I know it has been awhile since I wrote a post, but my wife and I just spent a week in Charlevoix with 18 other members of our family. We stayed at a huge rental home right on Lake Charlevoix. Actually we were the only ones there for the first two days! I will get into that in another post, but first let me tell you about one of the highlights of our trip.
As some know I have been a Facebook friend of Warren Petoskey for about a year. If the name sounds familiar it may be because there is a beautiful town named Petoskey and the Michigan State stone is a Petoskey stone. Bet hardly anyone knows the story of the Petoskey clan, or that they are descendants of the great Chief Petoskey that was born in 1787. Warren’s Great Great Grandpa Petoskey had a wigwam along the shoreline called Seven Mile Point. Many “moons” ago Warren was taken to the Point by an Elder named Joe Mitchell. Property at the Point was being sub-divided into housing lots, and in the midst of that stood a brass plaque and a ring of stones that marked Chief Petoskey’s fire pit! Warren remarked that he felt he was standing on hallowed ground! No doubt he was indeed sensing the prayers and offerings of his Grandpa that were made to Creator so many generations ago! Warren sat on a huge flat stone near the fire ring and was enveloped by the smoke of emotions known only to those Native Americans who’s land this was! Two of Warren’s sons were with him (William and Josiah) as Warren helped mark the stones that would then be moved to sacred land in Cross Village.
My wife and I visited the statue that was erected for Chief Petoskey, along with Warren and his wife Barbara. You could see the tip of seven mile point out in Lake Michigan. It’s hard to imagine how desolate and wild it was back when the Chief hunted, trapped, and raised his family there. While living there a Jesuit priest tried to get Chief Petoskey to sign over the native children concerning attending a Catholic mission school. He knew of other native children being sent away and they were never heard from again. There are Petoskey relatives living in Wisconsin due to the removal of native children. Many atrocities happened in those mission schools, as the native culture was eradicated from the children. Many suffer the effects to this day!
Chief Petoskey was wise to the ways of his “so called” liberators and moved his family to “Mukwa Sebing” (Bear River) where he helped the Hudson Bay Fur Traders run a post, along with his sons. This was in 1836 and that same year he bought 440 acres of land from the Federal Government along the shores of Lake Michigan and present day Petoskey. In 1837 Michigan was declared a state, but the Federal Government never transferred Chief Petoskey’s deed down to the state level, and you can guess what happened to the land after that. To say it was stolen would not be an exaggeration! The Chief was constantly told that he and his people would all be sent to Kansas if they would not send their children to boarding schools! The Catholic Church and the government worked hand in hand in trying to eradicate a culture they didn’t understand or appreciate! What a sad commentary that has been hidden behind government bureaucracy (lies) for decades!
I am like most people and would think that all the relatives of Chief Petoskey would be held in high regard and certainly be very affluent? I mean one of the most beautiful towns in Michigan is named after him along with the state stone (Petoskey stone.) Well that is not how this story goes. The statue of Chief Petoskey (holding his feathers and pipe) looks over the land he helped settle, and that is the inheritance left his family! “Justice” I think not!
There are still many relatives living in the area and just recently were recognised by the Federal Government as a tribe (Little Traverse Bay Odawa and the Little River Band of Odawa.) I had the honor to meet with With Warren Petoskey and his wife Barbara this past week. Warren is Chief Petoskey’s great great grandson. My wife and I were able to have a luncheon with tribal members and Elders at the invitation of Warren. My great grandmother was Northern Cree, and I felt like I was among my ancestral roots as I enjoyed myself in the presence of these original Americans. The Petoskey’s were very gracious and kind toward us, and we will always hold them in high esteem.