American Indians in Attica—it’s hard for us to image a people who lived off the land in our area a hundred or more years ago; however, a good number of American Indians were in fact calling the area home. The Chippewa Indians of the area were nomadic, moving frequently from one place to another and that allowed them to have a varied diet of wild rice, berries and fruits and nuts with deer and game birds providing them a healthy diet along with fish in our lakes.
Across southern Attica was a route American Indians took when portaging their canoes between the Lake St. Clair and the Belle River to the Flint River and Saginaw River Valley.
In 1935 a team of scientists from the University of Michigan’s Department of Anthropology excavated a large American Indian burial ground, now known as the Younge site, about five miles north of Attica. Along with many artifacts and hundreds of skeletons, Dr. Emerson Greenman found the remains of a large log stockade, 50 by 750 feet. Arrowheads thousands of years old have been found on a farm east of Attica where the rest area was build on I-69 near Russell Lake. Those arrowheads are thankfully part of a cherished collection owned by three different families.
The arrival of explorers, fur traders, missionaries, treaties and lumbering signified the slow demise of the freedom-loving, nomadic, land-loving people. From Chief O-Ge-Ma-Ke-Ga-To, speaking at a meeting with General Cass in 1819, he said, “You flock to our shores; our waters grow warm, our lands melt like a cake of ice; our possessions grow smaller and smaller. The warm wave of the white man rolls in upon us and melts us away.”
More recently, Chief Wau-Be-Ka-Kuk, the Grey Hawk, said “everyone is finding out that my people were right. It is better to live outdoors and revere the spirits of the rivers and woods and lakes.”
Do not let the fact that these people live off the land slip by you. Do not let their love of nature and all it can and will provide for you—if treated well—slip by you. There may come a day when you will wish you could walk along the river’s edge and find the wild things to eat, to cure or to make pain go away.
These things have not gone away from the land, they are just harder to see through the white man’s eyes simply because of the sincere love and reverence for the land that these early American Indians had.
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