Native American Lifeways

Explore the tapestry that weaves through the culture of Michigans first people. Learn the dances. Hear the songs, marvel at the dazzling native dress, see a medicine garden or stop by the trading post for a pair of moccasins. The culture and lifeways of Michigans indigenous people are intriguing.

Are you in the mood for history? Then you'll want to take a trip to Mount Pleasant, where the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe shares its history through a collection of art, photography, artifacts and interactive displays at the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways. At the 32,000 square-foot crescent-moon-shaped building, visitors listen as a storyteller recounts the Chippewa legend of creation. Local and international artworks are showcased in the permanent collection as well as rotating exhibits.

In Mt. Pleasant, you'll also find the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, which is decorated in a woodland Indian motif featuring over $2 million of Native American artwork exhibited throughout the property. Wool carpeting featuring custom woodland Indian designs adorn the hotel lobby, ballroom and meeting rooms and original stained glass reflecting the distinctive Native American culture is found on every floor of the luxury resort. Visitors can buy authentic Anishinebek crafts, jewelry, beadwork, art and music in the gift shop, or at their gallery.

Native Americans culture is present in various and sundry ways in museums, learning centers located in communities throughout Michigan. Heres a sampling of spots you may want to visit:

Native American Pow Wow

Mid-Michigans Nokomis Learning Center in Okemos is open year round with exhibits, educational programs, and special events for the entire family to learn about the Great Lakes Native American's past and present. The Center's mission is to preserve and present the history, arts and culture of the people of the Three Fires-- the Odawa, Potawatomi and Ojibwe. The building contains an art gallery, an exhibit classroom and a gift shop.


The Museum of Ojibwa Culture and Marquette Mission Park, a national historic landmark, interprets the rich archaeology and history of a 17th century Huron Indian village, Marquette's French Jesuit Mission, and local Ojibwa (Chippewa) Indian traditions and contemporary culture. Exhibits, continuous videos, and live demonstrations by nature interpreters all help visitors explore this exciting chapter of the straits area history.

Gitche Gumee, the Ojibwa (Native American) name for Lake Superior, has inspired all who have stood on her shore or paddled her waters. Running 120 miles from Big Bay to Grand Marais n Lake Superiors south shore, the Hiawatha Water Trail follows a shoreline paddled by Native Americans, Voyageurs and early European explorers.

Another reminder of early Native American inhabitants is the Ogaukawning Church in Bay City. Established in 1847, the Indian Mission Church was built by Methodist missionaries to serve the Chippewa Indians at the Kawkawlin settlement in northern Bay County. The church and its grounds were the social and religious center of the Kawkawlin Chippewa community until the late 1940's. Today the Mission Church is under the trusteeship of the remaining members of the off-reservation Chippewas and is currently being restored by a small group of individuals who want to maintain the integrity of the Chippewa's place in the history of Bay City.

The Sauk Trail Trading Post bills itself as the "Largest Minnetonka Moccasin Store in the Country!" Open seven days a week, the trading post stocks over 3,000 pairs of moccasins representing over 150 styles of slippers, sandals and boots in sizes ranging from infants size 1 to men's size 16. You'll also find unique jewelry, books, Native American music and artifacts, trophy mounts, one-of-a-kind gifts and children's novelties.

Pow Wow, CMU - Courtesy of Olivia Yarsevich