortune in the fur trade. He became attached to Agatha and they were married in 1819. Similar to Josette LaFramboise's wedding, it was the event of the season. Agatha was married in a traditional Indian outfit. It consisted of a skirt ornamented with ribbon and beads, leggings, a silk blouse with fitted sleeves around the arms and wrist and covered with necklaces. Three other women wore similar outfits - her mother Agatha Bailly, Madame LaFramboise and Madame Schindler. Agatha would live her life wearing traditional Indian clothes. Her home on Mackinac Island still stands and is maintained by the Mackinac Historic Parks Commission. Of this marriage, three children were born: Sophia, John and Sarah.

Agatha was the chief of a group of people that consisted of 66 families or 168 people in 1870, of which all, with the exception of 2, were headed by women. This 'sub-band' of the Mackinac region contained half blood women who married white husbands, and their children. The chiefs of the area determined that the individuals in Agatha's band were entitled to monies due the local indians from the 1836 treaty. Annuities were paid to Agatha by the govermnent and she distributed the funds according to the stipulations in the treaty.  Source : RootsWeb.

“She lived in the house, she did business in the house, and we really liked the idea that she’s such a fascinating character,” Eric Hemenway, director of archives and records for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, said. “She was her own boss, essentially, and actually she had more pull at times than her husband.”

Agatha Biddle was described as feeding and caring for the sick and elderly of her community, as well as taking in orphans or children who were in need of a home. She married Edward, an independent fur trade and official within the community. Like many of the merchant class families the Biddle family children were schooled away from home. Sophia, the eldest daughter, became a belle of society in the Wyndotte area, while staying with family for school. Agatha was said to have worn traditional clothing of her tribe. She was made the chief of the Mackinac band (comprised of mostly Anishinaabe tribes) in the mid 1800s.  Source : Metis Women of Mackinac, Mackinac State Historic Parks, April 22, 2016.

Agatha Biddle


Biddle House - Mackinaw Island.jpg

Biddle House today.

For more information see Gender, Race and Religion in the Colonization of the Americas, edited by Nora E. Jaffary

Andrew Jackson Blackbird (Odawa)

Andrew Jackson Blackbird, Author of the 1887 book, History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan.

When the "Treaty With The Ottawa and Chippewa" was signed on July 31, 1855, Andrew Jackson Blackbird served as an interpreter, translator and official witness for the Native Americans.

Andrew J. Blackbird (c.1815 - 1908), an important figure in the history of the Odawa (Ottawa) tribe, was the son of a chief. Educated in the traditions of the Odawam he also attended Euro-American schools including present-day Eastern Michigan University.  Blackbird participated in the negotiations for the Treaty of 1855, which established a large home reservation for the Odawa in the Harbor Springs areas.   Blackbird bought a home in Harbor Springs around 1858, when the town was inhabited mostly by Odawa people. From here he ran the post office and wrote a history of the Odawa. As a councilor for the Odawa.  Blackbird also helped Odawa veterans get pensions, and assisted with land claims. This site is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Sources and additional information:

Andrew Blackbird named 2007 Michigan Walk of Fame inductee : First postmaster of Harbor Springs, helped Native Americans gain  citizenship. Source : TurtleTalk, December 5, 2007.

Andrew Jackson Blackbird Home State Historical Marker

Andrew Blackbird entry in wikipedia.

Blackbird, Andrew J. Complete both early and late history of the Ottawa and Cheppewa Indians of Michigan : a grammar of their language, personal and family history of the author.  Harbor Springs, Michigan : Babcock and Darling, 1897.

Blackbird, Andrew J. History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan; a grammar of their language, and personal and family history  Ypsilanti, Michigan : Ypsilanti Job Printing House, 1887. The book covers not only historical facts, but day-to-day details of how the Ottawa and Ojibwa hunted, fished and trapped before the coming of the whites. Blackbird explains many of the traditional beliefs and cultural practices of the two tribes. Because the author was himself a Native American, the book is free of the bias commonly found in books by white authors of the period. Finally, the book includes a basic grammar of the Ottawa and Ojibwa languages.

Blackbird, Andrew J.. The Indian problem, from the Indian's standpoint Ypsilanti, Michigan : Scharf Tag, Label & Box Co., 1900.

Blackbird's Song : Andrew J. Blackbird and the Odawa People / Thodore J. Karamanski. East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2012.

Reposted from Red Tape Blog.

Indian Dave of Tuscola County

Indian Dave was one of the last Chippewas to hunt, fish and trap in the old manner in the Tuscola County area. Dave was born around 1803 and given the name Ishdonquit. According to legend, in 1819 he attended the gathering at the Saginaw River where 114 Chippewa chiefs and braves signed the treaty of Saginaw. The treaty ceded about six million acres of land in central eastern Michigan to the United States. Indian Dave fascinated youngsters with his tales and native customs. A mural honoring him has hung in the Vassar bank for decades.

The earliest recorded inhabitants of Tuscola County were Sauk Indians. But Chippewas occupied the area by the time of the first permanent white settlement in 1836. Exactly when Indian Dave settled here is not known. However, in 1866, in order to resolve the Vassar / Caro county seat dispute, he and Peter Bush transported the county records to Caro by canoe. Dave was an expert at making bows and arrows, which he often sold for his livelihood. When he died in 1909, he was believed to be 106 years old. He is buried nearby in Wisner Cemetery.

Source : Michigan Historical Marker



Kanapima, an Ottawa Chief.   Plate 96. McKenney, Thomas L. & Hall, James. History of the Indian Tribes of North America. Philadelphia: F.W. Greenough, 1838-1844.

The subject of this sketch, Kanapima, or One who is talked of, is the chief of another branch of the Ottawa, who are settled at L’Arbre Croche, in Michigan, about forty miles south of Michilimackinac. He is otherwise called Augustin Hamelin, Jr. He was born at the place of his present residence, on the 12th of July, 1813. In 1829, he was sent to Cincinnati, in company with a younger brother, named Maccoda Binnasee, The Blackbird, to be educated at the Catholic seminary at that place. They remained here three years, not making any remarkable progress, that we can learn, but still receiving instruction with a degree of profit which encouraged the benevolent persons who had undertaken their education, to persevere in their generous design. Kanapima was said to be the more sprightly of the two, but the brother was probably the better scholar. They both exhibited much restlessness under the confinement of the school, and a decided fondness for athletic exercises. They loved the open air; when the sun shone they could scarcely be restrained from wandering off to the romantic hills which surround this beautiful city; and when it rained, however hard, they delighted to throw off their upper garments, and expose themselves to the falling showers.

It has been a favorite project with the Roman Catholic Missionaries, to rear up a native priesthood among the American Indians, and they have taken great pains to induce some of their converts to be educated for the holy office. It seems strange that so rational a project, and one which would appear to promise the most beneficent results, should have entirely failed, especially when under taken by a church of such ample means, and persevering spirit yet it is a fact, that not a single individual of this race in North America, among the many who have been educated, and the still larger number who have been converted to Christianity, has ever become a minister of the gospel.

Kanapima and his brother were of the number upon whom this experiment was tried, and they were accordingly sent to Rome in 1832, to prosecute their studies in the Propaganda Fide. After remaining there about two years, Maccoda Binnasee died, and Kanapima immediately afterwards returned to this country, became the chief of his tribe, and resumed the costume and habits of his people. His manners have much of the ease and polish of civil life; but his feelings, his affections, and his opinions have resumed their native channels. In the latter part of 1835, he conducted a party of his tribe to Washington city, and was one of those who were specially appointed by the Ottawa to make a treaty.

Source : McKenny, Thomas & Hall, James & Todd, Hatherly & Todd, Joseph. History of the Indian tribes of North America: with biographical sketches and anecdotes of the principal chiefs. Embellished with one hundred portraits from the Indian Gallery in the War Department at Washington. Philadelphia: D. Rice & Co. 1872. Web. 23 March 2014.

Kinnequay and Payson Wolfe (Odawa)

Kin-ne-quay was an Odawa medicine woman who bore a son Payson Wolfe later in life.  Kin-ne-quay opposed his marriage to a white woman but relented after they had the first of 13 children.  Payson enlisted with Company K of the First Michigan Sharpshooters, an all-Indian company in the Union Army, in 1863.... Captured at Petersburg in 1864 and incarcerated at Andersonville, Payson returned home permanently crippled in his left arm.

Sources and additional information:

Remembering Kin-ne-quay by Etta S. Wilson, her granddaughter.  Shared by Grand Rapids Historical Commission.  The story of an Ottawa princess and medicine woman.

Charlotte Waukazoo, aka  Kin-ne-qua, aka Kin-Ne-Quay

Payson Wolfe (1833-1900) from Rootsweb.

Portrait of Payson Wolfe from Detroit Public Library Digital Collections.  Image of Native American Payson Wolfe, 1833-1900. Served in Civil War as member of Co. K, 1st Regiment Michigan Sharpshooters. Union case.

Waukazoo / Waukazo Family Homepage from Rootsweb

Madeleine LaFramboise (Ottawa)

Madeline LaFramboise

Daughter of a French-Canadian Fur trader and an Ottawa mother, Madeleine was only 3 months old when her father died in 1780. She was raised in an Ottawa village on the Grand River among her mother's people. Here, she must have been a person of some status as her grand father was Chief Kewinoquot. She married Joseph LaFramboise and had her daughter Josette by the time she was 15 years old. Josette was baptised in 1799 at St. Anne's of Mackinac and was the first entry in the church's register. Madeleine was a great asset to her husband in the fur trade. In addition to all the languages she spoke, she knew the fur trade and assisted him in negotiations. In 1804, her husband was killed by an Indian while they were at their trading post near where Lowell is today. At this point Magdeleine gathered up her winter furs and took her husband's body to Mackinac Island.

For the next 14 years, Madame LaFramboise, as she was known by, continued a difficult yet romantic existence. She wintered in the Grand River Valley collecting her furs from trappers and then in the late spring she supervised the transportation of the furs to Mackinac Island. She amassed a great fortune and built a very fine home on Mackinac Island. She was able to provide a Montreal education for her children, Josette born 1795 and Joseph born 1804. She was so successful, that John Jacob Astor decided to quit competing with her, and, in 1818 he bought her out. She was able to live in great comfort for the rest of her life.

In 1816, her accomplished and educated daughter, Josette married Benjamin K. Pierce, commandant of the fort and brother to the future president of the United States. Their marriage was the event of the summer and took place at the home of Madame LaFramboise's dear friends, the Mitchells. The wedding guests wore their finest silks and satins while Madame LaFramboise, Therese Schindler, Josette's aunt, and Elizabeth Mitchell wore their best traditional regalia. Josette and Benjamin, however, were met with tragedy and their marrage was brief. Josette bore Benjamin 2 children, Josette Harriet and Benjamin. Only four years after their marriage, Josette and her infant son died. Benjamin left Harriet on the Island in the care of her grandmother.

After the death of her beloved daughter and grandson, Madeleine determined to teach herself to read and write. Her home was at times a school, used for religious purposes and at times a welcome haven for passing notables. In her parlor, Madeleine entertained historical figures such as Alexis de Tocqueville, John and Juliette Kinzie, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft as well as her own native family members.

She was fond of traveling, perhaps because of her years in the fur trade, and she frequently visited her son, who became successful in business, in Montreal. In 1827 she donated a large portion of her property for the building of a catholic church with the condition that she be buried under the altar.

Madeleine LaFramboise died on April 4, 1846 and was buried under the church alter along side her daughter Josette. Her will gave her granddaughter, Harriet, her stately home and provided amply for her son and her dear friend Agatha Biddle. During the last half of the 20th century, the tombs were moved from beneath the church to a garden on the grounds to make way for renovations. It is still there today. Her lovely home has been expanded and is now a gracious hotel for Island visitors, much as it was in her day.

Sourcse and additional information :

Theresa L. Weller, Madeleine LaFramboise RootsWeb entry. The entry was originally written for an exhibit created by the Michiliackimackinac Historical Society in St. Ignace, Michigan and was exhibited during the summer of 2014 at The Stuart House on the Island.

The portrait of Madeleine LaFramboise is taken from a book, The People of Three Fires, published by the Grand Rapids Inter-Tribal Council.

Grand Rapids History Podcast, March 3, 2010.

Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council entry

Madeleine LaFramboise, History of American Women, January 13, 2013.

Madeleine LaFramboise Wikipedia Entry

Magdelaine LaFramboise : the first lady of Mackinac Island / Keith R. Widder.  Available in the MSU Library Special Collections.

Lissa Edwards, "Madame La Framboise Harbour View Inn Preserves Story of 19th Century French/Indian Mackinac Island Entrepreneur", My North, May 17, 2010.

Originally posted in the Red Tape Blog

Chief Okemos (Saginaw Chippewa)

Chief Okemos around 1789, courtesy of the University of Michigan

On December 5, 1858 , the namesake for Okemos, Michigan, died near Portland and is honored to this day with a grave marker.

Although details on his life are spotty, Chief John Okemos was the nephew and a scout for Chief Pontiac, who attempted to drive the British out of Michigan by laying siege to Detroit early in Michigan's history.

During the Battle of Sandusky, he was severely wounded fighting on the side of the British against the Americans and bore saber scars for the rest of his life.

Later on Chief Okemos made his peace with the Americans at Fort Wayne in Detroit in 1814 and later signed the Treaty of Saginaw with Lewis Cass, the first territorial Governor of Michigan in 1819, ceding over 6 million acres, a third of the lower peninsula of Michigan, to the whites for settlement.

Chief Okemos


Whitford's tintype photograph of Okemos was likely taken in 1857 or 1858, shortly before his death, at the same sitting as a partner photograph now held in the Archives of Michigan.  The chief wears a turban-style headpiece and a dark coat with a sash that has been hand colored. He holds a cane in his hand and displays his leather mittens.  He has a very fashionable 'skunk bag' hanging from his waist, Whitford adds.   Bill Castanier, "The surprise return of Chief Okemos", Lansing City Pulse, August 28, 2009. 


Bill Castanierprovides the following comments :

Jim LaLone, a bookseller at Archives Book Shop in East Lansing and a historian who specializes in American Indians, located an 1856 deposition of Okemos that sheds some light on his life, but even that document contradicts itself.

Okemos was purported to be the son of an Ottawa hunter and a Chippewa mother. He was born anywhere from the 1750s to the mid-1770s. Some accounts of his life say he was born in Shiawassee County, but in the deposition, Okemos said he was born near Pontiac in Oakland County. In the deposition, Okemos said he was 76 years old, which would place his birth in 1780. But later in the deposition, he makes statements to suggest he was born in 1769.

Much of the confusion comes from the relative paucity of written history about American Indians. This, combined with translation problems, has resulted in often conflicting and exaggerated claims about Okemos' life.

Some claims identify Okemos as the nephew of Chief Pontiac. He supposedly led a mixed band of Ottawa, Chippewa and Potawatomi Indians in war, including battles in the 1790s, the Border Wars and the War of 1812. One account has him fighting in the Battle of the Thames in Ohio, where Tecumseh was killed.

However, Okemos said in the deposition that he did not fight at Thames. The state's historical marker has him fighting in the Battle of Sandusky (Ohio), leading a mixed band of Indians against an American force. It is likely his wounds were received sometime during the War of 1812, possibly during the 1813 battle for Fort Meigs in Northwestern Ohio.

Okemos Village Historical Marker:   History of Chief Okemos


During that battle, Okemos purportedly received a 5-inch sword gash across his face, as well as other wounds to his shoulder, chest and back. Some written histories claim he would later let people see and even touch his scars.

The Illustrated London News wrote a brief account of Okemos' life on March 5, 1859. The article includes a dispatch from Rufus Hosmer, who was the editor of the Lansing State Republican newspaper at that time.

Okemos fought at Fort Meigs, Hosmer wrote, and there received wounds in the head which, if had been a white man, would have made his obituary an old story forty-five years ago, but being an Indian they simply left holes in his skull, into which we have placed three of our fingers.

Because of his battlefield heroics, Okemos was said to have been elevated to one of the chiefs of the Saginaw Chippewas. He signed the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw, which transferred 6 million acres of land to the federal government.

In his later years, Okemos was a fixture in the Lansing area, according to Hosmer. Okemos was familiarly known to most of the Lansing people, young and old, and was wont to pay this place more of less visits every season, Hosmer wrote in 1859. Indeed, during the years 1847, '48 and '49, he for the most part kept his wigwam near the village which bears his name, six miles to the eastward, during which years he was in our streets almost daily.

The chief is in the house

One of those people Okemos regularly visited was Marion Turner Reasoner (of Turner-Dodge House fame), who wrote an account of Okemos in the Nov. 30, 1899, edition of The Lansing State Republican. Turner, who lived in Lansing, wasn't born until 1846, so her account is likely of Okemos' final years.

When I was a young girl, she wrote, Old Okemos, the chief of the Saginaw Chippewa, was a frequent visitor at our house. I remember that we looked upon him as a great chief and were much interested in hearing him talk of the terrible battles he had fought. We gazed upon the scars on his head and face with awe and decided he must have been one of the greatest warriors.

As he grew older his visits became less frequent and he was almost blind. He came to us one night quite late in summer, he put his pony in a field near the house and mother prepared a bed for him on the floor by the kitchen fire. He was astir very early in the morning. A cousin (who was visiting me) and I hastily dressed and after filling our pockets with doughnuts, followed him out. We soon discovered that his pony was missing and as he was too blind to follow it, we took compassion on his helplessness and tracked the pony west on the plank road, then north, then east, finding it near Jones Lake. The old veteran seemed delighted with our success, kissed us both, then mounted and rode away, leaving us alone.

Of the chief's final years, Hosmer wrote: Okemos was inoffensive and honest; as sober as Indians generally are, and always affable and willing to communicate the result of his recollections, which were much more vivid the farther back he went. Of late years the favourite weapons of the old chief were the knife and fork.

Okemos died in DeWitt in 1858 and was buried in the Portland area. The town of Hamilton, Mich. was renamed the next year in his honor.

Not being troubled with large earthly possessions, Hosmer wrote, Okemos left no will, and it is doubtful if the very numerous heirs will take out letters of administration. He owed only one debt that of nature which he was rather slow about, and took his own time, but paid at last.

Picture of

According to accounts by Ford Stevens Ceasar in his 1976 book The Bicentennial History of Ingham County, Okemos' grave may have been desecrated and his body intentionally moved. It was uncovered by diggers in the 1930s.

Accounts in the Lansing State Journal at the time tell how a skull, purported to be Okemos', was showcased by a local photographer during Lansing's celebration of its incorporation in 1934.

A face for radio

In addition to the three known photographs of Okemos, there are four paintings showing him in various regalia and at different ages.

A painting in the Ingham County Courthouse shows Okemos trading with pioneers. The state's historical museum has a painting of Okemos in its storage facilities. An additional portrait, completed in 1976 by local artist John DeMartelly, depicts Okemos as a proud young warrior. That painting is on loan to the Nokomis Center in Okemos. A final portrait, depicting Okemos sitting on a log with his dog at his feet, in the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

DeMartelly exhaustively researched Okemos before painting the chief. In a broadside accompanying his painting, deMartelly wrote: I chose to paint Okemos as a younger man at the height of his career. The painting shows a warrior with a war club and a bone-handled English hunting knife. He wears a British colonial officer's coat, indicating he fought on the side of the British.

I was pleased that John chose to paint him in his prime, defending his family, says MSU history professor George Cornell, who is the director of Native American Studies for the university.

The painting cast Okemos in a much better light than the photos, Cornell says, which show him as a destitute old man who has had his country wrenched away from him.

Cornell isn't surprised by all of the confusion surrounding Okemos' life.

The history was written by the winners, Cornell says, and the 19th century perception of Native Americans was as savages.

Cornell says it's unlikely that translations of Okemos' statements, such as white man was heap brave, are accurate. Native Americans had a strong oral tradition and were much more articulate in their own language than that, Cornell says.

Additional information:

Michigan Every Day.

Chief Okemos (1775-1858) from Bay Journal

Chief Okemos in Life and Death Chief Okemos, 1775-1858

Chief Johnny Okemos with pictures. (Find-a-Grave)

F. N. Turner. "Chief Okemos".   Michigan History Magazine, volume 6, no 1, pp. 1 1922 pp 156-159 Michigan Historical Commission and the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society. An Address to mark the resting place of Chief Okemos, who was a nephew of Pontiac. He fought with Tecumseh at the battle of Sandusky. Afterward he was a prisoner of war until General Cass pardoned him and placed him on a 140-acre reservation in Ionia. He was well known to many early settlers of Clinton, Ingham, Jackson and Washtenaw counties, because he and his band hunted and trapped a wide area.

The Sebewa Recollector, June 1994, Volume 29, Number 6; “Danby Township – Grand River Heritage” from the Grand River Heritage Water Trails Assn.; The Portland, Michigan Centennial Book

Chief Okemos entry from H2G2, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Okemos, Michigan is named after this individual .



"Old" O-ke-mos, a nephew of Pontiac and once the chief of the Chippewas, was born on the upper waters of 
the Shiawassee, at a date unknown. The earliest account of him is that he took the warpath in 1796; and 
he was active in the battle of Sandusky, in 1803, which gave him his chieftainship and caused him to be 
revered by his tribe. Afterward he settled with his people on the banks of the Shiawassee, near the place 
of his birth, where for many years he engaged in hunting, fishing, and trading with the white men. In 
1837, when small-pox broke out in his tribe, their families became scattered, and the sound of the 
tom-tom at council fires and village feasts, were heard no more along the pleasant river. 

O-ke-mos then became a mendicant, and many a hearty meal did he receive from his friends among the 
whites. He was only five feet four inches in height, but was lithe, wiry, and active, with the usual 
amount of Indian intelligence, and possessed bravery ; but in conversation he hesitated and mumbled his 
words. Before the breaking up of his tribe his dress consisted of a blanket coat, with belt, steel pipe, 
hatchet, tomahawk, and a heavy, long, English hunting knife, with a large bone handle, stuck in the front 
of his belt. He painted his cheeks and forehead with vermillion, wore a shawl around his head in turban 
fashion, and covered his legs with leggings. 

He died in his wigwam near Lansing, and was buried December 5, 1858, at Shimnicon, an Indian village in 
Ionia County. Though his coffin was roughly fashioned, in it were placed his pipe and tobacco, hunting 
knife, and bird's wings, in accordance with the Indian traditions. 

Source : History of Saginaw County, Michigan.  Saginaw, MI : Seamann and Peters, 1918.

Chief Matchekewis

Chief Matchekewis was a tribal leader of the Ojibwe people. His people were native to Michigan country, migrating to avoid pioneer expansion. In 1763, he took part in Pontiac's Rebellion, participating in the capture of Fort Michilimackinac from the Kingdom of Great Britain. But in 1780 he commanded his tribes in the American Revolutionary War as an ally of Great Britain against the Kingdom of Spain. At the Battle of St. Louis, in charge of all of the native American troops, he was defeated by the Spanish gunpowder weapons. After the war, he signed the Treaty of Greenville (August 3, 1795) with the young United States, ceding Bois Blanc Island in Lake Huron in addition to all of his original lands, to the United States.

Mash-i-pi-nash-i-wish / Bad Bird / Machiquawish / Matchekewis / Muchicowiss / Michiguiss / Mitchikiweese / Mudjekewiss / Wachicouess / Mitchwass / Mitchewas / Kaigwiaidosa [born c.1735 in Northern Michigan; died 1805 or 1806 near Toledo, Ohio], principal Ojibwa chief of the Thunder Bay, Michigan community, descendant of an influential Ojibwa family from Lake Superior, father of Madjeckewiss; captured Fort Michilimakinac with Chief Minweweh, June 2, 1763; he was at the Siege of Detroit with Wasson in 1763; met with Sir William Johnston at Fort Niagara in 1764; Michicawiss passed through Detroit on the way to Niagara in July 1768, he conferred there from July 10 to July 16; Wachicouess / Michacawiss was at Johnson Hall from July 22 to July 27, 1768; Madjeckewiss was charged with the murder of a trader and imprisoned at Michilimakinac in April 1771; Madjeckewiss attended a council with De Peyster at Michilimakinac in July 1774; he was an ally of the British in 1776; he was at the invasion of New York in 1777; he attended the Great Council at L'Arbre Croche, July 4, 1779; lived at Cheboygan in the winter of 1779; he attacked St. Louis on March 10, 1780; Muikoteywass, Ojibwa chief, attended a council at Detroit, April 26, 1781; according to Captain Lamothe, Matchiquiwissis died sometime before August 1793.

Sources and additional information :

Chief Matchekewis wikipedia entry

Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry

Alexander Henry's Travels and Adventrues in the Years 1760-1776.  Chicago, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., [Ann Arbor, Mich.], 1921. [1960]

Bois Blanc Island Historical Marker

Marcia Schonberg.  Michigan Native Peoples   Chicago, Ill. : Heinemann Library, ©2004.

Wisc. Hist. Colls, VII, 189-90.


Minavavana, a Chippewa chief, addressing trader Alexander Henry, as recorded by Henry, 1761   In this address to an English trader named Alexander Henry, Minavavana, a Chippewa or Ojibwa chief, warns the English that France's defeats during the French and Indian War do not mean that England can assert sovereignty over Indian lands.  This document refers to what is called alternately the “Seven Years War” and the “French and Indian War” (1754–63), in which the English fought with the French over colonial territory in the Ohio Valley. Native Americans sided with the French, with whom they had better trading relations, and who were not as aggressive as the British in taking Native lands. However, by early 1760 the tide turned in favor of the British, and Native Americans became more eager to make peace with the apparent victor.

Mineweweh / Minavavana / Le Grand Saulteur / Ninkaton [born c.1710; died autumn 1770 at Michilimakinac], principal Ojibwa war chief of the area around Michilimakinac and Mackinac Island, father of northern Ojibwa Chief Kinonchamek, he was 6 feet tall; ally of the French; captured Michilimakinac with Chief Madjeckewiss on June 2, 1763; when Michilimakinac was reoccupied by the British he moved west through Illinois and Wisconsin; met Pontiac in the Illinois Country with the French in the fall of 1765; Grand Chief Mivanon was visited by 15 chiefs sent from the French in 1766; he arrived in Cahokia [East St. Louis] in April 1770 to avenge the murder of Pontiac; Minavavana killed two servants of a trading company; his camp was attacked by a British war party at Michilimakinac in the fall of 1770 and he was knifed in his tent (Peckham: 164, 265, 317; Petrone: 30; Quaife 1958: 141; DCB vol. III: 529-530, vol. III: 452; PSWJ vol. XII: 228).   Source : Rootsweb.


A chief of the Ottawa of the Michilimackinac region of Michigan, commonly known as Little Wing, or Wing, and also called Ningweegon. Although the United State had declined the proffer of Indian services in the war with Great Britain in 1812, Negwagon espoused the American cause and lost a son in battle, whereupon he adopted Austin E. Wing. When the British took possession of Michilimackinac, Negwagon retired with his people to their hunting grounds, hoisting the American flag over his camp. Happening to be alone, he was visited by British soldiers, who ordered him to strike his flag. Obeying the command, he wound the emblem around his arm, and drawing his tomahawk, said to the officer, “Englishman, Negwagon is the friend of the Americans. He has but one flag and one heart; if you take one you shall take the other!” Then sounding a war cry he assembled his warriors and was allowed to remain in peace and to hoist the flag, again. After the close of the war he annually visited Detroit with his family in two large birchbark canoes with an American flag flying front the stern of each. Lewis Cass, then stationed at Detroit, never failed to reward him on the occasion of these visits with two new flags. By treaty of Mar. 28, 1836, he was granted an annuity of $100, payable in money or goods. Negwagon is described as having been very large in stature. A county of Michigan was named in his honor, but the name was subsequently changed.

Sources and additional information:

Wisconsin Historical Society Collections, III, 1857.

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906. Web. 16 March 2014. via Access Genealogy.

Chief Noonday

Bronze Statue of Chief Noonday

Chief Noonday, known as Noahquageshik or Nawquageezhig, the leader of the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians in the late 19th century, has been honored in Grand Rapids by the erection of a bronze by sculptor Antonio Tobias Mendez. The statue stands on the west side of the Grand River, outside Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center, near the Blue Bridge in downtown Grand Rapids.

The best known Indian chief of this period (early/mid 1800's) was Chief Noonday of the Potowatamis, who lived in the Upper Village on the rapids of the Washtanong or Grand River.  He was a strong, well-built man with broad shoulders, standing more than six feet in height.  His influence was felt among all tribes in this section of the country.  He was a leader for the British in the war of 1812, witnessed the burning of Buffalo, and was at the side of Chief Tecumseh when the latter was killed.   Legend claims that it was Chief Noonday who carried the body of Tecumseh, Pawnee leader of the Indian warriors, from his final battlefield.   Chief Noonday was also instrumental in the negotiations that opened much of Michigan to settlement.  Living out his last years in the Yankee Springs area at Slater's Mission, his grave lies near Prairieville.

Image result for "chief noonday"

Other references mention Chief Noonday's connection with Baptist missionaries in the Grand Rapids area.

The history of the Baptist church begins in 1822. By the Chicago treaty of 1821 the United States government engaged to furnish the Ottawas with a teacher, a blacksmith, some cattle and farming implements, to locate a mission on a square mile of land, and to expend $1,500 annually for ten years for these purposes. The Reverend Isaac McCoy was appointed superintendent of the persons employed to carry into effect the provisions of the treaty. Upon his representation the mission was located on the north side of Grand river, opposite the foot of the rapids.

Mr. McCoy reached the rapids May 30, 1823, but remained only three days. He returned in the spring of 1825 with a boat laden with iron, steel, yokes, chains and other articles, and permanent log buildings were erected at the Thomas mission, south of West Bridge street and west of Front avenue. Mr. McCoy's wife and three children joined him there in September, 1826. He preached to the Indians and taught them in the school attached to Thomas mission which was opened Christmas day, 1826. Mr. McCoy remained until May, 1827.

His successor was the Reverend Leonard Slater. In a short time the latter mastered the Indian language and before he had concluded his stay of nine years he had the New Testament printed in the Ottawa dialect.

Grand Rapids 1831

Grand Rapids 1831 Sketch by Baptist Missionary

Working around the drawing clockwise: the single cabin on the hill between the trees belonged to Chief Noonday; the collection of houses on the far side of the river is the mission; the three buildings at "three o'clock" are Louis Campau's trading post; an Indian wigwam, shelter, and canoe in the foreground; and island #1 is "nine o'clock." Indian canoes are on the river and women appear to be washing clothes near the wigwam. Areas on both sides of the river have been fenced.

Among the first converts of Mr. Slater was Chief Noonday, and at one time about 150 Indian families were attached to the Thomas mission. Four children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Slater during their residence here. The eldest of these, Emily, was named Soman-a-que, "Child of a Chief," by Chief Noonday.

When the eastern settlers began to come in numbers the authorities considered it advisable to remove the Thomas mission. Accordingly, land was purchased at Praireville, Barry county, in 1836, and Mr. Slater, with his family and about fifty Indian families, removed to that place the same year, Chief Noonday, then almost 100 years of age, going with them.

Lake Chief Noonday in Yankee Springs is named after him. The main road running between Bradley and Hastings, and the Mud Lake Camp are also named after him.  And now Grand Rapids has erected a bronze statue in his memory.

Rachel Recker, "Chief Noonday statue unveiled in Grand Rapids, names of future statues of historical figures announced, MLive, April 10, 2010.

Chief Noonday Grave - Barry County, MI.

Historical Collections, volume 10.

Van Buren, A. D. P. "Noonday, the Ottawa Chief. He Was in the Battle of the Thames, and Sees Col. R. M. Johnson Shoot Tecumseh, Whom He Carries Off the Battlefield." Vol. 10, (1888): 158-161.

Weissert, Charles A. "The Indians and the Trading Posts in the Northwest of Barry County, Michigan." Vol. 38, (1912): 654-672.
This history of the Potawatomi near Kalamazoo contains a sketch of their chief, Noonday, or Newequa Geezig, along with descriptions of their daily life.

Chief Petosegay

Petosegay or Pet-O-Sega (Ottawa: Rising Sun, Rays of the Morning Dawn and Sunbeams of Promise) (1787 – June 15, 1885) was a 19th-century French-Ottawa Métis merchant and fur trader. Both present-day Petoskey, Michigan, Petoskey State Park, and nearby Emmet County park Camp Petosega are named in his honor. The official state stone of Michigan, the Petoskey stone, were found in abundance on his former lands and named after him.

The son of Antoine Carre (Neaatooshing), he was born along the northern banks of the Kalamazoo River near the mouth of Manistee. According to popular lore his father held him up to the rising sun and said "his name shall be Petosegay and he shall become an important person".

He grew up in the lodge of his father roughly seven miles northwest of Harbor Springs, nearby the site of the town of Middle Village. At the age of 21, Petosegay married the daughter of Pokozeegun, an Ottawa chieftain from the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. He and his new bride, Kewaykabawikwa, planted apple trees to celebrate their marriage and, at the time of his death, they could still be seen by local residents.

Later on, after moving  his family to the southern shore of Little Traverse Bay, he and his elder sons soon acquired much of the land of what is now Petoskey, Michigan and became a prominent merchant and landowner.   In 1873, the local residents living along the bay of Bear Creek named their settlement Petoskey in his honor. Although the name was a corruption of Petosegay, he changed the spelling of his name as a gesture to them.

Source : Petosegay wikipedia entry

Leopold Pokagon

Portrait of Leopold Pokagon from

Leopold Pokagon (c. 1775 - 1841) was a Potawatomi Wkema (leader). Taking over from Topinbee, who died in 1826, Pokagon became the head of the Potawatomi of the Saint Joseph Rive Valley in Michigan, a band that later took his name.

Pokagon's early life is surrounded by legend, and many details are known only in the oral histories of the tribe. Stories suggest that he was born an Odawa or Ojibwe, but was raised from a young age by the Potawatomi. His name, Pokagon, poké-igan, means "the rib," but literally means "something used to shield". As the ribs shield the heart, so too did Pokagon shield his people.

Pokagon emerged as a very successful tribal leader after 1825. In the last decade of his life, Pokagon sought to protect and promote the unique position of the Potawatomi communities living in the St. Joseph River Valley. He traveled to Detroit in July 1830, where he visited Father Gabriel Richard to request the services of a "black robe" (makatékonéya, literally "dressed in black," referring to the black robe (cassock) traditionally worn by priests). He believed that affiliation with the Catholic Church represented an important political alliance in the struggle to avoid removal. That same year, Pokagon and his wife Elizabeth were baptized by Father Frederick Rese, the vicar general of the Detroit Diocese, along with numerous fellow band members. In August 1830, Father Stephen Badin arrived to establish a mission to serve the Pokagon Potawatomi. By converting to Catholicism, the Potawatomi of the St. Joseph River Valley affirmed a new identity as the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi.

In 1833, Pokagon negotiated an amendment to the Treaty of Chicago (1833) that allowed Pokagon's Band to remain on the land of their ancestors in Michigan. Nearly all the rest of the Potawatomi were to be moved west of the Mississippi River by the federal government following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. By abstaining from alcohol at the treaty negotiations held in Chicago in 1833, and emphasizing his and his followers' conversion to Catholicism, Pokagon secured a special provision in the 1833 Treaty. Later the Pokagon Band removed to L'arbre Croche (Waaganaakising, land of the crooked tree, literally where the crooked tree is). Pokagon ultimately used the monies paid pursuant to the Treaty to purchase lands for his people in Silver Creek Township, near Dowagiac, Michigan. He patented the land in his name and becoming a private land owner same as the surrounding settlers.

The Catholic Potawatomi throughout southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana acknowledged Pokagon as their leader. Ever since, the Indian villages from Hartford, Rush Lake, Dowagiac, Niles, Buchanan in Michigan and South Bend in Indiana have been united under a common identity, Pokégan Bodéwadmik débéndagozwad (Pokagon Potawatomies they belong to).

In 1841, Pokagon obtained the assistance of Associate Michigan Supreme Court Justice Epaphroditus Ransom to halt US military attempts to remove the Catholic Potawatomi in violation of the 1833 Treaty. After Pokagon’s death on July 8, 1841, disputes between his heirs, the Potowatomi, and the Catholic Church over ownership of the Silver Creek lands resulted in legal battles that painfully disrupted the community. A majority of the residents living at Silver Creek moved to Brush Creek, Rush Lake and elsewhere in southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana. The Potowatomi worked to secure the annuities and other promises owed them under the terms of the many treaties they had signed with the United States.

Today, the tribe continues as the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, a federally recognized Indian Nation, with an excess of 4300 citizens and a ten-county service area in northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan. Tribal headquarters are located in Dowagiac, Michigan, with a satellite office in South Bend, Indiana. The Tribal Police force operates a substation in New Buffalo, Michigan to cover the tribal-owned casino, Four Winds Casino Resort.

Sources and additional information :

Leopold Pokagon wikipedia entry.

Leopold Pokagon, Potawatomi Leader via

Simon Pokagon

Portrait of Simon Pokagon from

Chief Simon Pokagon was born in the spring of 1830 in Pokagon Village near Niles, Michigan. His father was Chief Leopold Pokagon, a man of sterling character who had been converted to Christianity by Jesuit missionaries.

Until twelve years of age Simon knew only Indian ways and spoke only native Algonquin. However he displayed such mental curiosity that Catholic priests sent him to the newly founded Notre Dame school for four or five years. Later he entered Oberlin College and then Twinsburg Institute in Ohio. He became fluent in English, Latin and Greek

He returned to his tribe which at that time lived at Rush Lake near Hartford, Michigan and acted as tribal chief. When the Potawatomies began electing secretaries to preside over the tribe, Simon Pokagon became Secretary. He was as active as his father in church activities and served as interpreter of sermons into Algonquin for his tribe. He played the church organ, composed poetry, music and hymns and raised a family of four children.

Those who remember him recall that he had a very kind and cheerful nature, was not talkative but had opinions which were both direct and persuasive. He read constantly and loved to sit, to reflect quietly, and to write. He did not permit rambling at tribal council meetings.

When the United States government paid 150,000 dollars in 1896 for land cessions, Pokagon kept only four hundred dollars for himself and saw that the remainder was distributed among his people.

Pokagon died penniless in his little cabin in Michigan on January 28, 1899 at the age of 69.

Pokagon wrote several books and multiple shorter works. He is identified as one of the recognized Native American authors of the nineteenth century. Some have argued that his writings may have been substantially edited by the wife of his personal attorney, although that remains speculation and a matter of controversy among scholars.

Pokagon was a featured speaker at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. While his popularity with some fellow tribal members waned, he was always welcomed among the Gold Coast “High Society” of Chicago and the Chautauqua literary groups of the East Coast.

He was an early activist trying to force the United States to pay monies owed pursuant to treaties and to provide fair treatment of Indian peoples. In the 1890s, Pokagon began pressing land claims to the Chicago lakefront. A complicated individual with what often seemed to be contradictory motivations, he sold “interests” in that Chicago land claim to real estate speculators, angering some in the Pokagon community.

Simon Pokagon wikipedia entry

Chief Simon Pokagon entry  originally written by Elizabeth M. Filstrup from the Herald-Palladium, December 31, 1977 and later transcribed into Pearls in Our Past, History of Hartford Internet Site by Emma Thornburg Sefcik, 2001.

Simon Pokagon, 1830-1899 from IPL2.  Includes online links to some of his publications.

The Red Man's Lament (retitled the The Red Man's Greeting with the second edition) is available via the American Indian Histories and Cultures Online Portal (a subscription service provided by the MSU Libraries).

Pontiac (Odawa Chief)

War under heaven : Pontiac, the Indian Nations & the British Empire

An Ottawa chief, born about 1720, probably on Maumee river, Ohio, about the mouth of the Auglaize. Though his paternity is not positively established, it is most likely that his father was an Ottawa chief and his mother a Chippewa woman. J. Wimer, (Events in Ind. Hist., 155, 1842) says that as early as 1746 he commanded the Indians, mostly Ottawa, who defended Detroit against the attack of the northern tribes. It is supposed he led the Ottawa and Chippewa warriors at Braddock’s defeat.

He first appears prominently in history at his meeting with Maj. Robert Rogers, in 1760, at the place where Cleveland, Ohio, now stands. This officer bad been dispatched to take possession of Detroit on behalf of the British. Pontiac objected to the further invasion of the territory, but, learning that the French had been defeated in Canada, consented to the surrender of Detroit to the British, and was the means of preventing an attack on the latter by a body of Indians at the mouth of the strait. That which gives him most prominence in history and forms the chief episode of his life is the plan he devised for a general uprising of the Indians and the destruction of the forts and settlements of the British.

He was for a time disposed to be on terms of friendship with the British and consented to acknowledge King George, but only as an “uncle,” not as a superior. Failing to receive the recognition he considered his due as a great sovereign, and being deceived by the rumor that the French were preparing for the reconquest of their American possessions, he resolved to put his scheme into operation. Having brought to his aid most of the tribes north west of the Ohio, his plan was to make a sudden attack on all the British posts on the lakes at once, at St Joseph, Ouiatenon, Michilimackinac, and Detroit, as well as on the Miami and Sandusky, and also attack the forts at Niagara, Presque Isle, Le Boeuf, Venango, and Pitt (Du Quesne). The taking of Detroit was to be his special task. The end of May 1763 was the appointed time when each tribe was to attack the nearest fort and, after killing the garrison, to fall on the adjacent settlements. It was not long before the posts at Sandusky, St Joseph, Miami (Ft Wayne), Ouiatenon, Michilimackinac, Presque Isle, Le Boeuf, and Venango were taken and the garrison in most cases massacred; but the main points, Detroit and Ft Pitt, were successfully defended and the Indians forced to raise the siege. This was a severe blow to Pontiac, but his hopes were finally crushed by the receipt of a letter from M. Neyon, commander of Ft. Chartrea advising him to desist from further warfare, as peace had been concluded between France and Great Britain. However, unwilling to abandon entirely his hope of driving back the British, he made an attempt to incite the tribes along the Mississippi to join in another effort.

Being unsuccessful in this attempt, he finally made peace at Detroit, Aug. 17, 1765. In 1769 he attended a drinking carousal at Cahokia, Illinois, where he was murdered by a Kaskaskia Indian. Pontiac, if not fully the equal of Tecumseh, stands closely second to him in strength of mind and breadth of comprehension.

In the eighteenth century, Michigan was the battleground for several conflicts between Native Americans and Europeans. Pontiac's Rebellion, fought between 1763 and 1766, was one of the most significant of these wars. Throughout much of the 1700s, the British and the French fought over control of North America. But in 1763 Britain finally defeated France and the French surrendered control of Canada to Britain. The United Kingdom had defeated the French, but not France's Indian allies. The British soon angered many Native Americans. Where the French had been content to trade and maintain friendly relations with the Indians, the British treated them contemptuously. They built forts in Native American territory, suspended the traditional custom of gift giving, and allowed white settlers to take Native American lands. By April of 1763, many Indians felt that it was time to retaliate. A secret council was held near Detroit. The Odawa chief Pontiac and other Indian leaders agreed to go to war with the British. Pontiac coordinated the plan to attack Detroit with the Ojibwe, Pottawatomie, Wyandot, and other Indian groups. Armies stormed the Fort on May 7, 1763. When they were unable to defeat the garrison, the fort was effectively besieged for much of the year. However, Pontiac was forced to give up his siege of Detroit in November when the French refused to come to his aid. The following year, the British sent an army into Ohio and another into the Great Lakes region. The war continued, but in 1766 Pontiac accepted a peace treaty and was pardoned by the British. Pontiac's revolt failed to defeat the British Empire, but it did achieve many goals important to Native Americans. The British outlawed new white settlement west of the Appalachian ridge and reinstated the practice of gift giving. Pontiac and the other Native Americans who had fought for their homes and cultures had brought a period of stability and peace to the region.

Sources and additional information:

Access Geneaology

May 7, 1763 by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Odawa Chief Pontiac (1720-1769.  Manataka American Indian Council.

Chief Pontiac's Siege of Detroit.  Article by Jenny Nolan appearing in Detroit News, June 14, 2000.

The siege of Detroit in 1763: the Journal of Pontiac's Conspiracy, and John Rutherfurd's Narrative of a captivity / Milo Quaife. Also available online to the MSU community.

Pontiac's War : its causes, course, and consequences / Richard Middleton. New York : Routledge, c2007.

War under heaven : Pontiac, the Indian Nations & the British Empire / Gregory Evans Dowd. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft

Jane Johnson Schoolcraft picture

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (b. 1800–d. 1842) was the first known American Indian literary writer. She wrote poetry and short fiction and translated Ojibwe songs into English. Her Ojibwe name was Bamewawagezhikaquay, which she translated into English as Woman of the Sound the Stars Make Rushing through the Sky, a lyrical rather than a literal translation. She was born in Sault Ste. Marie in what is now northern Michigan. Schoolcraft’s mother, Ozhaguscodaywayquay, grew up in what is now northern Wisconsin, the daughter of Waubojeeg, a famous war chief and leader in civil life who was known for his eloquence in story and song. Schoolcraft’s father, John Johnston, was an Irish fur trader. Despite living in an area that white people saw as the farthest reach of the frontier, John Johnston collected a huge library. He raised his children with superb educations in English and European literature, history, and theology, as Ozhaguscodaywayquay, who did not speak English, immersed them in the traditions of Ojibwe song and storytelling. In 1822 the American government came to Sault Ste. Marie with army troops and a federal Indian agent, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. Henry immersed himself in the study of Ojibwe language and culture, and in 1823 Jane and Henry married. To pass the long northern winters in 1826 and 1827, Henry assembled a handwritten magazine, the Literary Voyager, or Muzzeniegun, consisting mostly of his own writings but with work by others as well, including works by Jane, mostly poems and stories. Depending heavily on Jane and her family, Henry became an influential founder of American cultural anthropology. In 1839 he published the first large-scale collection of written-down and translated Indian stories, Algic Researches. The surviving manuscripts show that Jane and her brother William wrote some of the stories. Jane probably varied in how much she gave traditional stories the stamp of her own personality and style, much as oral storytellers and writers blend their own styles with styles they have heard or read before. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow based his most famous poem, The Song of Hiawatha (1855), on Henry’s work, including stories written by Jane and William. In 1833 Schoolcraft and her family moved to Mackinac Island, and in 1841 they moved to New York City. Schoolcraft was unrecognized in her lifetime except by friends and family, and her writings offer a window onto a highly literate Indian world that invites us to reenvision the cultural memory of early America.


Jane Johnston SchoolcraftRobert Dale Parker.  An annotated bibliography, part of the American Literature module of Oxford Bibliographies Online.

For additional information see:

Jane Johnson Schoolcraft wikipedia entry.

Jane Honson Schoolcraft entry from History of American Women

Introduction to Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (website)

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft from Voices of the Gap (University of Minnesota)

The sound the stars make rushing through the sky : the writings of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft / edited by Robert Dale Parker.  Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2007.  292pp.  Main Library PS2789.S73 A6 2007 : Introducing a dramatic new chapter to American Indian literary history, this book brings to the public for the first time the complete writings of the first known American Indian literary writer, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (her English name) or Bamewawagezhikaquay (her Ojibwe name), Woman of the Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky (1800-1842). Beginning as early as 1815, Schoolcraft wrote poems and traditional stories while also translating songs and other Ojibwe texts into English. Her stories were published in adapted, unattributed versions by her husband, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, a founding figure in American anthropology and folklore, and they became a key source for Longfellow's sensationally popular The Song of Hiawatha....As this volume shows, what little has been known about Schoolcraft's writing and life only scratches the surface of her legacy. Most of the works have been edited from manuscripts and appear in print here for the first time. The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky presents a collection of all Schoolcraft's extant writings along with a cultural and biographical history. Robert Dale Parker's deeply researched account places her writings in relation to American Indian and American literary history and the history of anthropology, offering the story of Schoolcraft, her world, and her fascinating family as reinterpreted through her newly uncovered writing. This book makes available a startling new episode in the history of American culture and literature.

Woman of the sound the stars make rushing through the sky : a literary biography of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft / by Tammrah Stone- Gordon.  MSU dissertation, 1993.  142pp. (Basement, Center)  127105 Thesis

David Shoppenagon (Saginaw Chippewa)

Chief David Shoppenagon (1809 - 1911)

 Chief David Shoppenagon Dies

From the Michigan historical marker:

Side 1

Chief David Shoppenagon was born in Indianfields, a Chippewa Indian Village in the Saginaw River Valley. In 1795 his grandfather, also a Chippewa chief, was among the Indians who met with General Anthony Wayne at Fort Greenville, Ohio, and signed a treaty that ended forty years of warfare in the Ohio Valley. Shoppenagon arrived in the Grayling area from the Saginaw Valley during the early 1870s. He trapped, hunted, and was a guide for sportsmen throughout the northern Lower Peninsula.

Side 2

Chief David Shoppenagon had a house near this site, though he spent much of his time along the lakes and rivers of the area. Whites called him "Old Shopp" and welcomed his campfire tales of bear and deer hunts. He made canoes and paddles by hand and was a river guide in the area. In the early 1900s, a local inn, the area's cork pine and a maple flooring company were named for Chief Shoppenagon. The chief died on Christmas Day 1911. He was believed to be 103 years old.

Chief Shop-a-gons

Chief Shop-a-gon, a Chippewa Indian, died in 1911 at Saginaw where he lived out his life after the white settlement period.

Sources and additional information :

David Shoppenagon of Grayling.  One of Michigan's most famous Native Americans.  Bob Garrett, Image of the Month November 2005.

W. E. Tudor, David Shoppenagon and the Place Between the Rivers.

Painting from Flickr : Oil on canvas, 1910.  Eanger Irving Couse.  David Shoppenagons was an Ojibwa from Michigan; his attire in the portrait was customary for leaders of the early 1800s. He holds a canoe paddle as a reference to his work as a fishing guide.

Reposted from Red Tape Blog

Wahbememe (Potawatomi Chief and Warrior White Pigeon)

Potawatomi Chief Wahbememe (White Pigeon) was a signer of the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, which placed Michigan Great Lakes forts in U.S. hands. The chief was known as a friend to the white settlers in Michigan. According to legend, while attending a gathering of chiefs in Detroit, Wahbememe heard of a plot to attack the settlement that became known as White Pigeon. The story states that he immediately set out on foot, running nearly 150 miles across the state without stopping for food or rest to alert the village. After warning of the impending danger, he collapsed form exhaustion and soon died. His remains are buried on this site, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

n 1909 members of the Alba Columba Club, a White Pigeon women's group, raised funds and community support to create this monument to Chief Wahbememe (White Pigeon). The owner of the bural site, John Weaver, with the help of his sons and neighbors, loaded the granite boulder onto a wagon at the Edison M. Rockwell farm in Porter Township, Cass County. Four hourses pulled it ten miles to this site. On August 10, 1909, a day-long celebration marked the occasion of the dedication of Wahbememe's memorial. Four thousand people, including Lieutenant Governor Patrick H. Kelley watched as Chief Wahbememe's great-great-grandson, Willie White Pigeon, aged six, unveiled the finished monument.

Wahbememe Burial Site and Monument  wikipedia entry

Whap-ka-eek (Potawatomi Chief and Warrior)

The battle of Tippecanoe occurred Nov. 11, 1811, and helped precipitate the War of 1812 a few months later. During the battle, a 35-year-old Potawatomi chief, Whap-ka-zeek, was shot in the left leg. Wounded, he awaited his fate. But after the Indians were routed, Gen. William Henry Harrison’s soldiers took the chief to a field hospital where his leg was amputated. He was nursed back to health, given a crutch and a pony and allowed to return home.

That home was a Potawatomi village near present-day Spring Arbor. When the first white settlers began arriving about 20 years later, Whap-ka-zeek was still living there. The village site is memorialized by the Falling Waters Historic Park at Hammond and S. Cross roads, about a mile southwest of Spring Arbor.


The War of 1812 was primarily an American-British conflict. However, Indian allies played a key role, especially in the Great Lakes region. The Potawatomi were part of Shawnee chief Tecumseh’s multi-tribal alliance, which sided with the British and fought in several battles.

At one point, Harrison’s army was marching from Indiana to Detroit when two American soldiers — McDonagh and Limp — were captured by the Potawatomi along the St. Joseph Trail. By various accounts, both were burned at the stake in villages at or near Jackson.

Among Jacksonburg’s early settlers was William R. DeLand, whose young son, Charles V. DeLand, grew up to become one of Jackson County’s pioneer newspaper editors. Just before his death in 1903, Charles DeLand published his “History of Jackson County, Michigan.”

He personally knew many of the Potawatomi in the area, including Whap-ka-zeek, and he described the chief as a “tall and athletic Indian.” The chief “was always very grateful for the care he received and was always a friend of the ‘he-mo-ko-mans’,” Charles DeLand wrote.

That friendship was critical in Jackson’s early days. The War of 1812 might have been history by then, but Indians still had a major grievance — the settlers’ encroachment on their lands. All they needed was a leader to rally them for a stand against the whites.

Tecumseh had tried, but he met his own death in the War of 1812.

In 1832, the Sauk chief Black Hawk appealed to the Potawatomi and other tribes to join in an effort to drive the white man from Indian lands.

Of that tense period, William DeLand wrote in an 1852 issue of the Jackson Citizen, “Rumors of incursions and massacres spread over the country, gathering terrors as they went, and quite a few people actually moved back to the east through fear occasioned by these stories.”

The rumors were fed by reports that the local Potawatomi would be going to a great council with Black Hawk. People feared the tribe would take the warpath.

Men of the village prepared for trouble. But the women took a more practical, domestic approach. They planned a village feast for the Indians, conveniently timed before the men were to leave for the council with Black Hawk.

“The chiefs and braves nearly all came in, but they were very solemn and reserved and not inclined to talk,” Charles DeLand later wrote. “The provisions were served in pails, kettles and baskets, and the Indians feasted all day.”

Before departing for the council, the Indians were given meat, bread and pies. Also, each warrior was given a pint of whiskey.

“As they started off, old Whap-ka-zeek turned to them and simply said, ‘You good chimokeman squaws,’ ” according to Charles DeLand.

The Potawatomi met with Black Hawk but declined to join his fight. They returned to their villages, and peace and quiet prevailed.

That was Jackson County’s last serious Indian threat. Several years later, the tribes were removed under terms of previous treaties.

Charles DeLand wrote, “In 1839 and 1840 the general government effected the removal of most of the Potawatomi to the reservation set apart for them near Green Bay, in Wisconsin.”

Units of the 4th U.S. Infantry and 2nd U.S. Cavalry, under Brig. Gen. Hugh Brady, “came to Jackson and camped on the Moody Hill, along where Ganson Street now runs, and began to gather up the Indians.” About 1,500 were collected and escorted to Detroit, where they were taken by boats to Green Bay.

Charles DeLand offered this blunt assessment of the exodus: “The removal of the red men abated a great nuisance to the settlers, though they were not considered dangerous. … They were great beggars, and visited the settlers’ cabins without warning and insisted on being fed and lodged, on cold winter nights. If accommodated, they were peaceful and orderly when not under the influence of liquor, and very seldom made trouble but they were nonetheless a great nuisance and the people were rejoiced to be rid of them.”

Source : Ken Wyatt, "Peek Through Time: A look back at Jackson County settlers' relationships with Indians", Jackson Citizen Patriot, June 25, 2011.

Phil Alexis, Pokagon Tribe of Potawatomi Indians Leader

In September 1994, Congress recognized the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi of Michigan as a tribe.  President Bill Clinton met with Phil Alexis and other tribal leaders for the signing ceremony in the White House on September 21st. With federal recognition, the Pokagon Potawatomi were able to build a vibrant community with headquarters in Dowagiac.  In 1997 the Pokagons began buying land in Southwest Michigan for a reservation.

Source : Elizabeth Glenn and Stewart Rafert, The Native Americans (via Google).

Finding Our Way Home : the Great Lakes Woodland People, Indiana Historian, September 2001.

Cora Anderson

Cora Reynolds Anderson

Cora Reynolds Anderson (1882-1950) was the first woman elected to the Michigan House of Representatives, serving one term from 1925 to 1926. She is also believed to be the only Native American woman elected to the Michigan House or Senate.

While in the House of Representatives, Anderson concentrated on public welfare issues and chaired the Industrial Home for Girls Committee. She was particularly interested in public health issues, especially the fight against alcoholism and tuberculosis. Prior to her term, she had organized the first public health service in Baraga County and was instrumental in securing the county’s first public health nurse. She also became actively involved in the Michigan Grange and served as the Upper Peninsula officer.

Anderson was educated as a teacher at the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, which is known today as the Haskell Indian Nations University. She taught school in the Upper Peninsula for several years. At a time when minorities, including Native Americans, were subjected to considerable economic and social discrimination, Anderson’s determination to attend college and return the benefits of her education to her community was notable. Her role as educator, legislator, and public health reform leader aided the Native American community as well as the whole of society.

Both the Anderson House Office Building in downtown Lansing and the recently opened Cora’s Cafe inside are named after her.

Sources and additional information :

Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.

"Women's History Month: Cora Anderson, first in state house", Lansing State Journal, March 23, 2014.

Jefferson Ballew, Pokagon Band of Potawatami


Jefferson Ballew, a member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, teaches how to make traditional Bandolier bags that he uses to hold all of his spiritual tools:  medicine and pipe.

"The bag tells the story of the medicine,"  Ballew said, "And tools such as flint, knives, an awl would be kept in the Bandolier bag and worn on the right side....." 

Each bag is unique, but all share the same characteristics, masterful bead work on a wide strap and bag or decorative panel.  The bags are functional and was seen as an item of prestige.  When women wore the bandolier bags in the Great Lake region, it was usually in memory of a deceased male relative.


Pokagon Times Blog, 2010

Patricia Ecker, "Workshops teach about Bandolier bags", Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun, January 14, 2010.  The Seventh Generation Program/ Elijah Elk Cultural Center  is charged with teaching traditional and cultural Anishinaabe ways, and Jefferson Ballew, cultural instructor for Seventh Generation, shared what he learned on the art of making the traditional shoulder bags.  "There were functional Bandolier bags that were useful for collecting and carrying food," Ballew said. "These were very practical.  "And in our collection at the Ziibiwing Center, there are beautifully crafted bags that are very fragile and not so practical," he said.  Ballew, a citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, said that he has a bag that he wears on the left side that holds all of his spiritual tools: medicine and pipe.  "The bag tells the story of the medicine," Ballew said. "And tools such as flint, knives, an awl would be kept in bag worn on the right side."  Ballew said that Bandolier bags were used to carry important items, and that they would be adorned with images that would identify one's "family, clan or nation affiliation."

Patricia Ecker, "Seventh Generation program harvests tobacco", Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun, September2, 2009.  "Tobacco for Natives is sacred," Jefferson Ballew, a citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, said. "I know very few people who have actually seen it done like this.  "No one at Seventh Gen. I have seen old pictures, but this would be the logical thing to do."  It took two and a half hours to harvest the 125 plants that were hung in the People's Lodge or "Patamoewigawan, which is located in the woods just north of the community buildings at the corner of Remus and Shepherd roads.  Ballew said that he had help from several community members when constructing the lodge in the effort to "reestablish the village setting in the woods behind the (center) offices."  "The lodge is for social gatherings like naming ceremonies, funerals, celebrations, and memorials," Ballew said.

Jamie Brown, Pokegon Branch of Potawatami

Jamie Brown began learning basket making from her mother, Jennie Brown at the age of eight. Like so many Potawatomi basket makers, it is considered a part of Potawatomi culture because it is passed down from generation to generation. The brown family makes baskets from the black ash tree, a tree that thrives in the wet, swampy areas near their home in Shelbyville, Michigan. Her work can be seen along with her mothers at Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, Michigan.

Basket weaving is considered to be the oldest Native American craft, it can be traced back by archaeologists as far back as 8,000 years old.  Different tribes use different materials to make baskets.  The Northeast Indian baskets, are traditionally from pounded black ash tree splints or braided sweetgrass.

The learning of making baskets is passed down from generation to generation and the beauty of the black ash basket is breathtaking to say the least.  I believe photography really shows it's true beauty.  The story of the basket is the real beauty.

                                                               Kelly Church

Pigeon Family
Browns Teaching at Pokagon class




Pokagon Band uses wasps to save its trees, tradition

This large strawberry basket was woven by Jamie Brown of Shelbyville, Mich., using black ash wood from the grounds of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. Jamie said at least three generations in her family have weaved baskets from black ash wood, and this skill is a big part of her Potawatomi culture and history. South Bend Times Photo/Landa Bagley.


Pokagon Times Blog, 2009.

Related: Black Ash Basketry: A Story of Cultural Resilience  (YouTube, 2:06 Minutes)

The Spirit of the Black Ash Basket / Hiawatha Basket Co.  Harris, Mich. : Hiawatha Basket Co., [1994]  1 VHS videocassette (43 min.) : sound, color ; 1/2 in  E98.I5 S759 1994 Videocassette : Black ash basketmaking is both a cultural experience and a source if income for Indian people today. This film describes the process of preparing black ash splints before the weaving of a basket.

The Legend of The Black Ash Basket
This legend is very old.  The making of this basket came as a vision, the vision of a great Indian (Anishnabe) leader with great concern of his people.  Because the knowledge for the black ash basket came from a vision, a gift from the creator, it is considered to be sacred to many Native Americans, especially to the Anishabe elders.
The vision was seen by Black Elk, a Anishabe elder nearing the end of his time.  He could see the restlessness in his people, and wanted to leave them with something that would help them provide for their families but also to teach them patience and understanding.
Black Elk asked the creator what he could do to help them, and the creator gave him the vision:
When Black Elk passed, his people were suppose to burn his body and then bury his ashes so that they would always remain in a special place.  Out of the ashes would grow a tree, not a regular tree but a special one.  His people would watch over this tree and watch it grow and protect it from harm.  When the tree was mature, it would be cut down and the growth rings would be removed by pounding the tree and removing strips to fashion them into baskets.  Black Elk was very happy with his vision from the creator.  The tree that grew from Black Elk's ashes was a sacred gift from the creator.  
The Black Ash tree is one of many species of ash that is used to create the Anishnabe baskets.  Not every tree can be used.  Each tree must be selected with care and understanding.
Canadian Aboriginal Products, International.  Mike Jacobs interpretation of Black Elk vision. 

Bill Castanier

"When I was a child, I always looked forward to our family’s annual summer vacation in Sault Ste. Marie, pestering my grandmother in the front seat when we were going to see “real” Indians — not knowing at the time she was 100 percent Chippewa. The high point of the trip was the stop at Fort Michilimackinac. (I liked to sound out the melodic “mish-ill-a-mack-a-nac,” with the definitive emphasis on the “nac,” as in “nac attack.”) There I learned about the massacre that happened there on June 2, 1763. 

No matter how many times I saw the reenactment (or “pageant”), I stood in awe as actors portraying an Odawan tribe, playing a game of baggatiway (a  form of lacrosse), allowed an “errant” ball to roll into the fort gate  that had been left open. When they approached to retrieve their ball,  the men were furtively weaponized by their women positioned near the  gate who had hidden knives and hatchets under their clothes. The attack  was swift and brutal; in short order, 16 British soldiers and an English  fur trader who thought they watching a pleasant sporting event were  slaughtered, allowing the fort to fall into the hands of the Odawans.  Knowing this event actually happened magnified my terror."....

Today, Bill is a literary columnist for Lansing City Pulse, writing many book reviews and other articles of interest.  Here are links to some of his stories relating to Michigan Indians.

Pontiac vibe; Local author details complex history surrounding Native American Article by Bill Castanier appearing in the Lansing City Pulse, March 5, 2014.

Laughing Whitefish’ resurfaces; Republished 1965 novel still has much to say about Indian lawArticle by Bill Castanier appearing in Lansing City Pulse, November 16, 2011.

Margaret Chandler

Through treaties dating back to 1821, the United States government forced the Grand River Ottawas to live on a smaller and smaller piece of land in northwest Michigan and eventually chose to disregard the Indians’ reservation altogether. In 1929, a child was born who would dedicate her entire adult life to restoring these historic hunting and fishing grounds and gaining federal reaffirmation of Ottawa sovereignty.

Margaret Chandler (1929-1997)  assumed her first leadership role at 21 when she was elected secretary of Unit 7 of the Northern Michigan Ottawa Assocation. For the next 20 years, she recorded and retained the unit’s meeting minutes, notes, and event information: documentation that would prove valuable to the sovereignty cause. She also traveled the state at her own expense to meet with other native leaders, keeping herself and her people well informed.

When Unit 7 evolved into the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Chandler was seated on its tribal council. She also chaired the local Indian education program and played a vital role on the Enrollment Committee. Her genealogical work ensured that tribal members received payments owed them by the Indian Claims Commission as well as federal education monies and hunting and fishing rights.

Then, in 1994, her greatest victory was won; that was the year President Clinton signed a public law reaffirming the status of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians as a sovereign nation. In her last year of life, Chandler was also heartened to see that reservation land she had grown up on came back to the tribe.

A history of the Little River Band, written by James McClurken, is dedicated to this esteemed Indian leader.

Source : Michigan Women's Hall of Fame

Fred Dakota : Founder of Native American Casinos in Michigan

Fred Dakota, Founder of Native American Gambling in Michigan

On the last day of 1983, New Year’s Eve, Fred Dakota was ready to open the doors of The Pines, a casino and bar. Thinking back to the tribe’s success in marketing bingo with flyers, he had taken the same approach with his casino. He pinned flyers on bulletin boards, tucked them under car windshield wipers in grocery store parking lots. But as the opening moment neared, he recalls, “I was afraid, scared to death,” thinking about getting raided by the police. “I didn’t know what the hell was going to happen, but when you have five children to feed, you get innovative.”

Leading up to opening night, Dakota and his wife, Sybil, had been practicing how to deal blackjack. “We had a book that told how to do it,” he says. But come opening night, his wife was too nervous about dealing, so she tended bar, and Dakota did all the dealing at one table. And the people came to play. Cars parked in the driveway, on the shoulder of the road and in the trailer park next door.

“We must have had about 40 people in that two-car garage, and no law enforcement came,” Dakota says. “I thought, Well this is all right.”

The Pines casino opened every night from then on, just Dakota and his wife running the place. For a couple of weeks that was okay, but word spread fast, and soon people were standing around, waiting too long for seats at the table. Dakota built more blackjack tables and hired more dealers, eventually squeezing six tables into the garage.

“I started making decent deposits at the bank,” he says. “The bank was happy. I was happy. And there was no government interference whatsoever.”

Brad Dakota, Fred’s son who was in college then, remembers the first time his dad made $1,000 in a night at the casino. “He was standing in the kitchen, and he counted the money, and then he just threw it all up in the air.”

Eventually, a $1,000-night was not such a big deal. Brad recalls closing up in the middle of the night and carrying out lock-boxes with $10,000 in them. “I’d just take them to Dad’s house—it was a different time,” he says.

So, how was it that the state police didn’t raid the place and shut it right down? Here’s Fred Dakota’s reasoning for why he was legal. The state of Michigan already allowed casino gambling for something called Millionaire Nights. Nonprofit groups were allowed to hold Millionaire Nights three times a year, and customers could take part in limited gambling. With state policy allowing gambling in certain situations, it was certifying the activity as legal but regulated, like, say, distributing alcohol—it’s legal to do it, but you have to abide by certain rules. And since Indian reservations had the right to regulate legal activities, and since the tribe had written regulations for casino gambling, and since Dakota had a casino license based on those regulations, he was legal. This line of reasoning was ultimately rejected by the courts on various grounds, but Dakota ran with it.

Dakota’s garage quickly became too packed, standing room only. Within a few months he knew he needed a bigger place, so he leased some land from the tribe in Baraga, right along U.S. 41, and hired the tribal construction company to build a 3,200-square-foot casino, intending to open July 4, 1984.

Note : Fred Dakota was a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Lake Superior Band of Chippewa Indians (Baraga) 

For the rest of the story see  Jeff Smith, "Fred Dakota Founded Native American Casinos -- In a U.P. Garage", MyNorth, February 17, 2014.

Waunetta McClellan Dominic

Waunetta McClellan Dominic

Waunetta McClellan Dominic (1921-1981) wholeheartedly endeavored to bring equality and justice to Native Americans in Michigan and throughout the United States.

As co-founder of the Northern Michigan Ottawa Association (NMOA), Dominic fought to secure a fair settlement for lands taken from Michigan's Native Americans in the early 19th century. Much of this land, which constitutes a large portion of Northern Michigan, was taken for less than one percent of its true value.

In 1948 Dominic, her husband Robert, her father, and two other men founded the NMOA. For years, Ms. Dominic traveled across Michigan to determine the land values during the treaty years of 1821 and 1836. She searched for the descendants of the treaty signatories and urged them to sign affidavits verifying their eligibility for land claims. In 1968, Dominic and her husband initiated successful land claim suits which awarded $12 million to Ottawa and Chippewa descendants. In addition, $900,000 was awarded in 1971 to the descendants of the 1821 treaty signatories. As a member of the Grand River Band of Ottawas, she fought to ensure payment of $1.8 million for land claims on behalf of 2800 non-reservation Ottawa and Pottawatomie tribal members. Dominic served as president of the NMOA from 1976 until her death in 1981.

Through her efforts, Dominic renewed hope for her people. She emphasized the importance of higher education and technical training for Native Americans. As a member of the Crooked Tree Arts Council and the Christian Life Center of Petoskey, Dominic sought to preserve tribal traditions and cultural pride. Her vision, commitment, and ensuing victories serve as an eternal inspiration for those who seek peace between ethnic groups.

"You can call us unrecognized, but don't call us unorganized, and furthermore, I don't care if you recognize me or not," said Dominic, "Recognize my Rights."

Source : Michigan Women's Hall of Fame

Arthur Duhamel

A native son returns

When John Bailey came back to the northern Michigan in 1976 he says there wasn't much left of his people. Bailey says most of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians from his generation had moved away.

He did economic development work with tribes in a few southern states and he says Indian culture in the U.S. had advanced during the civil rights movement but not much in Michigan. He says Peshawbestown didn't even have running water.

"I'd work with other tribes where they'd work with General Motors," he recalls. "They had industrial parks, manufacturing plants, paved streets, lights and I come home to Michigan and we're still living back in the 18th Century."

Around the time John Bailey came back another native son returned to Leelanau County. Arthur Duhamel was born Buddy Chippewa, and had been taken from his family at age 5. He was raised by white people and later became a welder, which took him all over the world.

"He worked on the Alaskan pipeline. He worked in Saudi Arabia, California, Mexico, all over the place," says Bailey. "World traveler. And everywhere he went he made friends."

Bailey lived with Arthur Duhamel at one point. He says Duhamel was what he calls an "old time Indian", someone who remembered his obligation to his community and shared what he had.

Disputed waters

Arthur Duhamel played a pivotal role in the history of his people. In 1974 he launched a new career as a commercial fishermen. His son, Skip Duhamel remembers it was an old member of the tribe, Geboo Sands, who told his dad to get out there and fish.

"He told him he had to do it. It wasn't even optional."

The question of Indian treaty rights in Michigan was hot at that moment. Sport fishing was taking off in the Great Lakes and the state felt that commercial gill nets were a big threat to a growing industry. Two tribal fishermen in the Upper Peninsula had already been arrested and Skip Duhamel says his father knew he too was going to jail.

"It looked absolutely like you could never prevail in this. And he was really steadfast in this. He's like, 'we're going to prevail in this. We have to!'"

The urgency was about more than fish. The federal government had ignored the poverty in Peshawbestown for generations. As Matthew Fletcher puts it, the federal government just stopped returning the tribe's phone calls in the 1870s.

Fletcher teaches indigenous law at Michigan State University and is a member of the Grand Traverse Band. Fletcher says the tribe needed some way to make the federal government recognize its existence and asserting fishing rights under a treaty signed in 1836 was the way to do that.

"The United States does not sign a treaty with counties or corporations," says Fletcher. "They sign treaties with nations."

Fishing rights became "the push" for recognition of the nation.


During the legal fight the tribes endured a lot of backlash. Arthur Duhamel was put in jail multiple times and his fishing gear was confiscated. He was never compensated.

Sport fishing groups accused the Indian fishermen of plundering the resource and the rhetoric sometimes got vicious. Bumper sticker slogans like "Save Our Trout, Spear An Indian" popped up.

Michigan's attorney general at the time, Frank Kelly, said the tribes enforced no limits on Indian fishermen. He scoffed at the idea Indians had fishing rights. He said they were like prisoners who'd lost a war.

"They had no rights," Kelly said in the documentary A Difference of Rights. "It's a treaty to settle a war. And you just give them what you want to give them."

But Frank Kelley lost. In 1979 federal judge Noel Fox recognized three Indian Tribes in Michigan and their rights to fish on the Great Lakes. One of these was the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

Later similar recognition would be granted to the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. It's this recognition that allows these tribes to operate casinos from Manistee to Petoskey that today generate hundreds of millions of dollars for tribal government services.

Unfinished work

Skip Duhamel is proud what his father Arthur did. He says life in Peshawbeston has changed dramatically. Everyone has jobs and the houses have plumbing. There's a resurgence of native language and religion and the eagles have returned.

But he thinks his father's work isn't finished.

Skip Duhamel doesn't fish on Grand Traverse Bay now, what he refers to as The Pond. A number of Grand Traverse Band members do, but he thinks there are too many restrictions so he mostly fishes off Beaver Island.

The restrictions come out of negotiations with the state that have gone on since the court recognized the tribes. In these agreements the tribes have accepted some limits on their treaty fishing rights.

The waters of Grand Traverse Bay have been the most contentious in these negotiations and the resulting rules the most limiting. So Skip Duhamel says the bay is still the "King's Pond", like Sherwood Forest where Robin Hood and his men stole the King's the deer.

The rules for the bay were also a disappointment to Arthur Duhamel. These are the historic fishing grounds of his people and Skip says what his father wanted was for tribal members to be able to fish.

"Every crew person he ever had he encouraged them to get their own vessel and fish for themselves. He didn't want employees. He wanted people to be independent."

Arthur Duhamel died in Alaska in 1992. Today the marina in Peshabestown is named after him.

Looking Back : the Fight for American Fishing Rights.  Linda Stephan, Interlochen Public Radio, June 26, 2013.  Tells how Arthur Duhamel stood up for Indian fishing rights in northern Michigan in 1976 and in the process won federal recognition and salvation for many of the tribes.   Duhamel died in 1992.

Bill Dunlop

As he told various stories from his childhood among fellow Native Americans, Petoskey native Bill Dunlop was encouraged to put these accounts into written form. Since Dunlop did so, the results have been embraced by many around Michigan.

Now 80 and living in Grand Rapids, Dunlop is the author of "The Indians of Hungry Hollow," which was released last year by the University of Michigan Press. Dunlop, a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians who lists himself as Ottawa on the book cover, was assisted by Marcia Fountain-Blacklidge, a Chippewa, in the writing project.

The book relates a variety of experiences from Dunlop's youth in a predominantly Native American neighborhood then known as "Hungry Hollow," which stretched along Sheridan Street between the Bear River and U.S. 131. As he grew up in the Great Depression era, Dunlop said widespread problems like joblessness were magnified among local Indians because of issues like racial discrimination.

The Historical Society of Michigan recognized "The Indians of Hungry Hollow" with an Award of Merit in its children's and youth publications category. Dunlop's book also landed on the Library of Michigan's Michigan Notable Books List, which recommends books reflecting the state's cultural heritage, this year. The book reportedly has been explored as a possible source for a Hollywood screenplay as well.

Dunlop served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific during World War II. He moved away from Petoskey in 1950, but returned briefly in the 1980s to care for an ill family member. His wife, Mary, is deceased, but a daughter and grandson live in the Grand Rapids area.

For the full article, see Ryan Bentley, "Petoskey Man Returns to Childhood Haunt", Petoskey News, September 13, 2005.

Frank Ettawageshik

The work of tribal leaders such as Frank Ettawageshik, chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, on behalf of the Great Lakes is indispensable to the effort. He led the campaign to get the American Indian tribes and the Canadian First Nations together in 2004, testified before the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works in 2006, and participated in a groundbreaking cooperative agreement between the tribes of Michigan and the State of Michigan. According to Chairman Ettawageshik, "inter-governmental and other partnerships allow the parties to achieve public benefits that no one partner could achieve alone."

Great Lakes Regional Collaboration’s Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes, Hearing Before the S. Comm. on Environment and Public Works, 109th Cong. (2006) [Ettawageshik Testimony] (statement of Frank Ettawageshik, Chairman, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians), available at

Intergovernmental Accord Between the Federally Recognized Indian Tribes of Michigan and the Governor of the State of Michigan Concerning Protection of Shared Water Resources (May 12, 2004), available at

More from the Association on American Indian Affairs

Frank Ettawageshik lives in Harbor Springs, Michigan, with his wife Rochelle.  He has four adult children and six grandchildren.  He is a traditional storyteller and potter, believing that native people need to be rooted in their traditions in order to be prepared for the future.

He served in tribal elected office for sixteen years, fourteen as the Tribal Chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Harbor Springs. During his tenure as Tribal Chairman he was instrumental in the adoption of the Tribal and First Nations Great Lakes Water Accord in 2004 and the United League of Indigenous Nations Treaty in 2007.  Now serving as the Executive Director of the United Tribes of Michigan, he is also the Chairman of the United League of Indigenous Nations Governing Board and the Co-chair of the National Congress of American Indians Federal Recognition Task Force.

Frank currently serves on several non-profit boards including the Association on American Indian Affairs, Anishinaabemowin Teg and the Michigan Indian Education Council.  In April 2016 he was appointed to the Great Lakes Water Quality Board.  Frank was a 2010 Fellow at the Native Nations Institute Indigenous Leaders Fellowship Program at the University of Arizona. His 40 years of public service have included serving on the Executive Board of the National Congress of American Indians, the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, the Historical Society of Michigan, the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, the Michigan Climate Action Council, the Little Traverse Conservancy, the Michigan Travel Commission, the Public Interest Advisory Group for the International Joint Commission’s Upper Great Lakes Study, the Michigan Great Lakes Offshore Wind Council, and the Michigan Ground Water Conservation Advisory Council.

In December 2015 he attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Council of the Parties 21 (UNFCCC COP21) in Paris, France, as a delegate from the National Congress of American Indians.  Approximately 45,000 people attended COP21 including over 100 Heads of State.  Frank joined approximately 200 Indigenous Peoples delegates as a member of the International Indigenous Peoples Caucus on Climate Change.

Sources :

Indian Treaties and the Survival of the Great Lakes, by Wenona T. Singel and Matthew L. M. Fletcher, Indigenous Law and Policy Working Paper 2006-06, December 2006.

President Frank EttawageshikAssociation on American Indian Affairs entry

Ardith 'Dodie' Harris

Ardith 'Dodie' Harris

Ardith 'Dodie' Harris (1947-2015)  lived an incredible life, leading the charge to federal recognition for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, leading the tribe as chair and as councilor, testifying before Congress and in federal court.  She died on August 1, 2015.

Note from Paul Bussey :  my aunt Dodie and grandfather, chief Fred Harris, are both great-grandchildren of Chief David Shoppenagon.

Sources : 

"First GTB Chair Walks On", Turtle Talk, August 7, 2015

Ardith "Dodie" Harris obituary, Leelenaw Enterprise, August 6, 2015.

Michelle Merlin, "Instrumental tribal leader remembered", Traverse City Record-Eagle, September 8, 2015.


Eric Hemenway

Eric Hemenway

Eric Hemenway is currently the Director of Repatriation, Archives and Records for the Little Traverse Bay Bans of Odawa Indians.

In addition to repatriation work, Eric has been involved in five different exhibits, from national to state levels, on Great Lakes Indian history. Eric also performs educational outreach with local schools in northern Michigan, as well as speak nationally on Great Lakes history and the importance of repatriation for Michigan tribes. Eric currently sits on the Michigan Humanities Council, Emmet County Historical Commission and the Harbor Springs Board of Trustees.

Eric provided a talk about his job as Director of Repatriation, Archives, and Records and about the history of his tribe at a Godort of Michigan meeting held at the North Central Community College in Petoskey on May 3, 2013.

Eric also gave a talk recently on Native Americans in the War of 1812, including Odawa involvement, and the drastic outcome it had for the tribe at the Detroit Public Library (February 8, 2014). He stated, “The War of 1812 represents one of the major  turning points in Great Lakes Indian history. The Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi and other  tribes would have their futures forever altered after this war. In many scenarios, the repercussions for the tribes were severe and long lasting.

"Conversations with Eric Hemenway", Michigan History, January/February 2014, pp.10-11.

Researcher Tells Story of Michigan Indian Sharpshooters Who Served in Civil War.  Ted Booker, St. Ignace News, January 20, 2011. 

American Indians and the Civil War / Robert K. Sutton and John A. Latschar, editors.  [Fort Washington, PA] : Eastern National, [2013]  215pp.  E540.I3 A67 2013  :  Official National Park Service Handbook.  Includes chapter “Soldiers in the Shadows : Company K 1st Michigan Sharpshooters”  about Company K written be Eric Hemenway.

War of 1812 in the Northwest, sponsored by WGTE Public Television, 57 minutes. Douglas Brinkley, David Skaggs and Randall Buchman are among the noted historians and authors featured in the program, along with Eric Hemenway, who works in the Cultural Preservation Department for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Northern Michigan. Support for War of 1812 in the Old Northwest is provided by a grant from the Ohio Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and by Buckeye CableSystem.  He has also mounted an exhibit at the Harbor Springs Historical Museum called Turning Point: the War of 1812 from the Native American Perspective which will be available through May 2014.

Lou Blouin, "Hear My Heritage: Eric Hemenway Talks Being Native American" MyNorth, April 24, 2017.  Excerpt: "When he tells it, you can tell it’s one of his favorite stories about his mom: The time when he was 10 years old, and his mom decided she was going to take him out to collect sap for making maple syrup because as she put it, “that’s what our ancestors did so that’s what we’re going to do.”  “I was like, ‘Alright, ma.’ And we were boiling the sap at our house in Cross Village, but we were tapping trees on state land. And we didn’t have a permit. And, of course, my mom was like, ‘We don’t need a permit, this is our land,’” he says, laughing. “So we’re there tapping trees, and we’re trudging through the snow, hauling these huge buckets of sap—and the DNR shows up. And they were like, ‘Do you have permits for this?’ And no joke, my mom just literally dropped the bucket right there, went right up to this guy, and was like, ‘I do not need a permit from the State of Michigan to harvest resources my ancestors harvested a thousand years ago. Take me to jail, I’m exercising my treaty rights.’ And this guy was just like, ‘Whoa, okay, just make sure you clean everything up when you’re done.’ I mean, she was pretty hardcore.”

Check out the Tribal Repatriation Specialist Blog by Eric Heminway.

Kay Givens McGowen

Kay Givens McGowan

Few can claim to have made a difference on a national level. Kay Givens McGowan (1942- ) attained international recognition not once but three times, even helping to draft a United Nations’ document relating to indigenous peoples.

McGowan, an American Indian of Choctaw/Cherokee heritage, was a social activist all her life. She helped found First Step, a domestic violence shelter in southeast Michigan, as well as DARE, the Downriver Anti-Rape Effort. The Michigan Citizens Lobby, with McGowan as director, led the successful effort to pass generic drug and auto repair legislation—both regarded as models of progressive public policy. She also coordinated the statewide petition drive to repeal the sales tax on groceries and medications.

While earning a doctorate in anthropology, she began teaching Native Studies and women’s studies courses at the University of Toledo, Wayne State University, Eastern Michigan University, and Marygrove College. At the latter, she founded the Ethnic Studies program.

In 1995, she was named a delegate to the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women. For a year afterward, she dedicated her time to speaking out about issues that women faced around the globe.

In 2005, as a board member of the National Indian Youth Council, she traveled to Switzerland to represent American Indians at deliberations resulting in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In 2008, she addressed the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

McGowan, an accomplished writer, contributed an essay to the book “Make a Beautiful Way: The Wisdom of Native American Women.&rdquo

Sources :

Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.

Cathy Nelson, Called to Serve : Dr. Bettie Kay Givens McGowan, Wayne State University Alumni Association.

Paula Evans Newman, "She'll be in Women's Hall of Fame", Downriver Life, August 12, 2009;

Cosntance York, "Trail of tears: Twins make documentary detailing horrors of Indian schools", News Herald, January 8, 2012.

Debra Muller

Mary Muellerat the Nortion Indian Mounds photograph by MLive

Given up at birth, Debra Muller would find her way back years later to the Native American culture that was her heritage. She assumed a key role in preservation of the Norton Mounds, a landmark historic site in Grand Rapids that contains burial artifacts more than 2,000 years old. Ms. Muller also was known for her broader belief in the importance of preserving traditional Native American ways for future generations. She was director of the Norton Mounds project for the Grand Rapids Public Museum, aimed at finding the best way to preserve the ancient site along the Grand River near the Gerald R. Ford Freeway along Indian Mounds Drive SW.

She served as chairwoman and commissioner with the City of Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission. She was founder of the Theater of the Three Fires and served as board member and chairwoman. She also established the Pink Shawls Project to make Native American women more aware of the threat of breast cancer.

Ms. Muller was asked to develop a plan for the mounds by former Museum Director Tim Chester. The museum has owned the property for decades but had done little to preserve them, secure in the knowledge they were protected by their relative inaccessibility. More than 500 years before Columbus arrived, a group of historic people known as the Hopewells came to West Michigan. They built large, earthen mounds along the river to bury their dead with pottery, tools, jewelry and other items. At one time, as many as 35 mounds were on this site. Today, 13 survive, making them perhaps the best preserved Hopewell mounds in North America and earning them the designation of a National Historic Landmark.

For the full article, see Ted Roelofs,   "Debra Muller, who helped preserve Norton Mounds in Grand Rapids, dies at 60", MLive, July 9, 2011.

Agnus Rapp

Agnes Rapp
1989 awardee, Berrien Springs (Berrien County), black ash basketmaker

Agnes Rapp (b. 1920), an enrolled member of the Grand Traverse Chippewa and Odawa Tribe of Indians, learned to weave strips of black ash wood into basket designs from her Odawa stepparents, John and Dela McSawby. "They were into baskets all the I grew up with basketry, you know...I mean I'd play making baskets although I didn't know how, but I'd pretend I knew how...I would cut up the material [black ash splints] on the floor and crisscross 'em and tie 'em up with string and stand 'em up and pretend I'd made a basket." (1) The family sold their baskets for food money during the Depression. By the time she was ten, Agnes was regularly helping Deliah make baskets and even filling orders on her own. "I got an order for myself to make little round baskets with the handles and when I got those finished the money was mine and I bought a pair of shoes." (2)

In 1939, Agnes married Michael Rapp, a Pokagon Potawatomi from southern Michigan. They first lived in Leland and then, during World War II, moved to southwest Michigan because Michael got a job in a defense plant in Benton Harbor. They both joined a group of Potawatomis who regularly met at a community center in Dowagiac to make baskets. There Agnes has taught the traditional skill to the next generation of her family and conducted workshops (often with fellow awardee Julia Wesaw) for both Indian and non-Indian students. Within her immediate family, she has taught her daughter, Cindy Muffo, her daughter-in-law, Margaret Rapp, and Margaret's sister, Judy Augusta.

Her baskets are represented in many museum and private collections, including one in China. Agnes's black ash baskets are frequently experimental in style, incorporating new materials and shapes with traditional forms; several recent baskets resemble the flying saucer from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Agnes has appeared in numerous documentary videotapes, been the subject of many news articles and interviews, and was a featured artist in a 1984 exhibition at Western Michigan University. A 1987 participant in both the Smithsonian Institution's Festival of American Folklife and the first Festival of Michigan Folklife, Agnes often demonstrates her craft at art and nature centers, churches, schools, museums, and powwows.

(1) Rapp, Agnes. Audio recorded interview with Laura Quakenbush at the Great Lakes Indian Basket and Boxmakers Gathering, East Lansing, Michigan. August 1997.
(2) Rapp, Agnes. Audio recorded interview with Laura Quakenbush at the Great Lakes Indian Basket and Boxmakers Gathering, East Lansing, Michigan. August 1997.

Source : MSU Museum.

Jessica Rickert

Jessica Rickert, DDS, the first female American Indian dentist

Jessica Rickert, DDS, the first female American Indian dentist

Jessica Rickert, DDS (1950- ) was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame for her work relating to American Indian health issues. A member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, she was a direct descendant of the Indian chief Wahbememe (Whitepigeon) for whom a village in Michigan is named. Dr. Rickert made history of her own when she became the first female American Indian dentist in the country upon graduating from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in 1975.

While working in private practice in southeast Michigan, she developed a prevention program and added orthodontics to the dental clinic at Detroit’s Children’s Aid Society. As a board member of the Michigan Urban Indian Health Council, Dr. Rickert also established an intertribal dental clinic in Detroit. She assisted two state tribes—the Grand Traverse Band of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians and the Saginaw Chippewas—with such services as dental screenings, preliminary planning for dental clinics, and educational presentations.

In 2001, she began a dental advice column syndicated by American Indian newspapers across the nation and distributed in health clinics. That effort earned her the American Dental Association Access Award. She also authored a book entitled “Exploring Careers in Dentistry.”

Dr. Rickert held leadership positions in the Michigan Dental Association and served on the board of the Society of American Indian Dentists. Her efforts to recruit more Natives into her profession included establishing a dental scholarship at the University of Minnesota.

Sources :

Michigan Women's Hall of Fame 2009 Inductee

Jessica A. Rickert : First American Indian Woman Dentist

Traverse City Record Eagle photo


Emilia Christine Schaub

Emilia Schaub was born in 1891 to German immigrants in a log cabin in Leelanau County. Schaub holds many firsts in Michigan's history. While practicing law in Detroit, she was the first woman in the nation to successfully defend an accused murderer. After she decided to return home to Leelanau County, she became Michigan's first woman to be legally elected and serve as county prosecutor in 1936. Schaub was also the first woman from Leelanau County to practice law in Michigan.

During her tenure as prosecutor, Emelia championed the rights of the local Ottawa and Chippewa bands. She wrote to federal officials, then took her case to President and Eleanor Roosevelt to help secure the bands’ right to continued possession of tribal lands. Frustrated at the federal level, she turned to Leelanau County, where she succeeded in having lands held in trust ‘‘for Indian community purposes.’’ Her efforts led the tribe to make her an honorary member in 1942.

The land base she secured made it possible for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians to secure federal acknowledgement in 1980. Emilia Schaub retired as prosecutor in 1954 and turned to general practice in her home community. She continued as a general practitioner for nearly 40 years, making occasional court appearances even after her 100th birthday. As she reduced her legal work, her civic efforts expanded. She helped organize the Leelanau Historical Foundation, serving as that organization’s president, museum director, and on their board of directors until 1986, when she was 97 years old. She was also a charter member of the Traverse City Zonta Club and the first secretary of the Leelanau Chamber of Commerce.

One of her greatest roles throughout her professional life was that of mentor. At the dedication of the State Bar’s Legal Milestone in 1994, now Chief Justice Elizabeth Weaver recalled that Emilia Schaub’s friendship dated to Weaver’s first appearance in the Leelanau County courts. Emilia Schaub vouched for the young attorney’s integrity and ability then, and their friendship continued. ‘‘I have shared Emilia’s friendship and help to me because it is just one example of the thousands of us she has quietly befriended over the past 100 years.’’

Emilia Schaub YouTube video.

Emilia Christine Schaub wikipedia entry

Ann Miller, "Michigan Lawyers in History — Emilia Schaub: 100 Years of Leadership", Michigan Bar Journal. 

Originally posted in Red Tape Blog.

D. K. Sprague


D.K. Sprague Retires after Twenty-Four Years as Chairman of the Gun Lake Tribe;  Sprague Led Tribe from Pre-Recognition to Successful Modern Tribal Government 

The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe) (Tribe) has announced the retirement of David K. (D.K.) Sprague as chairman.  Sprague served as chairman since his initial election by the Bradley Settlement Elder’s Council in 1992.  He is distinguished as one the longest serving tribal chairman, in consecutive terms, throughout Indian Country in the Unites States.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve my community as chairman for the last twenty-four years,” said D.K. Sprague, former chairman.  “I thank my family and the Tribe for supporting me, and God for allowing me to serve at a time when our dreams came to reality.  I give recognition to our tribal leaders who came before me, as I merely finished what they started when the Bradley Indian Mission was established in the 1830s.”

The Tribe achieved federal re-acknowledgment in 1999 after many years of working through the federal acknowledgment process.  The Tribe’s goal of reaching self-sufficiency through its pursuit of economic development under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act would take over a decade.  During the last twenty-four years the Tribe went from having nothing to becoming a modern tribal government that can now provide for the needs of its people.

“I am proud to have served the Tribe under the leadership of D.K. Sprague,” said Vice Chairman Ed Pigeon.  “I witnessed steady and consistent leadership in extremely difficult situations over a long period of time.  It was amazing to see him put to the test so many times, but never waver.  The Tribe is truly blessed that a person with such rare leadership qualities was in place at a time when it was most needed.”

Many friends, family and staff members have expressed their gratitude to the former chairman for his dedication to the needs of tribal government staff and the team members who work in the gaming enterprise.  He was always approachable and jovial with everyone around him.

“No one ever wanted this day to come,” said Leah Sprague-Fodor, Tribal Council member.  “However, asking him to continue serving would be selfish of us.  We know he served with everything he had for so many years.  He has earned his retirement and now he should enjoy golf, traveling, baseball games and spending time with his family and friends.”

Sprague grew up in the Bradley area where he remained most of his life.  He joined the U.S. Army and served in the Vietnam War.  He served in 14 natural disasters worldwide as a Red Cross volunteer, which included an extended time of service in Louisiana for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  He is a lifelong member of the Methodist Church at the Bradley Indian Mission.

In the next 90-120 days the Tribe will hold a special election to fill the seat on the Tribal Council vacated by Sprague’s retirement.  Afterwards, the Tribal Council will select the next chairman.  In the interim, Vice Chairman Ed Pigeon will serve as acting Chairman.

Update: Leah Sprague-Fodor has been sworn in as its new chairperson to replace her father David K. (D.K.) Sprague.

Source : Gun Lake Tribe News Release, February 4, 2016.

Matt Wesaw

Jessica Rickert DDS

Matt Wesaw, former Michigan State Police officer and currently tribal chairman for the Pokagon band of the Potawatomi Indians and executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

The Pokagon band numbers about 5,000 members mainly in four counties of southwest Michigan, Wesaw said.

Quite recently Wesaw served as a peacemaker, reading a letter of apology from L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County’s top official, to the United Tribes of Michigan, about comments he made three decades ago and recently recycled by the New Yorker --  comparing the predicament of Detroiters’ spiraling poverty to a scenario of “herding Indians behind a wall and throwing them blankets and corn.”  

“Talking about throwing blankets to Indians — the history there is that they were a lot of times infected with smallpox by the early settlers” to spread the disease, which often was fatal to Indians because they had little immunity to diseases of European origin", Wesaw said.

After hearing that from Wesaw, Patterson wrote in his letter: “I was unaware of the entire sordid episode of Native Americans facing extinction through the imposition of disease-filled blankets.”

Source : Bill Laitner, "State's Native Americans accept Patterson's apology after Detroit-bashing rhetoric", Detroit Free Press, March 1, 2014.

Meet the Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.  Note : Matt Wesaw stepped down from this office in October 2015.

John R. Dick Winchester (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi)

Jonn R. Winchester (Thunderbolt), 1920-1973.  Coordinated the MSU Center for Urban Affairs, Native American Indian Affairs Office for many years and worked hard at recruiting Native Americans to higher education.  After his death a  scholarship for Native Americans to attend Michigan State University was created in his honor.  For more information contact the Native American Institute at Michigan State University.

  • John R. Winchester Memorial Scholarship: This scholarship is awarded annually to full time Native American undergraduate student.
  • Winchester Fund: This is a 90-120 (with extension) day loan. The John R. Winchester Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in 1973 after the death of a very generous man dedicated to the needs of American Indian students in higher education. John R. Winchester was employed by Michigan State University as Coordinator in the North American Indian Affairs Office, Center for Urban Affair. He devoted to great deal of his career encouraging Indian students to take advantage of higher education opportunities. Mr. Winchester recruited Indian students from Michigan as well as other states. Once at MSU he acted as their advisor, tutor, and friend. He was also concerned with the financial needs of the Indian students. It was said that whenever he lectured on behalf of North American Indian Association Scholarship Fund. The proceeds from the Native American Indian Student Organization (NAISO) Pow Wow goes to the John R. Winchester Memorial Scholarship/Loan Fund. With the help of previous Pow Wows and several departments at MSU, the fund is presently large enough to serve for short-term loans. NAISO hopes to increase the size of the fund so that it may also serve as a source for scholarship moneys for needy Native American students at MSUDeadline: None. Eligibility: A short-term loan for Native American students to fill emergency needs.

Company K, 1st Michigan Sharpshooters

During the Civil War, a regiment of Sharpshooters was being recruited to fight for the Union, but there was a problem –

Few men could pass the marksmanship test. Since Michigan's Native Americans were famous as skilled hunters, it was decided to recruit one company - Company K - from among the tribes in Michigan. Nearly140 men volunteered for Company K in the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters regiment. Each man passed the test, hitting a 5 inch circle from a distance of 220 yards. For Basic Training, they were sent to Dearborn, Michigan.  The soldiers of Company K wore the same uniform and received the same pay as the rest of the Regiment.

Company K was sent to Virginia in 1864, and there fought in some of the fiercest battles of the Civil War: The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and the terrible Siege of Petersburg. During an attack against the enemy lines on June 17, 1864, a group of 15 men were captured and sent to the infamous Andersonville Prison.  The rest of the company fought on until the end of the war.  They proudly marched in the famous Grand Review, the official victory parade in Washington, D.C.  After being mustered out, many returned home to Michigan, where they were promptly forgotten. ...Chris Czopek

The Road to Andersonville : Michigan Native American Sharpshooters in the Civil War / Producer, David B. Schock. [Holland, Mich.] : penUltimate, Ltd., 2013.  1 DVD videodisc (111 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.  E540.I3 R62 2013 VideoDVD  (Also available online)    : A documentary on Native American soldiers who served in Michigan's Company K during the Civil War. Includes a segment about a trip by present day Native Americans to honor the Anishinabe of Michigan who died at Andersonville Prison....During the American Civil War, Union forces ran low on sharpshooters.  In Michigan, the answer was to change a law prohibiting Native American military service, and then—in 1863—to ask members of the Three Fires Tribes (Odawa [Ottawa]), Bodewadmik [Potawatomi], and Ojibway [Chippewa]) to enlist.  These were men who lived in peaceful coexistence with their neighbors, Native American and white alike, and who also possessed legendary woodland and hunting skills.  There existed among these men the important tradition of a warrior society, the Ogitchedaw, whose members were required to partake in battle....The Native Americans knew they were not likely to be well treated; they knew all too well the intentions of the whites who routinely effected displacements of other tribes resulting in horrific events such as The Trail of Tears in 1838.  The Native Americans knew their way of life was at risk, and their accumulating losses of lands and culture were everywhere apparent. However, they also knew that if the South was successful in its campaign during the Civil War, they would likely be relegated to the status of slaves.  Therefore, the members of the Three Fires Tribes responded with alacrity and in number: The first was Thomas “Big Tom” Kechittigo from Saginaw on May 3, 1863. Twenty five men from the Elbridge Reservation near Pentwater in Oceana County joined on July 4, 1863. Twenty-eight Ojibway from the Isabella reservation enlisted. A dozen Potawatomi also joined the ranks.  Some others traveled from southwest Michigan to enlist in Company K.  A few trekked from Canada. The Native Americans arrived at the Dearborn Arsenal to be trained into a cohesive fighting unit as members of Company K, First Michigan Sharp Shooters, the only all Native American unit in the North.  Not one member of the 139 was Ogitchedaw; that meant not one member had experienced battle....And these men saw hard service in most of the major battles remaining in the war.  In all, one fourth of the men of Company K were either killed or wounded in battle....While many gave the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield, some of the Sharpshooters were captured.  After the Battle of Petersburg, 15 of their number were sent to a living hell: the prison camp at Andersonville.  According to the National Parks Service, of 45,000 prisoners, almost 13,000 died of starvation and/or disease. Of the 15 from Company K, seven died and were buried there.  At the time of the beginning of this film, they had lain at Andersonville for nearly 150 years without receiving their burial ceremony....About a dozen descendants of Company K and others of the present day Anishinabe Ogitchedaw Veteran and Warrior Society traveled to Andersonville, Georgia, in May of 2010 to honor the graves of the men.  These travelers motored from Michigan to Andersonville to offer their prayers and pay homage and respect to the spirits of the men of Company K there buried....This film is the story of that journey and the telling of the tale of the 139 men who joined as members of Company K, their recruitment, the training, their battles, and their deaths and survival....In addition to members of the Ogitchedaw and other descendants of the men of Company K we hear from Company K historians Ray Herek (These Men Have Seen Hard Service) and Chris Czopek (Who Was Who in Company K). The Road to Andersonville trailer and descriptionAnother Trailer.

Who was who in company K : reliable facts about the Native American soldiers in Company K, 1st Michigan Sharpshooters, during the Civil War 1861-1865 / researched by Chris Czopek.   Lansing, Michigan : Red Oak Research, 2010. 224pp.  Main Library   E540.I3 C96 2010 : "This book will tell you: the name of each soldier- where he came from (Indicating his tribe) - what happened to him during the war- and where he went after the war was over"

Ronald S. Coddington, "American Indians in Confederate Territory", New York Times, June 23, 2014

Gordon Berg, "American Indian Sharpshooters at the Battle of the Crater", originally published in the June 2007 issue of Civil War Times Magazine.

American Indians and the Civil War / Robert K. Sutton and John A. Latschar, editors.  [Fort Washington, PA] : Eastern National, [2013]  215pp.  E540.I3 A67 2013  :  Official National Park Service Handbook.  Includes chapter “Soldiers in the Shadows : Company K 1st Michigan Sharpshooters”  about Company K written be Erik Hemenway.

Between Two Fires : American Indians in the Civil War / Laurence M. Hauptman.   New York ; London : Free Press, c1995.  304pp.   Main Library     E540.I3 H38 1995 : Contains extensive information about Company K.

These men have seen hard service : the First Michigan Sharpshooters in the Civil War / Raymond J. Herek.  Detroit : Wayne State University Press, c1998.  561pp.  Main Library E514.9 .H47 1998 (Also available online from eBrary and EBSCO) : These Men Have Seen Hard Service recounts the fascinating history of one outstanding Michigan regiment during the Civil War. A compelling political, social, ethnic, and military drama, this book examines the lives of the 1300 men of the First Michigan Sharpshooters for the first time, beginning with the regiment's inception and extending through post-war activities until the death of the last rifleman in 1946. Beyond presenting numerous anecdotes about the men and officers and their contributions during the war, Raymond Herek provides insight into the medical community of the time, the draft, other commands in the same division, the politics endemic in raising a regiment, and Michigan's Native American contingent.  Since Company K was a part of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters Regiment, their story is also covered here. The extensive appendices will be of particular use to genealogists, Civil War enthusiasts, and historians, because they list the men in the regiment, and also battle and camp casualties.

Native Americans visit Poplar Grove National Cemetery to visit warriors, article by F. M. Wiggins, Progres-Index, December 3, 2013.  Excerpt: Among the more than 6,000 dead Civil War soldiers buried at Poplar Grove National Cemetery are several true warriors. Men who tried several times to volunteer to serve the Union Army before finally being accepted....The approximately half-dozen men from 1st Michigan Sharpshooters, Company K, who are buried at Poplar Grove are part of a little-known aspect of Civil War history - Native Americans that fought in the war...."They had been part of my tribes oral tradition for as long as I can remember," said Eric Hemenway. Hemenway is part of the Odawa - also known as Ottawa - a tribe from Michigan. Hemenway and representatives from a half-dozen of the 30 tribes in Michigan including representatives from the Cree, Potawatomi and Ojibwe - also known as Chippewa - recently visited Poplar Grove National Cemetery and Petersburg National Battlefield to learn more about the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters, Company K.

"Researcher Tells Story of Michigan Indian Sharpshooters Who Served in Civil War".  Ted Booker, St. Ignace News, January 20, 2011.

"Company "K" 1st Michigan Sharpshooters (YouTube).  1st Michigan Sharpshooters Co.K Native Americans in The Civil War featuring an interview with Chris Czopek.

WGVU Road to Andersonville

"Inured to hardships, fleet as deer".  Gordon Berg.  Civil War Times Illustrated (June 2007), p.56. American Indian sharpshooters fought gallantly beside their black and white comrades in blue in the chaos of the Crater.  Lieutenant Freeman S. Bowley was fighting for his life in the man-made hellhole that was the Petersburg Crater when he noticed that the former slaves in his company of the 30th United States Colored Troops were not the only men of color wearing Union blue and dodging Confederate Minié balls on the stifling hot morning of July 30, 1864. "Among our troops was a company of Indians, belonging to the 1st Michigan S.S. [Sharpshooters]," recalled Bowley many years later. "They did splendid work, crawling to the very top of the bank, and rising up, they would take a quick and fatal aim, then drop quickly down again." Michigan residents can access this article via MeL. Choose full text magazines and newspapers, choose eLibrary, click on the magazines icon, type in Civil War Times Illustrated.

Subject Guide

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Erik Ponder
African Studies Librarian
MSU Libraries
366 W. Circle Dr. (E 224B)
East Lansing, MI 48824

MSU Faculty Members

Dr. Phil Bellfy.  Founding Member of American Indian Studies Program at Michigan State University.   Website.
Dr. Suzanne Cross,  Saginaw Chippewa Indian and Professor Emeritus, MSU School of Social Work, will be presenting "Boarding Schools from 1890-1984 : Purpose, Historical Context, and Effects on American individuals, families, and tribal nations" at the Central Michigan University Park Library, April 8, 2014, from 7 - 8:30p.m.  To contact her try   Poster

Mary Ellen Cushman, a member of the Cherokee Nation,  is Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University and has served as a Cherokee Nation Sequoyah Commissioner.  For years now, my work has been informed by a Cherokee ethic of reciprocity ᏕᏣᏓᎵᎨᏅᏗᏍᎨᏍᏗ (responsibility for each other). Over the last two decades, I've been thinking, writing, and teaching about the ways diverse peoples use language in our everyday fights for dignity, expression, respect, resources, and change.  She recently published The Cherokee Syllabary: Writing the People’s Perseverance (Oklahoma UP 2011).

Matthew L.M. Fletcher is Professor of Law at Michigan State University College of Law and Director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center. He is a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, located in Peshawbestown, Michigan. He is the Reporter for the American Law Institute’s Restatement, Third, The Law of American Indians. He sits as the Chief Justice of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Supreme Court and also sits as an appellate judge for the Grand Traverse Band, the Hoopa Valley Tribe, the Lower Elwha Tribe, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, and the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska.   He also is the editor of Turtle Talk, a  blog about American Indian law and policy.  For more information see his MSU College of Law Biography.

Wenona Singel  is an enrolled member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, an appellate judge for the Little Traverse Bay Bands Appellate Court and assistant professor at Michigan State University College of Law and Associate Director of the Indigenous Law Program.  She is also Of Counsel with Kanji & Katzen, PLLC. In her time with Kanji & Katzen, Singel served as general counsel to the tribally-owned Grand Traverse Resort, participated in the Indian gaming litigation of Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians v. U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, negotiated a tribal-state omnibus tax agreement and performed land claims research. Professor Singel has taught Federal Indian Law, Advanced Topics in Indian Law, Natural Resources Law and an experiential learning class in which students complete research and writing assignments for tribal governments and judiciaries.  Her recent publications include "Labor Relations and Tribal Self Governance," published in the North Dakota Law Review in 2004, "Power, Authority and Tribal Property" co-authored with Matthew L.M. Fletcher and published in the Tulsa Law Review in 2005, and "Cultural Sovereignty and Transplanted Law:  Tensions in Indigenous Self-Rule," forthcoming in the Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy.   For more information see her MSU College of Law Biography.

Kyle Powys Whyte is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Michigan State University and affiliated faculty for Peace and Justice Studies, Environmental Science and Policy, the Center for Regional Food Systems, Animal Studies and American Indian Studies. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Dr. Whyte writes on environmental justice, the philosophy of technology and American Indian philosophy. His most recent research addresses moral and political issues concerning climate change impacts on Indigenous peoples.   For more information visit his website

Affiliated Faculty with the American Indian Studies Program at Michigan State University..