Michigan Indian Tribes

Chippewa Indians. At a very early period, Chippewa lived about the Sault St. Marie and on the northern shore of Lake Michigan.

Fox Indians. Since the Sauk are known to have lived in Michigan at an early period, it is probable that the Foxes did also, but this is still uncertain.

Huron Indians, see Wyandot Indians.

Kickapoo Indians. The same probability of an early residence in Michigan applies to the Kickapoo as to the Foxes and for a similar reason.

Menominee Indians. This tribe ceded its claim to a portion of the upper peninsula of Michigan in 1836.

Miami Indians. The Miami, or a portion of them, at one time occupied the valley of St. Joseph River and other parts of the southern Michigan border. (See Indiana.)

Neutral Indians. Bands of the Neutral Nation extended, in the seventeenth century, into what is now southeastern Michigan. (See New York.)

Noquet Indians. Meaning probably “bear foot,” another name for the Bear gens in Chippewa. The Bear gens may have been prominent in this tribe.

Connections. The Noquet are thought to have been related to the Menominee of the Algonquian linguistic family.

Location. About Big Bay de Noquet and Little Bay de Noquet and extending across the northern peninsula of Michigan to Lake Superior. (See also Wisconsin.)

History. In 1659 the Noquet was one of the tribes attached the St. Michel. They were never ever prominent and were probably absorbed at a very early date by Menominee or Chippewa.

Population. Unknown. noted.
Connection in which they have become noted. The name Noqute is perpetuated in the two bays above mentioned.

Ottawa Indians. From a native word signifying “to trade,” because they were noted as middlemen. It occurs shortened to Tawa. Also called:

Andatahouats, Ondatawawat, Huron name.
Udawak, Penobscot name.
Ukua’-yata, Huron name, according to Gatschet (1877).
Waganha’s, Iroquois name, meaning “stammerers”.
Watawawininiwok, Chippewa name, meaning “men of the bulrushes”, from the many bulrushes in Ottawa River.
Wdowo, Abnaki name.

Connections. The Ottawa belonged to the Algonquian linguistic stock and were related most closely with the Chippewa and Potawatomi. was

Location. The earliest known home of  the north shore Manitoulin Island and neighboring parts of the north shore of Georgian Bay. Their connection with Michigan came later. (See also Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Canada.)

Subdivisions and Villages

The following four main divisions are given by early writers: The Kishkakon or Bear Gens, the Nassauaketon, or Fork  People, the Sable Gens and the Sinago or Gray Squirrel Gens, is sometimes times added. The Kishkakon, Sinago, Keinouche were closely associated.

Aegakotcheis, in Michigan
Anamiewatigong, in Emmet County, lower Michigan
Apontigoumy, probably in Ontario.
Machonee, near the mouth of Au Vaseau River which flows into Lake
St. Clair, in lower Michigan.
Manistee, in Michigan, perhaps near the village of Weganakisi on Little
Traverse Bay
Menawzhetaunaung, on an island in the Lake of the Woods.
Meshkemau, on Maumee Bay, Lucas County, Ohio
Michilimackina location Mackinac Island.
Middle Village, location unknown.
Obidgewong, with Chippewa, on the western shore of Lake Wolseley, Manitoulin Island, Ontario.
Oquanoxa, on the west bank of the Little Auglaize, at its mouth, in Paulding
County, Ohio.
Roche de Boeuf, on the northwestern bank of Maumee River, near Waterville,
Lucas County, Ohio.
Saint Simon, a mission on Manitoulin Island.
Shabawywyagun, apparently on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Tushquegan, on the south bank of Maumee River opposite Toledo, Ohio. Waganakisi, on the site of Harbor Springs, Emmet County, Mich. Walpole Island, on the island of that name, Ontario.
Waugau, near the mouth of Maumee River, in Lucas County, Ohio.
Wolf Rapids, on Maumee River, Ohio, about the boundary of Wood and Henry Counties.Additional bands:
Maskasinik, position uncertain, mentioned in Jesuit Relation of 1657-58 with Nikikouek and Missisauga.
Nikikouek, position uncertain, associated with Missisauga and dwelling east of them on the north shore of Lake Huron.
Outaouakamigouk, on the northeast coast of Lake Huron in 1648, probably Ottawa.
Sagnitaouigama, in 1640 southeast of Ottawa River, perhaps same as Sinago.

History. It is uncertain whether the Ottawa River in Ontario received its name because the Ottawa once lived upon it or because the Ottawa had obtained a monopoly of the trade passing up and down it. When the French actually came among them they were in the region above indicated. After the destruction of their allies, the Hurons, in 1648-49, the Iroquois attacked the Ottawa in turn, who fled to the islands at the entrance of Green Bay, part of them later passing to Keweenaw Bay, while the rest accompanied the Hurons to an island near the entrance of Lake Pepin on the Mississippi. Harassed by the Dakota, the Ottawa settled on Chequaniegon Bay but in 1670-71 were induced by the French to return to Manitoulin Island. By 1680 most of them had left Manitoulin Island and joined the Hurons about the mission station at Mackinaw. About 1700 the Hurons removed to Detroit, and a portion of the Ottawa seem to have obtained a foothold on the west shore of Lake Huron between Saginaw Bay and Detroit, but they returned to Mackinaw about 1706. Soon afterward the chief seat of a portion of the tribe was fixed at L’Arbre Croche in Emmett County, whence they spread down the east side of Lake Michigan to St. Joseph River, a few finding their way into Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. At the same time some of them were living in their old country on Manitoulin Island and about Georgian Bay, and others were scattered along the southern shore of Lake Erie from Detroit to the vicinity of Beaver Creek, Pa. They took part successively against the English and the American colonists in all wars during the latter half of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth until the end of the War of 1812. The famous chief Pontiac was an Ottawa. The Canadian Ottawa are on Manitoulin and Cockburn Islands and the adjacent shores of Lake Huron. In 1831 two bands of Ottawa known as the Ottawa of Blanchard’s Fork of Great Auglaize River and the Ottawa of Roche de Boeuf on Maumee River were granted lands on Marais des Cygnes River, Kans., but they re-ceded the greater part of these lands in 1846, and in 1862 they agreed to allotment in severalty and to the relinquishment of their remaining territory. Further treaties regarding the disposal of their lands were made in 1867 and 1872. In 1867 they received a plot of land in Oklahoma which had been ceded by the Shawnee. A few Ottawa went west with the Prairie Potawatomi but were soon fused with them or scattered to other places. A few others have continued to occupy parts of Kansas down to the present day but after 1868 most of them removed to Oklahoma. A still larger body of Ottawa remained in Michigan, scattered among a number of small villages.

Population. Mooney (1928) estimated that in 1600 there were of the combined Algonkin and Ottawa about 6,000. The scattered condition of the tribe during their earlier history prevented their contemporary chroniclers from obtaining satisfactory figures. In 1906 the Chippewa and Ottawa on Manitoulin and Cockburn Islands numbered 1,497, of whom about half were Ottawa; there were 197 under the Seneca School, Okla.; and in Michigan there were 5ca87 in 1900 of whom about two-thirds were Ottawa. According to the census of 1910, there were 2,717 Ottawa in the United States, 2,454 being in Michigan, 170 in Oklahoma, and the rest in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas, and Pennsylvania. In 1923 there were 274 in Oklahoma and a much larger number in Michigan and Canada. The United States Oklahoma, and gives 84 in Wisconsin. In 1737 there were 422 in Oklahoma.

Connection in which they have become noted.-Although a prominent tribe in early times, the Ottawa will now be especially remembered from the fact that they have given their name to the most important branch of the St. Lawrence River and the city on its banks which became the capital of the Dominion of Canada. Their name is also borne by counties in Kansas, Michigan, and Ohio, and the province of Quebec; by important cities in La Salle County, Ill., and Franklin County, Kans.; and by smaller places and streams in Rockcaste County, Ky.; Waukesha County, Wis.; Le Sueur County, Mined Putnam County, Ohio; Boone County, Wis.; Boone County, Va.; an Ottawa Beach in Ottawa County, Mich., and Ottawa Lake in Monroe County in the same State. The tribe will be noted furthermore as that to which belonged the famous Indian patriot, Pontiac.

Potawatomi. Meaning “people of the place of the fire,” and hence sometimes known as the Fire Nation. Also called:

Atsistarhonon, Huron name.
Kúnu-háyanu, Caddo name, meaning “watermelon people.” Ndaton8atendi, Undatomdtendi, Huron name.
Peki’neni, Fox name, meaning “grouse people.”
Tcåshtalálgi, Creek name, meaning “watermelon people.”
Wah-hō’-nā-hah, Miami name, meaning “fire makers.”
Wáhiú¢axá, Omaha name.
Wáhiúyaha, Kansa name.
Woraxa, Iowa, Oto, and Missouri name.
Woráxě, Winnebago name.

Connections. The Potawatomi belonged to the Algonquian linguistic family, being most closely affiliated with the Chippewa and Ottawa.

Location. The ancient home of this tribe was evidently in the lower peninsula of Michigan. (See also Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.)

Subdivisions and Villages

In the course of their later history, the Potawatomi became separated into several distinct bands but these do not seem to have corresponded to any old, well-determined classification.

Abercronk, not certainly Potawatomi, in northeastern Porter County, Ind.
Ashkum’s Village, on the north side of Eel River, about Denver, Miami County, Ind.
Assiminehkon, probably Potawatomi, In Lee County, Ill.
Aubbeenaubbee’s Village, in Aubbeenaubbee Township in Fulton County, Ind.
Checkawkose’s Village, on the south side of Tippecanoe River, about Harrison Township, Kosciusko County, Ind.
Chekase’s Village, on the west side of Tippecanoe River between Warsaw and Monoquet, Kosciusko, Ind.
Chichipe Outipe, near South Bend, St. Joseph County, Ind. Chippoy, on Big Shawnee Creek, in Fountain County, Ind. Comoza’s Village, on Tippecanoe River in Fulton County, Ind. Kinkash’s Village, on Tippecanoe River, Kosciusko County, Ind.
Little Rock Village, on the north bank of Kankakee River about the boundary of Kankakee and Will Counties, Ill.
Macon, location unknown.
Macousin, on the west bank of St. Joseph River, Berrien County, Mich. Mangachqua, on Peble River in southern Michigan.
Maquanago, probably Potawatomi, near Waukesha, in southeastern Wisconsin. Masac’s Village, on the west bank of Tippecanoe River in the northeastern part of Fulton County, Ind.
Matchebenashshewish’s Village, on Kalamazoo River probably In Jackson County, Mich.
Maukekose’s Village, near the head of Wolf Creek in Marshall County, Ind.
Menominee’s Village, on the north side of Twin Lakes near the site of Plymouth, Marshall County, Ind.
Menoquet’s Village, on Cass River, lower Michigan.
Mesheketeno’s Village, on Kankakee River, a short distance above the present Kankakee in northeastern Illinois.
Mesquawbuck’s Village, near Oswego, Kosciusko County, Ind.
Mickkesawbee, at the site of the present Coldwater, Mich.
Milwaukee, with Foxes and Mascouten, at or near the present Milwaukee, Wis. Minemaung’s Village, near Grantpark, Kankakee County, Ill.
Mote’s Village, just north of Tippecanoe River near Atwood, Kosciusko County,
Ind. Ind.
Muskwawasepeotan, near Cedarville, Allen Count , In
Natowasepe, on St. Joseph River about the present Mendon, St. Joseph County, Mich.
Nayonsay’s Village, probably Potawatomi, in the northeastern part of Kendall County, Ill.
Pierrish’s Village, on the north bank of Eel River, just above Laketon, Wabash
County, Ind.
Pokagon, in Berrien County, near the west bank of St. Joseph River just north of the Indiana line.
Prairie Ronde, about the boundary of Cass and Van Buren Counties, Mich.
Rock Village in northeastern Illinois. Ind.
Rum’s Village, about 4 miles south of South Bend, St. Joseph County, Ind.
Saint Joseph, a mission on St. Joseph River near the south end of Lake Michigan.
Saint Michael, a mission in southern Wisconsin.
Sawmehnaug, on Fox River, Ill.
Seginsavin’s Village, on Rouge River near Detroit, Mich.
Shaytee’s Village, probably Potawatomi on Fox River, Ill.
Shobonier’s Village, near the present Shabbona, De Kalb County, Ill.
Soldier’s Village, in northern Illinois.
Tassinong, probably Potawatomi, in Porter County, Ind.
Toisa’s Village, on the west bank of Tippecanoe River, nearly opposite Bloomingsburg, Fulton County, Ind.
Tonguish’s Village, near Rouge River in the southern part of Oakland County, or the northern part of Wayne County, Mich. Mich.
Topenebee’s Village, on St. Joseph River opposite Niles, Berrien County,
Waisuskuck’s Village, in northeastern, Ill
Wanatah, in La Porte County, Ind., a short distance east of the present Wanatah. Wimego’s Village, on the north bank of Indian Creek, in the northern part of Case County, Ind.
Winamac’s Village, near the present Winamac, Pulaski County, Ind.
Wonongoseak, probably Potawatomi, between the northern and southern branches of Elkhart River, apparently in Noble County, Ind.

History. Shortly before the Potawatomi  were encountered by the French they seem to have been living on the lower peninsula of Michigan. According to native traditions, the Ottawa, Chippewa and Potawatomi reached the upper end of Lake Huron in company from some region farther east, and the Potawatomi crossed from that point into the peninsula.  By 1670 they had been driven to the neighborhood of Green Bay west of Lake Michigan, whence they slowly moved south until by the end of the century they had established themselves on on Milwaukee River, at Chicago, and on St. Joseph River. After the quest of the Illinois Indians about 1765, they took possession of still more of what is now the northern part of the State of Illinois and extended their settlements eastward over southern Michigan as far as Lake Erie. After 1795, against the protests of the Miami, they moved down the Wabash and advanced their occupancy as far as Pine Creek. They sided actively first with the French against the English and then with the English against the Americans until a general peace was brought about in 1815. As White settlers increased in numbers in their neighborhood, the Potawatomi gradually parted with their lands, the greatest cessions being made between 1836 and 1841, and most of them retired beyond the Mississippi. Part of the Prairie band of Potawatomi returned to Wisconsin, while another band, the Potawatomi of Huron, are in lower Michigan. A few escaped into Canada and are now on Walpole Island in St. Clair County. Part of the Potawatomi living in Wisconsin sold their lands and received in exchange a reservation in southwestern Iowa. These received the name of Prairie Potawatomi. In 1846 they also disposed of their Iowa territory and in 1847-48 passed over into Kansas and established themselves just east of the Potawatomi of the Woods, who had come from Indiana in 1840 to occupy a reserve on Osage River, in Kansas. In 1846, however, the latter re-ceded this and settled the following year between the Shawnee and Delaware Indians in the present Shawnee County, Kans. The Potawatomi of the Prairie remained in Kansas and received allotments there, but the Potawatomi of the Woods went to a new reservation in Oklahoma in 1869-71 near the Kickapoo. A few have accompanied the Kickapoo to Mexico.

Population. Mooney’s (1928) estimate for the Potawatomi, as of the year 1650, is 4,000. Estimates made between 1765 and 1843 vary from 1,200 to 3,400,but it would seem that they must have averaged 2,000 to 2,500. In 1908, 2,522 Potawatomi were reported in the United States, distributed as follows: Citizen Potawatomi in Oklahoma, 1,768; Prairie band in Kansas, 676; and Potawatomi of Huron, in Calhoun County, Mich., 78. A few besides these were scattered through their ancient territory and at various other points. Those in Canada are all in the Province of Ontario and number about 220, of whom 176 are living with Chippewa and Ottawa on Walpole Island and the remainder, no longer officially reported, are divided between Caradoc and Riviére aux Sables, where they reside by permission of the Chippewa and Munsee. The United States Census of 1910 returned 2,440, of whom 866 were living in Oklahoma, 619 in Kansas, 461 in Michigan, and 245 in Wisconsin, while the remainder were scattered in 11 other States. The United States and Canadian Indian Office Reports of 1923-24 give 2,227 in Oklahoma, 803 in Kansas, and 170 on Walpole Island, Ontario, but those in Michigan are not separately entered. The United States Census of 1930 returned 1,854, of whom 654 were in Kansas, 636 in Oklahoma, 425 in Wisconsin, and 89 in Michigan. In 1937 there were 142 in Michigan, 311 in Wisconsin, 1,013 in Kansas, and 2,667 in Oklahoma: total 4,133.

Connection in which they have become noted. In the form Pottawatomie the name of this tribe is used as a designation of counties in Kansas and Oklahoma and a post township of Coffey County, Kans., and in the form Pottawattamie as the designation of a county in Iowa.

Sauk Indians. At some time shortly before European contact the Sauk lived about Saginaw Bay and the present name of the bay is derived from them. They were probably driven beyond Lake Michigan by the Ottawa allied with the Neutral Nation.

Wyandot Indians. After the disruption of their nation by the Iroquois these people lived for limited periods at several different points in the territory now included in the State of Michigan. They were temporarily at Michilimackinac, Detroit, and other places.


Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

4 thoughts on “Michigan Indian Tribes”

  1. Howdyy everyone!
    I am a ethnic Indian from the Narrangansett/Pequot-Quinneypaic nation.
    We are still living in paradise.
    I have kinpeople who are from this community long time ago.
    Too bad that the grandparents are ignored as citizens today.
    I know that my cousins moved to a new home in Red Bank, NJ and among the Cherokees, Cahabas and the Chickasaws warriors!
    No kidding! The family adopted surname is BUCKS, BADER, POKAGON, Stanfield and PETTIFISH. The three fires not burned out. Power in the blood line of injuns in deep southern woods. Good information to exchange for my memoir. Continue with the hunt! I’ll be seeing you again later in the week.

  2. My mother always told me my father’s father was full blood indian and was a member of a tribe. How could I go about finding out? I never knew my father and my parents were never married. I am supposed to have a half brother that I would like to contact and I would like to know more of my heritage if it is true.

  3. Shari buccilli

    I am looking into any Native American Tribes that lived in or around Clare County, Michigan in the early 1800’s or before. I believe the county was called Kaykakee and would like to know why and for what tribe it was named for.

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