Do you know the history of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians?

EDITOR’S NOTE: After the discovery of suspected Native American remains in Filer Township in mid-December, the News Advocate wanted to share information about the history of the Indigenous peoples who lived in the Manistee County area.

Jonnie Sam, director of the historic preservation department for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, said there are varying accounts, but people in the Great Lakes region date back to 1000 AD and into Michigan. to 1400 AD.

Sam said it’s unclear when the tribe fully lived in the area of ​​Manistee County, known to the tribe as Naaminitigong, meaning land under the trees.

In an email, Sam detailed some of the tribe’s history and its relationship with Manistee.

“There are various stories about when people entered the Great Lakes region. One of the versions found in the Mishoomis book is the Great Migration. The migration was the result of a vision as the Anishinaabek lived on the east coast of the need to move to a safer area,” Sam said.

A map shows the path the early inhabitants of Manistee might have taken to get to the area.

Courtesy card/Jonnie Sam

He said that according to some stories, the road followed where other Anishinaabek had traveled or lived. The Anishinaabek refer to many tribes that live and are indigenous to the Great Lakes region, including the LRBOI, and others like the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and the Chippewa Indians.

“Our history (excerpt from the book ‘Our people our journey’) also has the Ottawa which is LRBOI moving into Michigan around 1400-1500 with the first European contact around 1615 AD,” Sam said. “Even in this story there is talk of older habitation.”

Sam also noted that there are other accounts that differ from what he described.


Yet others believe that the Anishinaabek have always been here, and that the mound builders and ‘Paleo-Indians’ simply evolved into the Anishinaabek (now known as Ottawa). The archaeological discovery of Project M-231 supports the story of the transition, as cache pits were discovered that had been continuously used from British Columbia to the ‘modern’ Anishinaabek along the Grand River,” noted Sam. .

In 2011 and 2012, the Michigan Department of Transportation found artifacts dating to between 800 and 350 years ago while excavating sites in Ottawa County to build the M-231 bridge.

Ancestors of the Anishinaabek people created the sites, according to MDOT.

“Excavations have revealed evidence of several occupations dating approximately between the years 1000 and 1500. Artifacts found include pottery shards, arrowheads, chipped stone tools and debris from tool making. ‘Animals and seeds representing food scraps were also recovered,’ a press release said. of MDOT in 2015 read in part.

Sam said that one of the founding myths of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is that the tribe has always been in Manistee.

According to the creation story, Sam said the tribe was located in the Great Lakes. He also noted that the LRBOI were not the only tribe in Manistee, and that there were many others.

“There were other tribes in the Great Lakes/Manistee area. The Mascouten were in the area (most notable for the Pere Marquette River) as were the Huron, Potawatomie and Chippewa – both of whom are also Anishinaabek and named by misunderstanding,” Sam mentioned.

He said that much of Native American life before American colonization depended on the season of the year.

“A day in the life of the Anishinaabek depended on the time of year. The tribe lived in wigwam-style houses in the winter for trapping and hunting in small villages,” Sam wrote.

He noted that winter was a time of stories and traditions, as well as some early winter sports and competitions.

“Once the winter snows started, people listened to stories of their elders…and lessons on traditional subjects (seven grandfather/mother teachings). Dried foods from gathering, fishing and crops were prepared for meals. trapping and hunting would be added,” Sam wrote. “Clothing and other items would be repaired. For recreation, there would be snowshoe races and dancing, snow snake games would take place. There were also sleds and cross-country skis to pass the time or visit other villages.”

According to an information file provided by the tribe, in 1836 the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians were approached by the federal government to sign a treaty recognizing the tribe. It was signed reluctantly. The treaty was important to the United States because of the need for land to move Michigan from territory to statehood. The reserve that was created was located on the Manistee River, to provide a home that allowed the LRBOI access to traditional hunting and trapping territories along the Manistee River system.

A renegotiation of the treaty took place in 1855, according to the LRBOI package. A clause in the treaty required the Ottawa Chippewa tribe to dissolve. Attempts at reaffirmation with the federal government failed, because of the dissolution clause.

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is effectively the political successor to nine of the historic 19 bands of the Grand River Ottawa people. The Grand River Bands were originally located on the Thornapple River, Grand River, White River, Pere Marquette River, and the Big and Little Manistee Rivers.

After the 1855 treaty, the Grand River bands were removed from villages in Muskegon, Oceana, and Mason counties. The nine bands that make up the LRBOI established a settlement in what is now Mason County. The other 10 bands settled along the Pentwater River in Oceana County.

In 1936, 1948, and into the 1970s, the tribe attempted to reaffirm its relationship with the federal government. The LRBOI received confirmation of its relationship with the federal government on September 21, 1994, under a law passed that year.

There are currently approximately 4,000 registered members of the LRBOI according to the tribal ogema Larry Romanelli. Ogema comes from the Anishinaabemowin word ogimaa meaning chief.

In the tribe’s 2010 data, it shows 1,775 tribal citizens living in a service area of ​​nine counties: Kent, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Ottawa and Wexford counties. In 2010, the tribe had 2,748 members living in Michigan.

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