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OTTISSIPPI Excerpt # 3, # 2 Early Indian Culture and History cont.

By Cheryl Morgan

OTTISSIPPI is written by local author – Cheryl Morgan. Previously untold, it’s the New Native History and culture of Southeast Michigan and beyond. 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. BWHL will be sharing excerpts from OTTISSIPPI with the readers each week. The book is available on It is available as an ebook with a searchable Table of Contents and in Print – paperback.

To read the first in the series of weekly excerpt from Cheryl’s book, click here.


The Assisternonon – Three Fires nation and allies living in Southeast Michigan – were attacked by the Huron, Ottawa (Neutrals), and Tionontati (Petun Iroquois). The Iroquois nation drove them all out. The Algonquin tribes fled to the north and west.

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The great number of refugees created chaos in Wisconsin, Northern Michigan, and other places. Many tribes were starving, sick, and at war with the neighboring peoples. The refugees began a new era of intermixed tribes from this point. Disease had spread and the now smaller groups intermarried.

The Allies of the Assisternonon – Three Fires Nation were the Fox, Sauk, Mascoutin, Kickapoo, and Piankeshaw (Kaskaskias).

When the French came, they claimed much of the Eastern, now United States and Canada, though the French were very small in number. The country was called New France. The southern portion of their territorial claim was to the Ohio River and the Mississippi to the west, called Quebec (We were Quebec, Louisiana Territory).

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

The Huron were Iroquois but allied with the Ojibwe. There was a great rift with the New York Iroquois. The Huron were the French connection to the Ojibwe for furs and trading. The Huron had huge agricultural lands in Southern Ontario, growing 15 varieties of corn, 60 types of beans, six kinds of squash, tobacco, and more for trade (Ojibwa, Whoa, www). They had warehouse space and protection. They supplied two-thirds of the Fur Trade at Montreal in 1685.

The principal Huron village was Carhagouha, which was west of Lake Simcoe. There were 200 bark lodges with a palisade 35 feet high. The men used huge wooden shields for protection (Hathi Trust, The story of the Great Lakes, 1909, Edward Chemins, Marion Florence Lansing).

Ohio is Iroquois for “beautiful” and was known as “The Ohio Country”. Lake Huron was called “Canatarra” by the Iroquois.

The Iroquois were peaceful trading partners of the Ojibwe; they were allowed into Ontario for hunting. They made villages in many areas. The flint beds at Albino Point were kept secret by the Attawandron (Erie) who were manufacturers of flint arrowheads, tomahawks, and knives. The Neutrals at Kettle Point shared their flint beds with other tribes. The Mohawk – Iroquois, became jealous, greedy, and contentious when their own territory was hunted out. They expanded west to hunt fur for trade destroying the Neutrals in 1632.The Iroquois were sometimes called Mohawks.

In 1641, the Ottawa and Neutrals battled with the Assistaeronon – The Fire People, in Michigan. There was a 10-day siege; 2,000 Ottawa and Neutral captured a fortified Assistaeronon village. At a large Indian fort on Black River near Wadhams (4 miles west of Port Huron, MI), the Sauk took refuge in it. The fierce fighting went on for 10 days; in the end, 800 women and children were captured and taken prisoner. Seventy of the finest warriors were burned alive at the stake. They put out the eyes of the old men and cut away (girdled) their lips, leaving them to wonder and die in agony or drag out a miserable life (Ojibwa Whoa, www. /Reid; Jenks, 1912). The Iroquois were the cannibals of America!

The Iroquois were of many nations. They were enemies of the Huron and other tribes living at or near Detroit, warfare was frequent. In 1649, the Iroquois, having obtained Dutch guns from trade, drove the Algonquin nations from this region and the, Huron – Petun, and Neutrals out of Southern Ontario. Farmer 1884

The other tribes having no weapons to meet the Fuzee’s – guns. The Iroquois Wars pushed the people who were living in Southern Ontario into Michigan, as they fled, before the “fire sticks” or unseen bullets started killing everyone in their path. The Huron were driven everywhere. They were scattered, slaughtered, and adopted; many were pushed into Michigan among the Three Fires Peoples. The Fox living here were pushed out and fled west to the Sauk, whom they were in close alliance with.

The Ontario and Missisauga Ojibwe were pushed into Michigan by the Huron and Wyandotte, finding refuge with the Three Fires peoples and, in the Upper Peninsula, among the Northern Three Fires Confederacy. A small group fled to Arkansas, called the Osagee (John T. Barnes, Ontario).

There was a large fortified village called Mitchigami. The Fur Trade turned the Great Lakes into a war zone (Ojibwe Whoa, www).

In 1650, the Iroquois destroyed the Erie people, having only their bows and arrows. Those warriors not burned at the stake were adopted and made to fight with the Five Nations Iroquois. The Iroquois became the overlords of Southern Ontario and the Teucsha Grondie or “Place of many beavers” (the Detroit Strait). From the earliest times, the region was noted for its beavers (Jenks, 1812).

The French in Montreal and the Maritimes had been feuding with the British for a very long time in the Upper St. Lawrence. The Iroquois were being squeezed from every direction in the east.

The “Rat” was a general and chief councilor of the Huron (Lahonton).

The Mission of St. Joseph was attacked by the Iroquois in 1648. Seven hundred Hurons were massacred at St. Joseph. Others fled to St. Marie. There were eight missions in Huron country. They endured relentless attacks from the New York Iroquois. There were 6,000 refugees. The Huron had 20 towns or castles, with a population of about 30,000 people in 1637.

The Huron survivors were split up, and the Ouendat became Wyandotte, living from south of Detroit to Cleveland, Ohio. Large numbers were taken captive and absorbed into the Iroquois five nations peoples. Some went to Quebec with the Jesuits, and some to the Upper Peninsula to live among the Ottawa traders who assumed the Huron trade of those lost to the Great Battle. They were the business men, the sales force, and were indispensable.

The Iroquois claimed a great extent of territory around the Great Lakes (Jenks 1912). The Iroquois continued to push the Three Fires from their homes. They raided, attacked, and ravaged our people for twenty years. We rejoined our northern families at Boowaating and Chequamenon Bay; (Bayfield Wisconsin). The Boowaating suffered greatly from warfare, starvation, and disease” (Diba Jimooyung, Telling our story, Ziibiwing, Saginaw Chippewa).

The Iroquois were a menace to the people: invading villages, stealing their crops, and kidnapping their children. They followed the Huron enemies.

In 1662, the Iroquois with 1,200 well-armed men came to St. Ignace to continue the destruction. Many captives were tortured and burned. The Iroquois went in all directions to control the trade. The Tuscarora Indians of now North Carolina used many slaves growing tobacco for trade. They joined the five nations Iroquois in the Great Wars (Canadian Indian History, www).

The Missisauga and Saginaw were displaced by the Huron – Neutrals and Tiontonti in 1652. The Iroquois continued attacking for 20 years. The Shawnee in Ohio and Southern Michigan Algonquin’s were also displaced from every direction.  

The Black River was inhabited by Hurons, and WeMekeuns was a chief. The Huron, Ouendat – Wyandotte lived throughout the eastern lower Michigan shoreline. The Huron’s trade empire collapsed, and the people scattered.

At Boweeting, the weakened people gathered together to plan and carry out a counterattack to drive the Naadawe (Snakes) back to New York.

There were 20,000 battered refugees crowded into the north country. During the time between 1640 and 1690, the refugees’ traditional culture was transformed by war, disease, European teachings, and the Fur Trade. They became dependent on the French traders for firearms and ammunition.

A peace conference was called at a major Mohawk town at the mouth of the Saugeen River. A delegation from Superior country was attacked at an Ojibwe village. The young son of an Ojibwe chief had been kidnapped. When the delegation arrived for the conference, they were given the royal treatment. A huge feast was given. A new agreement was quickly reached. The delegates left for home, not realizing their hosts had cooked and fed the flesh of the captive son to his own father!

The Iroquois also interfered with the French and Indian traders delivering furs to Montreal. They were pirating the loads of furs and the trade goods coming back to the northern Indians throughout the Ottawa River route connecting through Lake Huron to the St. Lawrence at Sault Ste. Marie and beyond.

The Ojibwe were outraged, and the news spread.

The Chippewa’s, Ottawa’s, Missisauga’s, and Pottawatomi’s took council together at Boweeting (Sault Ste. Marie) to plan a stratagem of extermination of the Iroquois from the area. This plan called for four divisions to leave in the spring and surround the Iroquois. This movement was timed by so many moons, and at a certain moon they were to attack simultaneously. They would travel at night and attack on the new moon. Thus, with this stratagem, they succeeded in surrounding the Iroquois.

The Chippewa (Ojibwe) the Amikouai (Beaver Tail tribe from Sault Ste Marie-Boweeting) were led by “White Cloud” from the north. They would attack at Saugeen, Bruce Peninsula, lying in wait for the new moon. The Ottawa would attack from the north, led by their great War Chief, Sahgimah. They arrived at the Penetanguishen Peninsula, and lay in wait. The Missisaugas, the largest Ojibwe tribe, were led by “Bald Eagle” from the east and south and the Pottawatomi from the west and south.

“Young Gull” or Kioscance, a major Ojibwe war chief, led the western division. They came down the east side of Lake Michigan through the St. Joseph River to the Detroit Strait. He led 3,200 warriors.

His warriors were made up of Ojibwe, Pottawatomi, and Wyandotte warriors, the protectors, Policemen. They gathered at Round Lake (Lake St. Clair) to attack from the west. The western division, according to the oral record of Animekeence – “Little Thunder”, consisted of 400 war canoes, manned by eight warriors, with their weapons and supplies. They filled the Ottissippi’s (St. Clair River), entire length from the mouth at Karegnondi (Lake Huron) to Bkejwanong (Walpole Island).

When the new moon arrived, they all attacked simultaneously. Though the Iroquois were well-equipped with guns from the traders. Our great population of warriors of the Three Fires and our allies outnumbered the Iroquois four to one (3,200 warriors represented about 16,000 to 20,000 people).

Near Chatham, Ontario, the Seneca were destroyed, their warriors decapitated, and the skulls piled into a large pyramid to warn off further intrusions into the Ojibwe territory.

The slain of the Ojibwe were buried in a mass grave, a huge burial mound with full burial rites, their weapons and daily utensils buried with them to make the four-day journey to the Land of Souls as easy as possible.

At the Saugeen River, the Battle of Skull Mound left a Great Burial Mound. This was a large Mohawk town. Saugeeng means the “coming out place”, the river mouth. The same at Skull Island in Georgian Bay, then at White Cloud Island, then at Owen Sound, and Nottawasaga River.

Sahgimah was victorious at Orilla.

Bald Eagle was victorious at Mattawa River, Otonabee River, Moira River, Rice Lake, and the Rouge and Humber Rivers.

Surrounded, surprised, and outnumbered, the Mohawk – Iroquois, were defeated utterly and driven back to New York across the Niagara River in 1670 (D. Plain).

The final battle was fought on the south shore of Lake Huron. Only one boy and a girl were saved. They kept them until they grew into man and woman, then took them across the Lakes to send them home to their own country with a warning message to the Iroquois race: to stay in their own territory, and if they in the future made another attempt to invade the Algonquin territory, the whole Algonquin race would invade their territory (Nicholas Plain, the History of the Chippewa of Sarnia. 1950/ David Plain, “Plains of Aamijiwnaang”).

These wars were called “The Beaver Wars” or the Iroquois Wars. In 1690, there were massive battles on Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie. And from 1628 in the St. Lawrence to 1700 in Ontario and west.

After the Iroquois were pushed back to New York, the land once again became Anishinabe villages in Southern Ontario. The people flourished and grew to become a widespread nation, covering a great area. To the Ausable River in Michigan and the great Saginaw Watershed to Lansing, to Detroit, and to Toronto, Canada, and Georgian Bay (Diba Jimooyung. Ziibiiwing, Saginaw Chippewa).

The Iroquois reported the establishment of sixteen new castles (towns) of the three Ojibwa nations, including the Saulteur, Mississauga, and the Ottawa. They spread as far as Toronto and Frontenac, near Niagara and well into Michigan (Schmaltz, The Ojibwa of Southern Ontario, pg. 32).

The major war chief in the Iroquois wars was Ojibwe Chief Kioskance “Young Gull”, who led the Western division of Anishinabek warriors. Kioskance was the major war chief of Bawatinwakinini at Sault Ste. Marie. He had moved his people from LaPointe, Wisconsin to Sault Ste. Marie. Kiosckance was the chief of the Otchipwes in the wars against the six nations – Iroquois and some of the Wyandotte’s. Young Gull had recurring dreams of the place at the foot of Lake Huron and Black River, before and after the Iroquois Wars. He and his extensive fleet of warriors had camped at what is now Fort Gratiot on their return from the lower lake wars. He afterwards made the district his home. Aamjiwnaang, “at the spawning stream”, was a beautiful place with a temperate climate, plenty of game, fish, and every plant and material needed to live comfortably (David D. Plain, “The Plains of Aamjiwnaang”).

Half of the people at Boweting (Sault St. Marie) moved down to the foot of Lake Huron at Black River (Port Huron, Michigan) and (Ontario, Canada) and south of Algonac, Michigan at Swan Creek. The two large groups would meet in the summer for a large gathering. When the people grew large and the village grew to 1,000 people, they would split off into two groups and begin a new village (Plain). The book 1300 Moons is the life story of Young Gull by his descendent, David D. Plain. This book gives much greater detail of the Iroquois Wars.

Aamijiwnaang (“where the people gather by the rapid waters”), the territory at the foot of Lake Huron – Karegnondi and the Ottissippi (St. Clair/Detroit River), was a natural trade center, a Huge Trading Area, of great commerce for the Native Americans. It was a strategic military position on the largest inland water transportation system in North America and the world. It was the natural gathering place that was easy to reach from all directions. The Detroit – Strait, is The Ottissippi, it means Clear Waters.

The rock weirs of the Ottissippi Delta, at the head of the St. Clair River, at the foote of Lake Huron, were the great fishery of the tribes in the surrounding area. The Anishinabe gathered to spear and net large quantities of whitefish and sturgeon swarming in shallow waters and through the narrow channels.

The Ojibwe occupied both sides of the river. They spent much time on the east side in what is now Canada, or in the Saginaw Valley near Bay City, Michigan. They were master canoe builders and handlers. This was the great highway connecting with all the country. The Ojibwe then enjoyed a “Golden Age”. This Golden Age was to become a nightmare (David Plain).

Young Gull’s people settled at Lake Huron, St. Clair River, Black River, Swan Creek, Michigan, and east of the Ottissippi (St. Clair River), in Canada and spread far and wide to the north and west. They did not live in long houses (Plain).

The Ojibwe – Chippewa spread from Lake Huron to the Saginaw Watershed and Lake St. Clair. Where the Saginaw grew large and were clearly the military and political leaders in the Upper Great Lakes.

The Mississauga were back in Southern Ontario in 1696. They reoccupied lower Michigan and Ontario lands. They flourished and became the largest, most powerful Indian nation in North America.

The Anishinabe groups inhabited the islands at the delta area around and above Round Lake (Lake St. Clair). There were very large villages in this beautiful area, including all the rivers, streams, and creeks.

Aamijiwnaang territory stretched from Georgian Bay, Ontario, east to Toronto; south to Detroit, Michigan; and west of Lansing, Michigan; and north to Alpena, Michigan. Territories were separated by watersheds and waterways.

The Ojibwe held the richest trapping grounds and largest military power on the continent (David Plain).

When the beavers were plentiful, the waterways extended much farther, connecting a thorough network of all the waterways. Travel was mostly by water to near and far. The people traveled frequently within 100 miles in every direction of the main villages, or castles.

They were known as the Lakes Indians, the Lakes People, the Rapids Tribe, and the Detret – Detroit – Strait Indians.

The Indians were very hospitable people, sharing everything they had if needed, including food, shelter, medical care, and any other necessity. Hospitality was an Indian virtue. Everyone was expected to practice it. When an Indian arrived at the wigwam of another Indian, he expected to be hospitably received. He would enter without a sign. If guests were hungry, they would receive whatever happened to be in the house, even if it happened to be intended for seed corn. The frontier families became accustomed to arising in the morning to several Indians lying on the floor rolled up in their blankets with their feet stretched toward the fireplace. This practice was common along the well-traveled trails. (Emmert, MHC vol. 47).

Democracy and freedom were the Native American Indian ideals (Canadian Indian History, www). They were masters of the Great Lakes region, and determined to destroy any who entered the Country, their territory.

At the Great Peace Treaty of 1701 in Montreal, many of the first nations Iroquois and other Indians made peace and shared the waterways and lands.


The Mekadewagmitigweyawininiwak – “People of the Blackwater River” – lived along the Black River in the Michigan thumb on Mill Creek and all other streams and creeks that existed at that time in the area.

Amchoanews Village was the main castle or center of government for the people. The Black River people were part of the Missisauga Ojibwe, living on both sides of the Strait (The Detroit) that cut like a knife between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. The hunting grounds and winter camps were throughout the Thumb of Michigan, known as Saginaw, named after the great chief over this section of the territory. The Thumb from Detroit to Saginaw and into Ontario were covered in huge forests. Towering trees made a wonderful home. The hunting was superb.

Mekadewagamitigweyawininiwak is the longest word in the Ojibwe language, having 30 characters.

Makade Ziibii means “the Original People of the Black River”, The Black River Band. The Black River Band were of the Bear (Makwa) clan totem (dodem). They were the protectors and keepers of records.  


The Wabisiwisibiwiiniwak – “Men of Swan Creek” – lived in a huge, beautiful village at the north side of Lake St. Clair (Round Lake). It is now Anchorville, Michigan. Waabziin Ziibii means “Swan Creek Band”. The Swan Creek men had extensive corn fields and tool factories.


The Zaagiinaa Ziibii means “The Saginaw Band”. They occupied a large area covering the Saginaw River Watershed around Saginaw Bay and into the thumb of Michigan. This was a rich country; the natural resources were envied by many. Foot trails and roads led into all directions. They have become the roads and highways of today.

The thumb of Michigan was a great gathering place. Truckloads of artifacts have been collected in this area. Koylton Highland Pass a high point in the thumb of Michigan. The ancient pass in Highland Township was at the top of the mound. The Thumb was farmland and forest, at Indian Fields (town), large crops of Indian corn were grown of every kind, squash, beans, potatoes, sunflowers, and many other vegetables.


The only, rock carvings – Muz I Nee Bi Ah Sin – in Michigan are the petroglyphs. Ezhibiigaadek – written on stone, in the Anishinabemowin language. The Huron (Cass) River runs near this special place where Indians gathered for ceremonies and meetings. A sacred place on the high land in the Thumb of Michigan. The Black River and Cass River were an easy portage; they could be reached from all directions. It is a historic ceremonial site.

Here there is a great rock of sandstone, 40 feet long and 15 feet wide. Having many carvings upon it, flying birds, other animals, a man with a bow and arrows, swirl lines, and handprints. The spiral pattern is the symbol of life. There are over a hundred figures of men, birds, mythology animals, spirals, tracks, weapons, etc.

The fires of 1871 and 1881 cleared vegetation that had protected it for centuries. Much study has been done at this site.

The park is a special place for indigenous people, even today. It is a spiritual gathering place, used for religious ceremonies, weddings, and special meetings. It is against the law to take, disturb, or dig artifacts from Indian sites (Joyce Reid, Deckerville Papers),


The whole country was a great network of connecting trails (Farmer, 1884, History of Detroit and Michigan). Trails and great roadways, hundreds of miles in length, extended across the whole country. A thoroughfare of roads went in every direction. Some roads were 165 feet wide. Our highways and bridges are the same thoroughfares made by the Indians, and followed in their transportation. The best routes and crossings were chosen.

One a 2,000-mile thoroughfare from Montreal Canada to the Mississippi on U.S. Highway 12 follows this route. Copper and shells were traded for many other treasures from far-away places. Horses arrived in 1730. The Assiniboine Ojibwe had many horses; they were expert horsemen and breeders, trading horses for goods.

The Huron Trail led from Detroit to Black River and around the Thumb to Saginaw, Michigan. A trail from Anchor Bay led to Bay City, Michigan. There were trails along all the waterways having villages and camps every few miles apart.

The Old Black River Trail started near 10th and Water Street, now at Port Huron, and led out to the John Riley Settlement in now Riley Township, northwest of Memphis, Michigan near the Belle River.

The trails were used as war paths, in trade, in the hunt, and every other purpose in life. Some were specifically used for hunting and war to conceal the men. Often the wildlife left trails, selecting the best routes (Wm. Hindsdale, “Trade and lines of travel of the MI Indians”, The Archaeological Atlas of Michigan, 1928, U of M).

The west shores of Lake Huron were called Sanguenaum.

The Saginaw Watershed, O Sagenon or Sag inawe, meaning “to flow out”, contains 175 inland lakes and about 7,000 miles of rivers and streams. It is America’s largest freshwater coastal wetland system! It is like a large web reaching in all directions. Restoration of the degraded and polluted environmental conditions is progressing. In 1813, Louis Campau erected an Indian trading post along the Saginaw River. This led to the development of Saginaw.

The Great Lakes are the largest inland water transportation system in the world! They always have been. Copper, bark, skins, feathers, corn, quills of porcupine, pipestone, mica, flint and other stone and rocks, and scores of other items found and made. All these trade items required travel.

The rivers were great highways, used for quick travel and transportation; portages were short between other waterways. In the winter, dog sleds and snow shoes were used to travel.

Shells from the gulf have been found in a great many Michigan burial grounds. They were made into ornaments and implements. Articles obtained by trade, raids, or brought by travelers, from a great distance. Indians were familiar with places hundreds of miles away.

Canoes were the ultimate in vehicles of travel. They could speed along to faraway places, they could navigate far up streams, and they had very little draw in depth. They were used for storage, they were a shelter, to sleep under or stay dry during storms.

The Ojibwe were expert craftsmen in building canoes, having the precise techniques to build the best models for any use. They built large and small. They traded canoes for other goods. Each family typically had four canoes for their needs. Canoes traveled all the Great Lakes, staying nearby the shoreline for safety.  

The beavers made great dams, backing up the waters to create a much greater distance for travel on all the waterways than we have today. The rivers and streams were also deeper. However, the lumber industry caused them to be filled in. The beavers created natural dams to back up water and create canoe travel far up streams, that are now but drains (Wm. B. Hindsdale). The water table of the southern part of Michigan has been lowered four to five feet, and the beaver dams have been removed and are yet being removed.

The waterways were the place of a great many villages – towns or castles and camps – on lakes and navigable rivers and streams. In fact, most of the towns and cities of today are on the same grounds that once were occupied by the Native Americans. Government buildings, schools, and parks are mostly on Indian sites.

Large stepping stones were in the water to cross streams; bridges, now are where these trail crossings once were, and the trails became highways.

Waterway travel was the highway of great importance, in the early history of America, when the Indian alone dominated the land (Hindsdale).

Next week will be the rest of Chapter 3 Early Indian Culture and History. 




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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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