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Indian Life


There were many Indian camps in the Saginaw Valley region. Archaeologist found a significant large camp site at the point where the Tittabawasse and Shiawasse rivers come together and in to the Saginaw River. Several thousand artifacts were found such as arrow head, spear points, scrappers, pottery and others. This camp was known as O-zhaw-wash-quah or Green Point. Several trails used by the Indians led from this camp and to other destinations in Michigan -- Detroit to the south and to Lake Michigan going west and to a major trail known as the Mackinaw Trail between Detroit and Sault Ste. A portion of this trail still exists today and is known as the Mackinaw Road which runs on the western outskirt of Saginaw and Bay City.


Most people think teepees as seen in movies or on television was the common dwelling used by Indians. However, teepees were primarily used by the Indians tribes that on prairie lands. Their life style required that they migrated quite often in search of food. Indians living in areas where natural resources for sustaining life was in abundance, such as Michigan, had more permanent dwellings called wigwams (see above picture). These were made using large tree branches and twigs to build a frame structure which was covered with bark or animal skins. A fire pit built in the center of the wigwam provided heat for cooking and warmth. Large stones were be placed at the bottom of the pit to hold heat longer during the cold winter months and a small hole at the top of the wigwam acted as a chimney to carry the smoke away.

Daily Life

The old saying, "work before play", was certainly an important practice for Indians or anyone during this time period. Critical survival items such as food, clothing, shelter and water demanded the highest priority of thier time. All of which they had to develop themselves from within the resources of their environment and their own capabilities.

Men hunted daily for animals which was not only an important source of food, but for hides used to make clothing, strapping, pouches and many other items. Using mainly bows and arrows, hunters had to be very skillful in finding, stalking and tracking prey. A successful hit with an arrow often was not a fatal blow, especially to larger game like deer and bears. The wounded animal had to be tracked and caught before the fatal blow was delivered using a tomahawk or knife. Smaller game were mainly caught using traps which had to be checked daily.

Women and children had plenty of work to do as well. They gathered berries, fruit and firewood. Maintained a small vegetable garden. Skinning animals of their hide for making clothing and other items. Tending to repairs on the wigwam. Making tools and the daily meals.

Preserving Food

Whenever possible, food was preserved using nature's resources. During the cold weather months the task of preserving food much easier even though it made for harsher living conditions. It was more difficult during the hot summer season. What couldn't be preserved was consumed. They would gorge themselves on large game animals rather than see it spoil. However, items like corn, potatoes, nuts, etc. that didn't spoil quickly were buried in pits taking advantage of the coolness of the soil. Drying was also used for berries and lean meats which were pounded flat before drying. This jerkey was carried around in a leather pouch for a quick meal when away from the camp's resources.

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Native Settlers
Pioneer History
20th Century
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1. Native Settlers
2. Indian Life
3. Ottawa & Chippewa
3a. Sauk & Chippewa
4. Saginaw Treaty
5. Tribal Meetings
6. Pictorials
7. Online Resources
Indian Names of Places
Shiawasse: green river.
Maw-tchi-sebe: bad river
& Mis-a-box: meaning white rabbit
are the names used by the Chippewas for what is now the North and South branches that empty into the Shiawasee River.
Maw-kwa-sebe: bear
river that enters the Shiawasee River in St. Charles.
Kish-kaw-ko: crow
for Skull Island now Crow Island on the Saginaw River just north of Saginaw city.
Sebewing: little river
Tittabawassee: roughly, the water/river that follows the shore.

HISTORY: The Saginaw River is the largest in Michigan.