Michigan Native Americans – Tribes – Culture – Legends – History


Free online books & articles on Native American tribes in Michigan, history, Indian culture, legends, treaties, folklore, archaeology, music.

Find the Directory for 90+ pages in this collection at History of the Great Lakes States.


Excerpts from the Michigan Pioneer & Historical Collections

An annotated bibliography created at Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University, for the numerous articles and primary source materials on Native Americans in the Michigan Pioneer & Historical Collections. The collections (MPHC) consists of 40 600-700 page volumes, usually covering the approximate period 1650-1850. All volumes are available online, and the bibliography contains links.

In the Wilderness with the Red Indians: German Missionary to the Michigan Indians, 1847-1853

Baierlein, Edward R.
Wayne State University 1996

“First published in Germany in 1889, E.R. Baierlein’s sensitive and respectful portrayal of Native American life is available for the first time in English. “In the Wilderness with the Red Indians” is a moving historical account of a Lutheran missionary’s life with American Indians in central lower Michigan more than a century ago. The book tells of Baierlein’s time in Bethany, Michigan, where he was sent to help establish a church, build homes, and educate both the children of Native Americans and of German Lutherans who had migrated to North America.” – book cover.

History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan

A Grammar of their Language, and Personal and Family History of the Author

Blackbird, Andrew J.
Ypsilanti, MI: 1887

Blackbird (Mack-e-te-be-nessy) was an Ottawa chief’s son who served as an official interpreter for the U.S. government and later as a postmaster while remaining active in Native American affairs as a teacher, adviser on diplomatic issues, lecturer and temperance advocate. In this work he describes how he became knowledgeable about both Native American and white cultural traditions and chronicles his struggles to achieve two years of higher education at the Ypsilanti State Normal School. He also deals with the history of many native peoples throughout the Michigan region (especially the Mackinac Straits), combining information on political, military, and diplomatic matters with legends, personal reminiscences, and a discussion of comparative beliefs and values, and offering insights into the ways that increasing contact between Indians and whites were changing native lifeways. He especially emphasizes traditional hunting, fishing, sugaring, and trapping practices and the seasonal tasks of daily living.

Echoes of the Forest: American Indian Legends

Brown, William Edgar (Reverend)
Boston: Badger 1918

A book of poetry. Brown was assisted in his research of Indian legends and folklore by members of the Michigan Historical Commission, and by faculty members at the University of Michigan.

Over 100 magazines free and online, from the early 1800s to today, at Read Old Magazines Online

The Pokagons

Buechner, Cecilia Bain
Indiana Historical Society 1933       

This consists of short biographies of Leopold Pokagon and his son Simon Pokagon, and information about their Potawatomi Band. Leopold Pokagon (1775-1841) was a Potawatomie chief whose villages were located on the St. Joseph River in southern Michigan, near the Indiana border. Leopold converted to Catholicism, and at his request, the Church established a mission near his village. The Pottawatomie group in the St. Joseph River Valley who converted established a new identity as the Pokagon Band, which still exists in that region. Leopold’s son Simon Pokagon (1830-1899), who grew up there and attended Church schools, became widely known as one of the best-educated full-blooded Indians in America. Among other honors, he was invited to speak at the 1893 Columbia Exhibition in Chicago, to represent Native Americans. Simon was also the author of several books.

Inquiries, Respecting the History, Traditions, Languages, Manners, Customs, Religion, &c. of the Indians, Living within the United States

Cass, Lewis
Detroit: Sheldon & Reed 1823

The first part is a 30-page pamphlet consisting of questions to which answers should be sought in studying Indian tribal life. Subjects of the questions include traditions, government, war, peace, death, birth, marriage, family government, social relations, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, music and poetry, religion, general manners and customs, food, mode of living, cooking, meals, games, dances, amusements etc. etc. The second part was originally a separate pamphlet, entitled “Additional Inquiries Respecting the Indian languages”.

Books and articles on Exploration & Travel in Historic Michigan

Native American Material in the Clarke Historical Library – Website

Clarke Historical Library
Central Michigan University       

Gateway to several collections – online and in archives – for Native Americans in Isabella County or other areas in Michigan.

Native American Treaties: Their Ongoing Importance to Michigan Residents – Website

Clarke Historical Library
Central Michigan University       

Contains an online introduction to treaties, “Understanding Treaties”, links to pages containing the text of 15 historic treaties that impacted Michigan Indians, and links to pages on several other issues related to the treaties, including one on casino gambling.

Rites of Conquest: The History and Culture of Michigan’s Native Americans

Cleland, Charles E.
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan 1992

“This book is a valuable and important addition to the literature that develops understanding of the prehistoric and contemporary indigenous groups living in the Great Lakes region. Cleland skillfully blends historical information with folklore vignettes about and by Indians and non-Indians. The reader is provided with considerable insight into the thought processes and historical forces that motivated French, British, and American policy toward Native Americans for the first 300 years of contact. The six excellent maps provide visual images of the tribes surrounding the Great Lakes from 1600 to 1840. An extensive 22-page bibliography is included.” – Choice
TOC: In the beginning — A sense of time, a sense of place — Coming of the Wemitigoji — Foreign invasion: the Jagonash and the Chemokmon — The end of power — Not the feelings of their hearts — On white man’s road — From yesterday to tomorrow.

Find 14 more subject pages of books and articles about Michigan at the History of the Great Lakes States Directory.

People of the Three Fires: The Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Ojibway of Michigan. Workbook and Teacher’s Guide

Clifton, James A. and others
Grand Rapids Inter-Tribal Council, MI 1986        

“This book accompanied by a student workbook and teacher’s guide, was written to help secondary school students to explore the history, culture, and dynamics of Michigan’s indigenous peoples, the American Indians. Three chapters on the Ottawa, Potawatomi and Ojibway (or Chippewa) peoples follow an introduction on the prehistoric roots of Michigan Indians… This book contains many historical photographs and a five-page bibliography.” – Document Abstract

Chippewa Customs

Densmore, Frances
Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office 1929

Bulletin from the Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology.

Chippewa Music

– Volume 2

Densmore, Frances
Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office 1910-13

Bulletins from the Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology.

Poems from Sioux and Chippewa Songs

Densmore, Francis
Washington: 1917

Works of Fiction set in Michigan

A Study of Some Michigan Indians

Densmore, Frances and De La Vergne, Earl W.
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan 1949

Anthropological study.

Report on Indians Taxed and Indians Not Taxed in the United States (except Alaska)

Department of the Interior, Census Office
Government Printing Office 1894       

The report on the condition of Indians in Michigan begins on page 330. It includes a census count of Indians by county, and a report on each of three reservations: the Isabella, the L’Anse, and the Ontonagon.

The Saginaw Treaty of 1819 between General Lewis Cass and the Chippewa Indians

written for the Centennial Celebration of the Treaty, September 19th, 1919

Dustin, Fred
Saginaw, MI: Saginaw Publishing 1919

This is a description of the background story of the treaty, as well as a description of the event of the signing, in which the U.S. Government obtained a large portion of south-eastern Michigan from the Native Americans.

“To Educate the Indian”

My North Website, Mar 29, 2017

Edwards, Lissa
MyNorth       

Originally published in the Jan 2002 issue of ‘Traverse’ magazine. The subject is the early history of the Mount Pleasant Indian school (est. 1893) in Mount Pleasant Michigan, and how its approach to education represented late 19th century thinking by social reformers and Federal Government educators about the need to ‘civilize’ Native American children by isolating them from their culture in highly regimented boarding schools.

When Michigan Was Young: The Story of Its Beginnings, Early Legends, and Folklore

Fasquelle, Ethel Rowan
Eerdmans 1950       

About half of this book is the history of Michigan up to statehood in 1837. The remainder, Part III, has this title and subtitle: “Families and Customs – Stories and Legends: How the Ancient Ottawas and Ojibways Lived and Their Names, Customs and Legends. Stories of the First White Settlers of Early Michigan, and Indian Legends, Ending with the Modern True Story of Joe Francis’ Heroism”.

Books and articles on The History of Michigan

“The Indians of Michigan and the Cession of their Lands to the United States by Treaties”

Historical Collections Vol. 26, 1896, pp 274-297

Felch, Alpheus
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

A footnote states that Alpheus Felch was, “Governor of Michigan in 1846, U.S. Senator 1847-53, and 90 years of age at the writing of this article.”
The article provides a short history of each of the treaties by which the U.S. acquired Indian land in Michigan, as well as a discussion of treaty provisions, including reservations provided for the tribes. Map included.

Sketches of Indian Life

Frost, Frederick (Rev)
Toronto: Briggs 1904

Frost was for thirty years a missionary to the Ojibway Indians of Garden River and the Manitoulin Islands and the north shore of Lake Huron and Lake Superior. He was fluent in the Ojibway language.

Books and articles on War in historic Michigan

Old Indian Burial at St. Ignace, Michigan

Greenman, Emerson Frank
Michigan Archaeological Society 1960        Dewey Dec.   

A small booklet describing an archaeological find of 52 burials, estimated to have taken place about 250-300 years ago, with theories about the circumstances of the burial based on a number of historical sources. Photos.

“Indian Costume at Mackinac: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century

Mackinac History, Vol II, Leaflet No. 1, 1972

Gringhuis, Dirk
Mackinac Island State Park Commission, MI       

Descriptions and color illustrations of clothing and ornamentation in use by various tribes in the region of Mackinac (the area where the upper and lower peninsulas nearly connect).

An Historical Analysis of the Saginaw, Black River and Swan Creek Chippewa Treaties of 1855 and 1864

Gulig, Anthony G.
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater       

This report was prepared for the State of Michigan. The author was “asked to review the historical record related to the Saginaw, Black River, and Swan Creek and Chippewa treaties of 1855 and 1864 and produce a report relating the historical background and meaning of those treaties.” -Purpose & Origins of this Report. Included is a map showing the landed acquired by the Federal Government from the Indians in various treaties, and a map showing locations of Indian villages about 1810.

Please visit our collection of 2,000+ selected online magazine and newspaper articles on 40 subjects, plus online map & vintage photo collections, at Century Past History Resources

Archaeological Atlas of Michigan

Hinsdale, Wilbert B.
University of Michigan 1931       

“Michigan Handbook Series, No. 4”. Also see “Distribution of the Aboriginal Population of Michigan”, by Wilbert B. Hinsdale, also on this webpage.

Contents: Methods and sources – Trails – Waterways and portages – Mounds and other earthworks – Villages and camp sites – Burying grounds – Garden beds – Mining – Cultural features not included on the maps – Notes upon the archaeological features of the counties – List of Maps (20 maps of areas of Michigan)

Distribution of the Aboriginal Population of Michigan

Hinsdale, Wilbert B.
University of Michigan 1932       

“Occasional Contributions from the Museum of Anthropology of the University of Michigan No. 2”. This paper discusses the reasons for the unequal distribution of the 2,152 known Native American sites in Michigan. Mainly it discusses how availability of food sources were a factor in the size of local populations, and also discusses how those villages that cultivated crops were able to increase the availability of food compared to those that lived solely on hunting and gathering.
See the related “Archaeological Atlas of Michigan, also by Wilbert B. Hinsdale, available on this web page.

Contents: General statement – Population and food – Important sources of food – Animal – Vegetable – Special situations – Chippewa County – Saginaw Valley – Newaygo County – Roscommon County – Berrien County – From the Saginaw and Shiawassee to the Scioto and Great Miami – Isle Royale – The Indians and the dunes – Fort building – Deficiency of the map

The Indians of Washtenaw County, Michigan

– Volume 2

Hinsdale, Wilbert B.
Ann Arbor: Wahr 1927

Hinsdale was the Dean of the Homeopathic Medical College at the University of Michigan and the Custodian of Michigan Archaeology in the University of Michigan Museum. This short book has just a single chapter of text that is a general discussion about Native Americans in the area of Michigan, and some broad observations about the impact of European and white American trade and settlement on Native American civilization. That chapter also includes comments about Native Americans in Southeast Michigan and Washtenaw County. The remainder of the books consists of illustrations, mostly of drawings and photos of archaeological artifacts.

The book also originally had a county map attached that showed the location of Indian trails, mounds, Indian villages and burial grounds. The map is located separately on the web. Note this comment, which was found at the website of the map: “Hinsdale carefully fudged the locations of unexcavated mounds and other valuable sites that might otherwise become a source of temptation to souvenir collectors or amateur diggers. While supposedly the maps reflected everything the Professor knew, the actual locations may have been several degrees — or perhaps miles — off to one side or the other.”

For similar maps covering all of Michigan, see Hinsdale’s Archaeological Atlas of Michigan on the Michigan Maps and Gazetteers page on this website.

When Michigan was New

Hollands, Hulda Theodate
Chicago: Flanagan 1906

Some of the topics covered in this early history of Michigan seem to be randomly selected, but the focus of the majority of the book is on Native Americans in Michigan.

Chippewa Village: The Story of Katiketegon

Kinietz, W. Vernon
Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook Institute of Science 1947

Kitchi-Gami: Wanderings Round Lake Superior

Kohl, Johann Georg
London: Chapman & Hall 1860

A reviewer wrote that this is “…the best book on the Lake Superior country.” Another called it “…one of the most exhaustive and valuable treatises on Indian life ever written”. The author traveled among people of the Ojibway (Ojibwa, Chippewa) tribe along the shores of Lake Michigan, observing and collecting information. A few of the very numerous and diverse topics he addressed are: The Indian Agent, face painting, the canoe (use and construction), Indian dogs, medicine bag, a palaver, Indian generosity and hospitality, sports and pastimes, Hiawatha, death of a child, polygamy, Indian geography, the fur trade, symbolic writing, Catholic missionaries, the path of the dead, Ojibway songs, and snow shoes. He relates numerous Indian legends.

Legends of Michigan and the old North West

or, A cluster of unpublished waifs, gleaned along the uncertain, misty line, dividing traditional from historic times

Littlejohn, Flavius J.
Allegan, MI: Northwestern Bible. 1875

This 570-page volume consists of stories collected from Native American oral traditions by the author, during his 40 years of explorations in Western Michigan as a surveyor and geologist. Story titles are:

-The Shawnee and Pottowatomie War; or, The Michigan Scouts of 1800-1
-The Triple Alliance and Final Great Battle of Three Rivers
-The Sauk, Fox and Chippewa Raid; or, The Michigan Scouts of 1803
-Ou-Wan-A-Ma-Che and Mo-Kish-E-No-Qua; or, The Native Saginaw Maidens of 1804
-Alice and Effie; or, The Captive White Maidens of the Huron River
-Star Light and Red Hand; or, The Discarded Ojibway Wife and Son
-The Chippewa Raid on Green Bay; or, Red Wing the Sauk Chief
-The Campaign of Tippecanoe; or, The Michigan Scouts of 1811

Tribes frequently mentioned within were: Chippewa, Fox (Ontogamies), Huron, Miami, Mingo, Ojibway, Ottawa, Pewanigo, Pottowatomie, Sauks, Shawnee, Shiawasso, Wakisho.

The Song of Hiawatha

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth
NY: Maynard, Merrill 1855

Longfellow was one of the country’s most respected poets when he became interested in Indian lore. He read the books of Henry Schoolcraft on legends and stories of the Indians. This epic poem was set largely on the Upper Peninsula shore of Lake Superior. It was enormously popular, going through 125 editions, including translations into almost every European language.

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians – Keepers of the Fire

A History and Introduction to the Community through Text & Images

Low, John N.
Website       

Presented as a website slide show, with numerous photos and other illustrations integrated with the text. The author is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Comparative Studies at Ohio State Univ. – Newark.

Please visit our Century Past Free Online Library, with thousands of books to read online or download

Native Americans in Michigan – Website

Michigan Family History Network
Michigan Family History Network       

Website intended for genealogists, but sometimes with information of broader interest. A few samples of the many pages that are linked here: Graduates of Mt. Pleasant Indian School 1923; Students at the Carey Mission on the St. Joseph River, 1824; Licenses issued to traders in Michigan, 1824-1825

Native American Studies Research Guide: Michigan’s American Indian Heritage – Website

MSU Libraries
Michigan State University       

This webpage contains information and links for the following topics: The 12 Native American tribes in Michigan recognized by the federal government; Michigan historic tribes NOT recognized by the federal government; Michigan Native American museums & significant historic spots; Selected Books from the MSU libraries; Selected Children’s books; some miscellaneous other material.

Native American Studies Research Guide: Michigan Notable Indians – Website

MSU Libraries
Michigan State University       

This webpage contains biographical profiles for notable Michigan Native Americans, and in most cases, links to other useful websites.

Collected articles from a century ago on Political and Social Issues

“The Dumaw Creek Site: A Seventeenth Century Prehistoric Indian Village and Cemetery in Oceana County, Michigan”

Fieldana: Anthropology, Vol 56, No. 1, Dec 9, 1966

Quimby, George I.
Field Museum of Natural History 1966       

This former Indian village and adjacent burial ground were used in the last decades of the 16th century or the early decades of the seventeenth, and is important “because it is one of very few now known which manifest Woodland Indian culture in the Upper Great Lakes region of the period just prior to the arrival of European explorers, traders, and missionaries.” This detailed archaeological study contains numerous photos.

Annual Report of the Acting Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Michigan

Made to the Bureau of Indian Affairs at Washington at the close of the fiscal year, 30 Sept 1840

Schoolcraft, Henry R.
Detroit: Asahel S. Bagg 1840        

Henry Schoolcraft used this annual report to discuss a wide range of concerns he had about Michigan’s Indians. They had in recent years sold large swathes of land to the Federal government and were, within the past year or so, apparently being removed from their old lands.

Michigan Tribal Governments – Website

State of Michigan
Michigan.gov       

Contains links to the websites of each of Michigan’s current tribal governments. It also contains links to webpages or PDF documents on matters related to Michigan State government and Native American affairs.

The Ojibwe

Tanner, Helen Hornbeck
Chelsea House 1992           

Contents: Coming to the Great Lakes – A Culture of all Seasons – Trading with the French – Fighting Off Competitors – Keeping Tradition Alive – Enduring “Civilization” – Losing Ground – The Modern Anishinabe – Bibliography

A Study of the Hannahville Indian Community (Menominee County, Michigan)

Tiedke, Kenneth E.
Michigan State College 1951           

This study was made at the request of the Office of Indian Affairs of the U. S. Dept of Interior, when it was proposed (by someone in Congress?) that some of the Indian reservations in the nation …” be liquidated in an effort to make the Indians full-fledged citizens, as opposed to being wards of the government …” The study was done by a cultural anthropologist in a few weeks, covering the history of the community and present conditions. -Preface

“Chief Okemos”

Michigan History Magazine Vol 6, No. 1 1922 pp 156-159

Turner, F. N. (Dr.)
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.

For more about prominent Native American leaders in the Old Northwest, see:
– Various books and articles on Tecumseh, The Prophet, Logan, Cornstalk, Bluejacket and Joseph Brant in Biographies & Memoirs in Great Lakes History
;
– Thwaites, Reuben Gold, “Logan, The Mingo Chief 1710-1780″ in Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History;
Cole, Cyrenus, I am a Man: the Indian Black Hawk in Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Quaife, Milo Milton, ed., The Life of Black Hawk; Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak in Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Ellis, Edward S., The Life of Pontiac, the Conspirator, Chief of the Ottawas in Native Americans in the History of the Great Lakes;
Matson, Nehemiah, “Sketch of Shau-be-na, a Pottawattamie Chief” in Native Americans in Wisconsin History;

Michigan Odawa History Project – Website

Turtle Talk Website
Turtle Talk Website       

This website houses digitized Tribal Materials, Legal Materials, Congressional Testimony, Law Review Articles, Academic Articles, and Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver Materials.

“Story of the Baw Beese Indians”

Historical Collections Vol 28, 1900, 530-533

Van Buren, A. D. P.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

These Indians were a Pottawatomie tribe under chief Baw Beese, living in Hillsdale county in the late 1820s when settlers first arrived. Relations between the tribe and settlers were friendly and cooperative, but the tribe was forcibly removed and sent west in 1840. This oral history article was based on an interview with a pioneer farmer from Jefferson township, Hillsdale county, who had lived near the tribe’s main village as a boy.

Please visit our Native Americans section, with hundreds of free online books

Legends of Green Sky Hill

Walker, Louise Jean
Eerdmans 1959       

A collection of 43 Chippewa legends, told by the author as children’s stories.

“Indian Cession of 1819, Made by the Treaty of Saginaw”

Historical Collections Vol 26, 1896, 517-534

Webber, William L.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

The author begins the article with some background history about Indian wars in the Old Northwest in the late 1700s and in the War of 1812 that led to treaties with the Indians in which they were forced to concede large parcels of land. He then relates the negotiations of the 1819 treaty, in which General Cass represented the government. The author states that in an 1860 trial in Saginaw related to the treaty, in which he was one of the lawyers, many of the original participants were called upon to testify. For his article he drew upon his notes of their testimony to describe the original negotiations. The land conceded in the 1819 treat was about 6 million acres. The northeast boundary was at Thunder Bay and Alpena, the southeast edge was in Huron county in the thumb, and it extended southwest to take in parts of Jackson, Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties. A map showing the rough borders of this and several other major acquisitions of Indian land in Michigan is on page 275 of the same volume as this article.

The Crooked Tree; Indian Legends of Northern Michigan

Wright, John Couchois
Harbor Springs, MI: Wright 1917

Nearly fifty legends are related here. A few of the story titles are:

-Origin of the Medicine Lodge
-Legend of the Sleeping Bear
-Na-na-bo-jo, the Ottawa Hiawatha
-Formation of Mackinac Island
-Outwitting a White Man
-Rapid Transit in the Early Day
-Legend of the Motchi Manitou
-Origin of the Name “Chicago”

The Ottawan: A Short History of the Villages and Resorts Surrounding Little Traverse Bay, and the Indian legends Connected Therewith

Wright, John Couchois
Lansing: Smith 1895

This is about the Ottawa tribe of Native Americans. In addition to the locations in the title, Beaver Island and Emmett County are also covered.




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