The water, woods, and four seasons that attract today’s visitors to The Great Waters are the same natural resources that sustained the first settlers---the Anishinabeg--and the fur trappers and traders and miners and loggers who followed. The Anishinabeg, known as the Ojibwe or Chippewa Band, were the first people to call the land of The Great Waters home. They inhabited the upper Great Lakes basin more than 2,000 years ago and lived a nomadic life within the Eastern Upper Peninsula guided by the source of food supplies and the seasons:
• Springtime was spent in the Sugar bush tapping maple trees for syrup, at the rapids and rivers fishing the spring runs, and hunting migrating birds
• Summers were divided between villages established around fishing and fields they planted with corn, squash and potatoes, and at berry camps for gathering wild fruit and nuts
• Autumn meant hunting deer, bear, and migrating ducks and geese
• Wintertime brought everyone back to villages for the coldest season
Mackinac Island was a sacred gathering place to the Ojibwe, who believe it was the home of the Great Spirit Gitche Manitou. They thought the island in the straits resembled a turtle’s back and named it Michilimackinac, Land of the Great Turtle.
Mackinac’s Grand Hotel, summer cottages and main street Victorian architecture are unspoiled by motor vehicles; transportation is by horse-drawn carriage, bicycle or on foot.
Fort de Buade Museum, St. Ignace Named for the first fort built at St. Ignace in 1681, the museum explores the Native, French, British and American heritage of the area.
Museum of Ojibwa Culture, St. Ignace At the site of the 1671 mission, a former 1837 church houses more than 300 years of area Native and French history and archaeology. The museum shop carries a fine selection of Native art, crafts, music, and books, and elder in residence programs allows for interaction with those who still practice many tribal traditions depicted in the museum complex.
Marquette Mission Park, St. Ignace The grounds around the Museum of Ojibwa Culture contain the resting place of Father Jacques Marquette at the site where he established a mission at St. Ignace in 1671. There’s also a recreated two-story Indian longhouse with fire pit inside, and push-button recordings allow visitors to “hear” the voice of the missionary explorer.
Mackinac State Historic Parks The collection of important sites at the Straits of Mackinac includes five buildings in downtown Mackinac Island and the 18th century Fort Mackinac.
Castle Rock, St Ignace: With a 20-mile view of the Straits area, the Ojibwe called it “Pontiac’s Lookout.” The 195-foot tall limestone sea stack has been a tourist attraction owned by the same family since 1929.
Les Cheneaux Historical Museum, Cedarville The geology and heritage of the area from Native people through the logging era and development of “The Snows” as a vacationland are explained in a log house museum.
Drummond Island Historical Museum A model of the British Fort Drummond, ancient Indian artifacts and the tale of an early 20th century Finnish colony are highlights of exhibits in the museum made of logs from the island.
Wheels of History Museum, Brimley A railroad car and caboose house exhibits about the importance of trains to this eastern area of The Great Waters.
River of History Museum, Sault Ste. Marie Extensive explanation of the development of the area, from glacial to modern times.
Tower of History, Sault Ste. Marie The stories of early missionaries and a 360-degree view of the Soo Locks from the to of the 210-foot lookout.
Water Street Historic Block, Sault Ste. Marie The home of early settler John Johnston, a successful fur trader who arrived in the late 1700s, is among important structures under restoration.
Tahquamenon Logging Museum, Newberry The area’s lumbering past, including contributions by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is captured at this collection of restored structures. Occasional Lumberjack Breakfasts feature flapjacks cooked on a wood stove.
Native American dancing, singing, drumming, and traditional dress, food and art celebrate Indian culture at these annual events:
• Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians Powwow and Summer Gathering, early July
• Rendezvous at the Straits in St. Ignace in late August combines a Powwow and a French voyageur encampment.