The Sauk War Continues

October 28, 2009

Hi! While going through some of my old files I found some maps I had done for a Powerpoint presentation that may help in visualising the area under discussion:

Great Lakes Basin 1600

We left the story at that small island on the Saginaw River where the invading warriors had exterminated the Sauk garrison.

The Chippewa/Potawatomi force moved up the Saginaw to the confluence of the Cass, Shiawassee and Tittabawassee rivers where the main force divided sending a group up each of those rivers. The band that moved up the Shiawassee divided again sending warriors up the Flint River. There were many small villages on these rivers and each one was overpowered and many were slain. A few from each battle escaped always fleeing upstream.

There were three particularly large Sauk towns on the Saginaw tributaries. One was located on the bluffs of the Flint River near the present-day town of Flushing, another just a few miles up the Tittabawassee. The third was located on the Cass River at the bend where Bridgeport now stands. The Sauk that were killed at their town on the Tittabawassee were buried in a mass grave on the banks of that river creating a large burial mound.

After each battle some Sauk survivors escaped always fleeing west. They gathered on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan where they fled across the lake to Wisconsin. This left a large expanse of territory in central Michigan empty. The victors returned to Mackinaw Island with the twelve women captives. They were the only prisoners taken.

A grand council was held to determine what to do with the twelve and to consider the appropriation of the territory gained. The elders decided to send the twelve women west to be put under the protection of the Sioux. This angered many of the young men because they wanted to put them to death by torture. The territory on the east side of Lake Huron and the St. Clair River district was given to the Ottawa and Petun as new hunting grounds.

The Saginaw watershed was shared by the Chippewa and Potawatomi as a neutral hunting ground. However, as they ventured into the new territory some unfortunate occurence seemed to happen to each hunting party. After some time they began to surmise that some Sauk warriors were still there lurking about seeking their revenge. Others thought the territory haunted with the spirits of the slain Sauk warriors. Eventually the territory was avoided and only used as a place of exile for members who had committed serious crimes.

NEXT WEEK: The Jesuits arrive in Huronia.

Great Lakes History

October 21, 2009

I’m going to post a weekly blog on the history of the Great Lakes Basin. It shall be a series of historical snippets garnered from a variety of sources. These include professional and amateur historical publications as well as traditional stories passed down for generations among the native peoples of the area. I will not be citing any sources but will be telling these stories as if speaking to a group in the grand lodge. The following is my first installment and I sincerely hope that you enjoy it and will want to come back for more.

Long ago, before the great Iroquois War, even before the white man set his eyes on the lower Lake Huron and St. Clair River districts, they were occupied by the Sauk Nation. Their lodges were pitched in the Saginaw watershed and they used the St. Clair region as their hunting grounds. About the year 1620 the Petun or Tobacco Nation who lived in the Bruce Peninsula area of Ontario wanted to expand their hunting grounds, so they asked their allies and trading partners, the Ottawa, if they would join them in a war on the Sauk. The Ottawa agreed and reported their intentions to the Chippewa and Potawatomi because all three nations made up the Three Fires Confederacy.

Now the Sauk were a powerful nation who had been belligerent and antagonistic toward their neighbors. They had continually made war on the Chippewa who lived to their north and the Potawatomi to their southeast. The Three Fires in a grand council held at Mackinaw Island determined they should join in and make it a war of expulsion.

The Petun and Ottawa moved down the eastern shore of Lake Huron and attacked various Sauk parties in the St. Clair district. At the same time the Chippewa and Potawatomi made their way down the western shoreline of Lake Huron to Saginaw Bay where they camped until nightfall. Under the cover of darkness they stealthily made their way up both sides of the Saginaw River until they came upon a large ridge where the Sauk had made one of their main villages. The warriors on the western side of the river waited until dawn then attacked with such ferocity that most were massacred. Some survivors fled up river to a village located near present day Bay City, Michigan.  The eastern division of the invading warriors attacked it with the same ferocity and it suffered the same fate.

Survivors fled to a small island about a quarter mile up the river. They had a measure of security there because the invaders had no canoes to reach them. A seige was put in place until the next morning. The river had frozen over the night before enabling both parties to attack, one from each side. All the Sauk were killed except 12 women who were taken prisoner.

NEXT WEEK: The Sauk War continues. What will be the outcome of the war and the fate of the 12 women?

About the Author

October 15, 2009

My name is David D Plain and I’m an historian/author and I’ve published two books. One is a history book on the Chippewas of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada called The Plains of Aamjiwnaang – Our History and the other is Ways of Our Grandfathers – Our Traditions. They were both published in 2007 by Trafford Publishing and both cover the early contact period with Europeans c 1600-1850. I am a graduate of Tyndale Seminary, Toronto, Canada with a focus on Church History. The books were launched in 2008 at the Lambton County Library auditorium. Since the launch The Plains of Aamjiwnaang won a Golden Scribe Award for best non-fiction . Both books have been reviewed by The Diocesan Times, Halifax, Canada. Here is an excerpt: 

They speak about territory we know about, and might have lived in or visited (the area straddling both sides of the St. Clair River, extending into both present-day Michigan and Ontario). But they do it from a very different perspective than most of us comprehend. In fact we might say that these books are sorts of historical travel guides, telling the story of a place of which many of both its current inhabitants are unaware. David Plain writes not so much to make a point as to revive a long memory, and offer the unique perspective that comes with such an exercise. The review can be found on page 7.

The Plains of Aamjiwnaang Overview

October 14, 2009

Aamjiwnaang is the name the Saulteux Band of Ahnishenahbek (Chippewa) gave their hunting territory that encompassed both sides of the St. Clair River and the adjacent lands in the southern part of Lake Huron. The book focuses on four generations of Chippewa chiefs beginning with Young Gull who led a group of Saulteux people south from Lake Superior in the first decade of the eighteenth century. Young Gull’s son Little Thunder, grandson Red Sky, and great-grandson On The Plain subsequently played important roles interacting with the French, the British, the Americans and other First Nations allies. Events cascade from one historical episode to another… from the establishment of Fort Pontchartrain (Detroit) through the French and Indian War, Pontiac’s Rebellion, the American Revolution, the Indian War of 1790-95 and the War of 1812. The book describes such famous characters as Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, Generals Montcalm and Wolfe, Pontiac, George Washington, Daniel Boone, Mad Anthony Wayne, Sir Isaac Brock and Tecumseh. Participation in such famous battles as Fort William Henry, Fort Necessity, Blue Licks, Fallen Timbers, Frenchtown, Detroit and Moraviantown are vividly described and the consequences on the Chippewa are well researched. The book culminates with the coming of the missionaries, the signing of land surrender treaties and the ensuing paternalistic “reserve era”. “The Plains of Aamjiwnaang is an excellent historical account… informative with clearly organized chapters… the research is superb.” Douglas Gordon Learning Coordinator (Retired) Thames Valley District Board of Education London, Ontario, Canada.