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OTTISSIPPI: Ch. 2 part 1 — A Sense Of Place–Waterways, Ste. Clare, Walpole, and Boundaries

Although it may seem like Ottissippi is jumping out of order, rest assured it is for a good purpose. Cheryl carefully organized the order of the previous chapters of Ottissippi so that readers were able to learn the history before exploring Chapters 2 and 5. To read her previous excerpts, click here.

A big THANK YOU to Cheryl for her dedication and in-depth research into our local Native history.

By Cheryl Morgan

OTTISSIPPI is written by local author – Cheryl Morgan. It is the New Native History and culture of Southeast Michigan and beyond that has been untold. It was inaccessible due to the complexity of the many tribes, governments, states, and boundaries. The history was hidden and scattered everywhere due to time and the many changes of names of waterways, peoples and places. It is the result of 4 years of intense groundbreaking research that clarifies and reveals what happened here and in the Northwest Territory. Now available in one volume! Non-fiction 643 pages.

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BWHL will be sharing excerpts from OTTISSIPPI with the readers every other week. The book is available on Amazon.com/ottissippi.

It is available as an eBook with a searchable Table of Contents and in Print – paperback.

 Chapter 2

A Sense Of Place–Waterways, Ste. Clare, Walpole, and Boundaries 

MICHIGAN

Michigan was known by many other names, as were its waterways, places, and peoples. There is much confusion when reading historical maps and writings due to the name changes. Many were changed multiple times. The Ojibwe Indians were known by over 70 different names in the past. Thus, this chapter will help to understand other historical writings.

Michigan was called Mitchi Gami or Kitchi Gami, meaning “Great Lake” or “Big Lake” of the Ojibwe. “The name Michigan is derived from two Chippewa words, Mitchaw – Great, and Sagiegan – Lake. Great Lake” (Farmer). “Kietchi, means every kind of Greatness, in quality” (Chaput). Mitchi or Missi means “quantity” or refers to quantity.

Michigan has the longest coastline in the lower 48 states. There are 420 named Islands in the Great Lakes belonging to Michigan.

Mi shee kain means “turtle” in Ojibwe. “Mishiiken, is the Ojibwe word for Turtle” (Ziibiwing, Saginaw Chippewa). Michigan was the turtle; the USA was the turtle. There are many “turtle” islands in Ojibwe history. The turtle was very important from the beginning of Ojibwe history and at the end.

Mishikan means Snapping Turtle clan. Mike – Red Sky. Sarnia, 2017.

THE GREAT LAKES

The lands of the Northwest were called the “Pays De En Haut”, or The Upper Country, the Great Lakes Basin.

The Great Lakes consist of five lakes: Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, and Lake Michigan.

“The waters of which unite to form the St. Lawrence River. Lake Superior, the true source of the St. Lawrence, is the greatest freshwater lake on the globe! Its waters are carried off into Lake Huron. Lake Huron also receives the waters of Lake Michigan. The River St. Clair carries off the waters of these Three Inland Seas; after running about 30 miles between moderately high banks, it expands into Lake St. Clair, which is only about 30 miles in diameter. Lake St. Clair is connected with Lake Erie by the River Detroit. Lake Erie is connected with Lake Ontario by the Niagra River on which are the celebrated Falls. From Lake Ontario, the river commences to Montreal Canada and on out to the St. Lawrence River and to the Atlantic Ocean. A distance only 600 or so miles shorter than the Mississippi”. (The Penny Magazine, April 29, 1837, “The River St. Clair and the Chippeway Indians”)

Niagara Falls “Great Falls”, Kitchi ka be kong and Animikee wa-bu – “Place of the Thunder Water” and “Crooked Place”. On the Niagara River, Niagara Falls was known as St. Louis in Quebec, French Louisiana.

“The Indians had long ago called the Great Lakes ‘Mitchi Asugyegan’, meaning ‘Lake Country’” (John T. Barnes). “The early Jesuits Missionaries called the Great Lakes, ‘Sweet Water Seas’ (Barnes, Honorary Chippewa Chief 1967).

Below are the names of the Lakes used throughout this history, as well as their locations.

• Lake Erie: “Okswego” or “Swege” (Jenks) “the White Waters Lake” (Plain, 1300 Moons). West of Lake Ontario above Ohio and Pennsylvania, and south of southwest Ontario, Canada 

• Lake Huron, bounded by East Lower Michigan, Upper Michigan, Western Ontario, Canada: its bay, (Georgian Bay) in the northern part of Ontario, part of East Lake Huron, was called “Bay of Missisagues” (Lahonton II, 1603)

• Lake Superior: upper peninsula of Michigan, upper Wisconsin, and Minnesota and south of Canada

• Lake Michigan: west of Lower Michigan and East of Wisconsin and south of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

• Lake Ontario: lies above New York and below Ontario

• Georgian Bay, East Lake Huron in Southwest Ontario, Canada

• Lake Simcoe, east of Georgian Bay: “Lake Aux Claies” by early French families

• Lake St. Clair, Lake Nipigon, and Georgian Bay were sometimes called “thesixth lake”.

See pages in appendix at the back of the book for more names of the lakes.

LAKE HURON

Lake Huron is 250 miles long, 120 miles wide, and 800 feet deep. It is 576 feet above sea level and 20,500 square miles. It is the third largest of the great freshwater lakes. Lake Huron rises and falls once every seven years.

Lake Huron was known by the following names:

• Lake Orleans by the early French

• Lake Ottawa or Ottawa Lake

• Lake Michigan, meaning Great Lake

• Canatara, an Iroquois name

• Karegnondi and Karegnon by the Missisaugas

• Mer Douce, French for “Sweet Seas” (not having salt)

• The Calm Sea

• Lake Mer Duce, meaning “Placid Sea” in French (Schoolcraft)

“The land on the Easternmost shore of Lake Huron was called Sahgeeny and Nohtooway or Nahtoowassee” (George (John) Copeway). Land to the west of Lake Huron was called “Conchradum” by the French. The southern Great Lakes were called “Wakashan” by the Iroquois.

LAKE HURON LAND BRIDGE

Beneath the waters of Lake Huron lies an ancient land bridge which separated Lake Huron into two smaller lakes. The land bridge once connected Northeast Michigan’s Alpena area to Point Clark near Amberly in Southwest Ontario. Amberly is due east from the tip of Michigan’s thumb. The land bridge now lies 100 feet beneath the surface of Lake Huron.

John O’Shea and associates from the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, University of Michigan, conducted research in 2009 which provided evidence to suggest that this ridge served as a seasonal migratory link (spring and fall) for mastadon and caribou. Because of its narrow width and limited escape opportunities, this crossing created exceptional hunting, which ended as the lakes rose to an elevation which submerged this bridge. New maps were released of the Lake Huron area by the U.S. government, clearly showing this land bridge.

A complex network of rock hunting blinds, drive lanes, and food cache sites were identified at a location which would have intersected the seasonal migration route of the caribou. The area is about 35 miles southeast of Alpena. It is identified as “The Drop 45 Drive Lane”. The incredibly organized hunters clearly understood the migratory instincts of caribou, placing boulders in two parallel directions. Caribou followed such paths to the dead end of the human erected stone wall, thus providing great sustenance to the hunters. It is theorized that meat harvested during the fall migration was stored in these caches until winter and then retrieved by sled. Such pursuits were once a communal activity. It is assumed they dried the meat for storage. This story can only be told because of its underwater preservation (University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology, Memoir 57. Caribou Hunting in the Upper Great Lakes, Sonnenburg, Lemke and John O’Shea). 

LAKE ST. CLAIR

Lake St. Clair is 430 square miles: 26 miles long and 24 miles wide. It is a heart shape with the world’s largest freshwater river delta and one of the largest deltas in the world. The delta is on the northern end where the River St. Clair enters Lake St. Clair. Lake St. Clair is 10 to 19 feet deep; the shipping channel dredged through the center is 27 to 29 feet deep. It is often called the sixth Great Lake.

It is and has always been a sport fishing haven for both Americans and Canadians. It is in the major bird migration pathway called the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways. “The Marshes were luxuriant, with Manoomin – Wild Rice, also called Wild Oats, A feast for the great variety of birds, waterfowl, and for the Native Americans” (Angel Fire).

In the late 1950s, a channel was created in Lake St. Clair to accommodate large freighters hauling products out of and into the Great Lakes. The swift current from Lake Huron carries sand and gravel to Lake St. Clair through the St. Clair River.

St. Claire was the name Pere Hennepin, an explorer, called the lake, naming it after the saint whose day it was when he arrived there. St. Clare was devoted to living simply; she was the founder of The Poor Clares. Ste. Claire was applied to the entire District of Ste. Claire.

Sinclair was the name of the British Captain Patrick Sinclair who built a post at what is now St. Clair. However, St. Clair, the town and city, was named after General and Governor Arthur St. Clair in 1828, ten years after he died.

Lake St. Clair was called the following names:

• Otsiketa and Otiketa, meaning “salt water” and the Indian name for “Round lake” – the lake has a heart shape

• Wahwehpyahtahnoong: “The Round Lake”, “Missauga Ojibwe” (Jenks 1912)

SAINT CLARE

Saint Clare of Assisi was an Italian saint. She was one of the first followers of St. Francis of Assisi. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies. She wrote the Rule of Life, the first monastic rule written by a woman. Following her death, the order she founded was renamed “The Order of St. Clare”, referred to today as Poor Clares (Poor Ladies of San Damiano).

She was devoted to prayer, and her mother and three sisters also entered Clare’s monastery. She exchanged her rich gown for a plain robe and veil and lived with no possessions. The nuns went bare foot, slept on the ground, ate no meat, and observed almost complete silence.

She was titled after Franciscus and aided Francis, her lifelong friend. She took care of him during his old age. She endured a long period of poor health until her death. Her Theology of Joyous Poverty was in imitation of Christ.

In 1253, her last words were “Blessed be you, O God, for having created me”. Her Influence was such that Popes, Cardinals, and Bishops came to consult her.

Lake St. Clare or St. Clair was named on August 11, 1679, her Feast Day (Saint Clare, www).

BOUNDARIES AND REGIONS

QUEBEC

Quebec is the name used for a very large part of New France, including the area of Michigan and Canada; it went south to the Ohio River and west to the Mississippi. 

KENT COUNTY

Kent County – 1791 – “is to comprehend all the country, (not being territories of the Indians), not already included, in the several counties, herein described, including all the territory to the westward and southward of the said line, to the utmost extent of the country commonly called or known by the name of Canada” (Colonel John Graves Simcoe).

British Kent County included Michigan and Illinois, Lakes Michigan and Lake Superior extending to Hudson’s Bay in the North, and seemingly to the North Pole; it was the largest county in Canada. In those days, Kent County was called Fairfield. (See Chapter 8: Detroit and Canada.)

THE DETROIT

The Strait, or Detroit as the French called it, the Strait that runs between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. The whole region was known as the Detroit. This has caused great confusion in reading historical writings because Detroit was used as the name for the city that arose at a much later date.

Le Detroit, “this strait”, runs from Lake Huron to Lake Erie. “Detroit was the entire district between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. The Strait was the entire channel between Lake Huron and Lake Erie” (Jenks). The Detroit of Lake Huron and the Detroit of Lake Erie. The Detroit cuts through the lands like a knife; it is fairly straight running between Lake Huron and Lake Erie.

Detroit means “the Strait” in French, this also described the land and people who lived there, through the whole of the Strait. The Detroit Chippewas were the Black River and Swan Creek People from along the whole Strait. The Detroit of Lake Huron describes the Strait above Lake St. Clair, now the St. Clair River (Jenks, History of St. Clair County). The Detroit of Lake Erie describes the Strait below Lake St. Clair, now the Detroit River.

The word Detroit-strait at that time had no reference whatever to the locality of the present city of that name but covered the whole waterway from Lake Erie to Lake Huron (Jenks 1912). This generalization had led several modern authors into the error of locating events here (City of Detroit) that really occurred on the River Ste. Claire (Farmer 1884).

TEUSCHA GRONDIE

From the earliest time, this region was noted for its beavers. The localities where the beaver flourished were the most valuable and coveted lands and waterways (Jenks).

This region included Windmill Point, on the Detroit River near Lake St. Clair; Sanguenaum – the west shore of Lake Huron; and Port Credit – the site of Fort Gratiot, the trading post (Map of Sarnia, Lambton Maps).

Teuscha Grondie was known by the following names:

• “Teuscha Grondie or “Teuchsa Grondie”: The Strait region, “Place of many Beavers”; also, “Tysch Sarondia” and “Tosh Sagh Rondie” (Farmer 1884)

• “In 1620, the trading post of the French at the Old Indian Village on its site, Teuchsa Grondic” (Colden/Lanman, History of MI, pg. 6)

• “Tii Ux Son Runtie: the west side of the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, and St. Clair River 

• Tie ug sach rondio: the name for Fort Detroit or Fort St. Joseph at the foot of Lake Huron 

• Tircksarondia or Tyscharondia: Fort St. Joseph (Jenks vol. 1, 1912 History of St. Clair County Michigan)

• Fort De Tret: Tieugsachrondio, “Place of Many Beavers”, was in St. Clair County, Michigan, Fort Gratiot area

AAMJIWNAANG – THE GATHERING PLACE

“This is the name of the Territory that once covered a great area of Eastern Michigan and Western Ontario. It extended North to Goderich, Ontario, to Toronto, Ont., and North around Georgian Bay in Ontario. It reached South to Detroit, and West to Lansing, and to White Rock in Michigan. Today it is represented by one small reserve in Sarnia, Ontario” (Plain).

Aamjiwnaang is pronounced am-jin-nun and means “Place by the Rapid Water” or “at the Spawning Stream” (Sarnia Chippewa First Nations). According to the Ontario Encylopedia, Aamjiwnaang also means “where the people meet by flowing waters”. David Plain states, “Aamjiwnaang means, Contrary place water flowing, Place where water flows contrary, pooling back to the lake”.

“The Port Huron area was a huge trading area of great commerce between tribes” (Joe Greaux, Woodlands Metis Peace Chief, 2014 interview). “It was called ‘The Gathering Place’” (Anita, Ziibiwing, Saginaw Chippewa). This was one of their favorite camping places to visit family, hunt, fish, and rest while traveling along the great travel routes of the St. Clair River, Lake Huron, Black River, and the Thumb of Michigan, to all parts in every direction as was the custom to travel throughout the Great Lakes region. It was also a place of great commerce between other tribes and the white and Metis (mixed breeds traders). There was plenty of food in the area, a large trading place, and a staging area for any wars that the Alliance Confederacy would be involved in.

Being at the foot of Lake Huron, having many sandbars and shallow channels on the St. Clair River made for an easy crossing to the other side on the east shores, now Canada. It was a stopping place to Warpole, or St. Mary’s Island, now Walpole Island, and the many other islands near Lake St. Clair, Swan Creek, the Huron (Clinton River), Rouge River, and all points south and in every other direction.

Aumichoanaws is an Indian word for what is now the St. Clair County area and was the name of the village at Black River, consisting of more than 20 villages along the nearby waterways. “Aamjiwnaang, has always been a favorite resort of the Chippeway Indians, even while retreating in the advance of European Emigration” (The Penny Magazine, 1837).

THE FOSSIL TREES

In 1830, The Detroit Gazette printed this original poetry:

Just below Fort Gratiot at the Foot of Lake Huron, the bank of the River is 30 or 49 feet high, and nearly perpendicular. The force of the current washing constantly against detrition of the current has been opening to view a number of Fossil Trees. In other words;

At Huron’s Foot, there is a lofty bank, some 30 feet or more of elevation. Which worn away by chafing waves have rent the seal away which for Long Centuries has kept from view, the changeful freaks of Earths Primeval Day, when land and water other boundaries knew.

Here where alluvial sands a bed have found, usurpers o’er the clay or yielding waves; Trees that in earliest ages, waved around, are slowly peeping from their Ancient Graves.

Where is the Record of this Hemisphere, its retrospect embraces but a span. What a Long sweep of Ages, lengthened were which has no History in the mind of Man. But strange developments many yet be made, Types of those buried Times, may yet arise. For Earths Deep Mysteries when all betrayed, may shed New Light on our Be-Nighted Eyes. (MI Room, SCC Library)

Cholera Point was where Pine Grove Park is now; the area of the Water Works building is where land once jutted out into the St. Clair River, below Fort Gratiot. Soldiers in 1832 were taken off the ship “Henry Clay” coming from Detroit and left at the Fort Grounds, where many died and were buried at the Fort Cemetery. 

RIVERS AND THEIR ISLANDS

BLACK RIVER

Black River is 60 miles long with a watershed of 690 miles. It falls 200 feet from its source near Minden Bog, west of Palms in Sanilac County, Michigan. Black River was also known as River Delude, Duluth, Dulhut, Hauviere Deludes, Riviere Des Loutres, Noar, River Lowar, La Riviere Noire, and River Aux De Lu. Duluth for the famous French officer who in 1686 established a Post – Fort at the foot of Lake Huron called Fort Duluth, Fort Detret, and Fort St. Joseph.

There was a saying called “Black River Gold”: this was not a metal, but the white pine and cork pine that made many millionaires and barons of lumber fame and fortune.

Blackwater River People, the people who lived on the Black River, were called Mekadewagamitigweyawinniwak – The Blackwater River People. Nancy Brakeman Papers

“Muck A Ta See Bing [is the] Indian name for Black River”. (Nancy Brakeman)

Muck” means black, and “Noir” is French for black.

THE ST. CLAIR RIVER

The St. Clair River is 44 miles long and 833 feet wide at the Blue Water Bridge, widening to about 3,000 feet at some points.

“The St. Clair River had 3 Mouths in 1670” (Hennepin). “Two channels were open in the 1770s” (Farmer 1884).

“The St. Clair River was formerly known as: Huron River and Riviere Huron” (Charles Moore, “History of Michigan”).

HURON RIVER

“The Clinton River, (Macomb County, MI) was also called Huron River” (Jenks).

Fairfield was a settlement for the Delaware Moravian Indians on the Huron River.

The St. Clair River at one time was called the Huron River.

The Huron River flows into Lake Superior in the upper peninsula, above L’Anse (Historic MI).

The now Cass River in Huron county (the thumb of Michigan) was called the Huron River and empties into the Saginaw River.

The Huron River was also the name of a river flowing through Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, entering Lake Erie near Flat Rock, Michigan.

THE OTTISSIPPI

The Ottissippi was the Indian name for the St. Clair River/Detroit River, meaning “clear water” (Barnes/Plain).

Belle River, which is now Marine City, Michigan (called “She Ban Me To Go Sebing” by the Ojibwe) (Mitts), with Catholic Point to the south and Yankee Point to the north.

“Pointe Du Chene, was Algonac, MI. Also called, Point Aux Chenes – Nemitifomisking, Oak Point” (Chaput).

La Channel Du Bark was a branch of the St. Clair River (Map Library, U of M, Ann Arbor, Harlan Hatcher Grad Library).

Below is a letter to General Brown at Brownville by Samuel Storrow, 1817:

“Without reference to the map, a stranger is led into error from the different names given to the same Water. Since leaving Detroit, I had been on One Stream known in its various parts as Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, the River St. Clair, and the River Huron. Fort Gratiot is situated on the right bank of the latter which is the Rapid formed by Lake Huron in its first outlet to the water below. Its direction is from North to South, its width about 800 yards, its length about a mile and the rapidity of the current nearly five miles an hour”. (Wisc. State Historical Society, “The Northwest in 1817”, the St. Clair River)

In the late 1950s, a channel 28-feet deep (8.3 meters) was created in the St. Clair River. The St. Clair River Delta at the south end entering Lake St. Clair is the Largest Freshwater Delta in the World. It is a rich source of feed for the great variety of birds and waterfowl that live there and pass through on their annual migration. The swift current from Lake Huron carries sand and gravel to Lake St. Clair from Lake Huron. The St. Clair River is the world’s highway!

“At one time, you could walk across the River, there was 150 feet of Shoreline. It wasn’t nearly as deep, as it is now. Pine Grove Park extended 75 to 100 feet out into the river. The tree stumps are still there where they went over the original bank of the St. Clair River. Brian Hock, Black River Ojibwe, 2014

ISLANDS IN THE DETROIT RIVER

Isle La Peche, or Isle of the Fishes, was renamed Peach Island in 1810. It’s located on the Canadian side of the Detroit River and was the home of Chief Pontiac during the summer months.

Belle Isle was also known as Isle Aux Cochons, Hog Island, Rattlesnake Island, and Ste. Marguerite.

Fighting Island was also Turkey Island in 1796. It was originally occupied by the Wyandots, then sold to the Canadian government. In 1810, Indian entrenchments were plainly visible on the northeast end of the island, and from these warlike appearances the island took its name. It lies across the river from Ecorse, south of Detroit Michigan. 

Grosse or Great Island is the largest in the river. There was an extraordinary quantity of apple trees on this island in 1717.

Bois Blanc – We Go Bee Min Is – was known as Whitewood Island and Bass Island on the Canadian side. It was occupied in 1742 by the Huron, a village of several hundred people. In 1796, the British built a blockhouse there and later erected a fort at Malden. Tecumseh camped there before the 1813 Battle of the Thames where he died. The Patriots were in possession of the island in 1838.

Other islands in the Detroit River include Cartwright, Grassy, Little Turkey, Middle Island, Mud, Stoney, Sugar, Tawa, Celeron, Calf, Elba, Fox, Hickory, Horse, and Humbug. Also, there was Mama Juda, named after an Indian woman who camped there during the fishing season.

For a complete list, see Farmers, History of Detroit and Michigan, 1884, pg.  7.

ISLANDS AND FLATS IN THE ST. CLAIR RIVER

The St. Clair Flats is the delta area from the St. Clair River, entering north of Lake St. Clair and made up of many Islands.

Walpole Island is Indian land and consists of five islands.

Dickinson Island was also known as Stromness Island, Thompson’s Island, Laughton’s Island, and St. Clair’s Island.

The Eagle Channel runs between Harsens Island and Dickinson or Stromness Island.

Willow Island was near Port Huron at Pine Grove Park and had been dredged out.

Other islands include Harsens Island (formerly Jacobs Island, Jacob Island, James Island) and Russell Island.

CANADIAN ISLANDS IN THE ST. CLAIR RIVER

• Boise Blanc: Bob Lo Island, famous amusement park and island near Detroit

• Fawn: Woodtick Island, Eagle Island, or Belle Island

• Stag Island: Isle Au Serfs or Isle Aux Serfs Indian name is “Sawge Too Yawn”; was an ideal pasture for Nelson Mills of Marysville, Michigan to keep his horses with no fences, plentiful clean water, and shade; great hunting island

WALPOLE ISLAND

Walpole Island is Indian land and consists of five islands.

• Bassett Island: part of Walpole Indian lands

• Pottawatomi Island: in the middle of Walpole Island, where Pottawatomi came on removal from the USA in the 1840s

• St. Anne’s: lies east of Walpole Island, a hunting paradise

• St. Mary’s: Walpole Island

• Seaway Island

• Squirrel: south of Walpole, under the same Indian council as Walpole

Walpole Island, Bkajananj or Bakyewang ziibi, means “river flowing off”, “where the water splits”, or “where the waters divide”. Was also known as St. Mary’s Island, Warpole Island, for the Poles that edged the entrance to the island, having scalp locks of the enemy attached. The only native homeland never ceded to any government.

Walpole Island is part of the St. Clair River Delta above Lake St. Clair, one of the largest deltas in the world. Walpole is one of many islands in the delta.

There are five islands that make up Walpole Territory: these are Walpole, St. Anne’s, Squirrel, Basset, and Pottawatomi. Pottawatomi Island is in the central south portion of Walpole Island. Walpole is the largest in the Archipelago, with seven other islands; Harsens Island and Russell Island are on the American side of the border. It has been a haven to many native peoples. The Pottawatomi came after being removed from the Western USA in 1837.

Tecumseh, the great leader of the Indians of the Northeast, is buried on the Island. His body and bones have been secretly kept safe from destruction and were moved a couple times previously.

Walpole New Hampshire was the home of Stanley Griswold, secretary of Michigan territory until 1808.

The Walpole Island Stewardship Environmental Legacy won a prestigious United Nations award in 1995 for Management of Resources.

The Biodiversity Atlas of Lake Huron to Lake Erie (Hudgins, 2002) is a wonderful resource; it covers every nuance of the waterways. It is available as a book and also on the www (See the Reservations Chapter 10).

• Chematagon: Jimmie Tagen; small channel separating Squirrel Island from Walpole Island; very winding; Indian for “stream that runs away from another”

• Chenel Escarte or Chenail Escarte River: called “Lost Channel” or “Lost River”; the Sny Carte, a common name for Chenal Es Carte in French, meaning “Blank Channel”, separates Lambton County and Walpole Island, joining the Sydenham River near Wallaceburg, Ontario, then flowing into Lake St. Clair. 

• “Chenail Escarte – the South side was Pakeitchewane, the North side Wappissejunkissy cawpowa” (Chenail Escarte Treaty, 1796, Sarnia # 7)

• In addition, the Turtle Channel and Squirrel Channel ran near Walpole Island.

PLACES IN SOUTHWEST ONTARIO

• Baby’s Pointe: in South Sombra Township

• Bunyan: in Sarnia Township; named after John Bunyan, author of Pilgrims Progress

• Fairfield or New Fairfield: Delaware Moravian Indians moved here on the Thames; they had been in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and then on the Huron River in East Michigan 

• Ipperwash: Upper Wash, between Kettle Point and Stoney Point, northeast of Sarnia, Ontario; reservation land that in 1942 was made a huge military camp (See Reservations Chapter, 10 for more on Ipperwash)

• Kettle Pointe: Indian reservation (See Reservations Chapter, 10)

• La Petite Cote; meaning “Little Coast”, and La Cote de Misere means “Misery Coast”; Windsor Canada; opposite of Detroit, Michigan; now a dumping ground; the only stretch of natural Detroit River beach in the entire area 

• “Maiden, British name for Detroit Post (fort)” (C. Moore, History of MI). Maiden was also the Post across the river when the British evacuated in 1796. (C. Moore, History of MI)

• Malden: now Amhersburg; the Canadian Base for many wars, directly across from Detroit; christened Molden, then Smugglingburg in 1796; 18 miles below Sandwich (Windsor)

• Perch: 12 miles north of Sarnia

• Petit Cote: a mile above the bridge at River Aux Canards

• Sandwich: now Windsor; in 1725, it was called Point De Montreal and the Parish of Assumption. “Sandwich was known as Faubourg Ste. Rosalie, on the Detroit River, now Windsor” (Askin 1, pg. 292).  

• Stoney Pointe, named for its stony surface, was an Indian reservation made into a huge military camp in 1942 called Camp Ipperwash.

• Taranto: Lake Simcoe in Ontario, Canada  

• York, now Toronto

• Windsor was known as Petite De Cote, directly opposite of Detroit, Michigan.

SARNIA, ONTARIO

Sarnia was called “The Rapids”, the Roman name for the Island of Guernsey. It was also called Port Sarnia at an early date. The French described these rapids as second only to Niagara Falls.

POINT EDWARD ISLAND – PETWAGANO

Point Edward was an Island, and one of the original three channels of the St. Clair River ran east of it, carrying waters from the Upper Lakes through Lake Huron to the St. Clair River and beyond. A great storm filled the channel, and it became part of the mainland that is now Point Edward, Ontario. Point Edward was called Huron Village. It became Point Edward in 1879.

“There was a Delta at the Mouth of the St. Clair River” (Diba Jimooyung, Ziibiwing Saginaw Chippewa). The mouth of the St. Clair River once flowed more east of the present channel mouth, from Lake Huron into the St. Clair River. There were three channels which flowed into the St. Clair River. The river was much shallower with sand bars throughout. There were also more islands; one was called Willow island and was not far from Pine Grove Park, Port Huron, Michigan.

• A great storm blew for three days and made the present, new channel flowing from Lake Huron into the St. Clair River.

• Fort Edward: on Pointe Edward Island, Ontario (Point Edward is not an island now, but part of the mainland) 

SARNIA BAY AND ST. CLAIR RIVER

“In the early days, the waters of Lake Huron flowed into Sarnia, called Odanonsing by the Ojibwe, meaning “Little Town”, in several channels, none of which were very deep. In 1771, Captain Barr of Detroit said there were still two channels, one a league (three miles) wide, with a depth varying to 48 feet. Today there is only one, dredged to a depth of 70 feet, carrying the rush of waters through the land contours on the Canadian side where the other channels once were. The great storm of November 9, 1913 almost reopened the second channel; a few more hours and the topography of Point Edward would have gone back 140 years.

It was traditional for up-bound craft to lay over in Sarnia Bay at nightfall; Lake Huron was unpropitious. In 1926, the government dumped material from the elevator slip and winter harbor into the shoaling. Some 100 acres of made land were planted with Carolina poplars, and the outer edge of the Sarnia Yacht Club was established” (V. Lauristan, Lambton’s 100 years).

In our own lifetime, we have seen the wetlands that were once a great part of the Sarnia area filled in more around the Blue Water Bridge on the Canadian side of the St. Clair River.

The village at the foot of Lake Huron on the Canadian side was known as “The Rapids”, or Les Chutes by the French, and translated to “The Rapids”, by the English-speaking settlers. It was then named the Village of Sarnia in 1836. Sarnia is the Roman name for Guernsey England, where Sir John Colburn had been a lieutenant governor.

THE RAPIDS

“Near the outlet of Lake Huron and the St. Clair River, the land was called Detroit, Fort Detroit, or Fort St. Joseph. This fort was destroyed in 1688” (Burton, Beginnings of Michigan, pg. 60. Hathi Trust, WWW). The Rapids between Black River and Fort Gratiot were strong. The Rapids were one half to one mile long.

A mile below the spot where the River St. Clair issues from Lake Huron, the River forms a Boundary between, Upper Canada and the Territory of the U.S. The Waters of Lake Superior, Michigan, and Huron, poured through this narrow Channel, flow with considerable velocity, but their force is partly broken, by the curves or bends of the River. (The Penny Magazine, April 29, 1837)

There were great Rapids at the Mouth of the River. Huge rocks were along the entrance to the Channel, producing many sandbars. Below the Rapids the River grew very deep with a strong current. Along the banks of the River there were Back Currents flowing, North back toward the Lake. This created many eddies and whirlpools among the choppy waters, which seemed to braid it. It was said that if one looked closely and carefully enough one could catch glimpses of the, Mahnedoog or Spirits just beneath the surface. This is the meaning of the Name, Aamjiwnaang. (David D. Plain, The, Plains of Aamjiwnaag)

Sarnia – Aazhoogayaming – means the “Crossing Waters Place”. Also, O Dan Ong Sing – Little Town – was called “The Rapids” and Port Sarnia.

The Muneedo – Mannedog or Mahnedoog – or Spirits were not limited to “spirit” but can refer to the essence, characteristic, or power of a thing, such as a plant or river, meaning it is very powerful, or in this case, the rushing currents.

“The Rapids Tribe”, the Kioscanee Tribe at Lake Huron, were named after the Otchipwes Chief of War, Kioscance (“Young Gull”), War Chief against the Wyandots – Huron – and the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy.

Amjiwnaang means “Place of the Rapids”. It (the rapids) has all been dredged out (Joe Greaux and Brian Hock, Black River Ojibwe).

“A Traditional Story relates, that long ago, the most easterly Channel of the St. Clair River, ran from Lake Huron through the eastern end of Canatara Park, flowing in a southerly direction, and emptying into the wetlands at Sarnia Bay. Lake Chipican in Canatarra Park, is the only vestige, of the eastern Channel of the River St. Clair” (Plain).

• Sault Ste. Marie (Skaernon or Boweting), or the Falls of Saint Marie, Ontario, is the ancient homeland of the Three Fires Peoples and was the great fur trading center for the upper Midwest, Northwest and northern Canada. It was on St. Mary’s River, the great whitefish-catching place is in the swift, shallow waters. Sault Ste. Marie: ancient homeland of the Ojibwe.

• Bahwatig or Bahweting, also Baaitigong and Boweting: means “At the Place of Shallow Water, Pitching over Rocks” (Schoolcraft/Chaput)

• Boweting: homeland of the Ojibwa and Ottawa in Upper Michigan, now Canada; great fishing; the people were called Bawitigwakinini – Men of the Falls, now Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Canada. See Appendix.

• Today the locks raise ships up to Lake Superior.

Bibliography

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###

This book came about after a visit to the library where I could not find local Indian History. I grew up in the St. Clair and Black River area of Michigan, fishing on all the area waters with my father and brothers. I loved books, libraries, horses and puzzles; I was not a tech person. I love to cook, garden, travel, and camp. I was determined to find and share the truth. This has been a difficult journey in every way. I give you, the reader, the truth and blessings I also reaped. Cheryl Morgan

Cheryl Morgan lives near Port Huron, Michigan with her husband Tom and dog Fred.

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