Jan 1st, 2012
Author: Joe Gee
On the Lakeshore of Michigan (the most western part of the “mitten”) is a small area called ‘Muskegon’. The earliest known settlers to the Muskegon area were the Paleo Indians (City of Muskegon, 2011). Discovered artifacts estimate a modest seven thousand years ago, but most believe it has been longer than that since the area has been settled. The Paleo Indians were assumed to have traveled by lake, making Muskegon an easy and therefore convenient place to settle.
After years of just Indians, in the 1600’s Europeans found their way to Muskegon the same way the Indians did, by boat. There were a few discrepancies between the Indians and the French, but typically they got along for trading. After the French were established, Muskegon became known as the “Lumber Queen of the Midwest” due to its lumbering mills, which number to more than 47 on their lake (City of Muskegon, 2011).
After lumbering was beginning to become obsolete, depression overtook the city. A man by the name of Charles Hackley moved to the area and then helped initiate some factories and businesses to help alleviate some of the financial problems in which the community faced. Soon after, Muskegon gained some huge corporations and immediately became rich again. At one point, Muskegon had the most millionaires out of the entire nation (City of Muskegon, 2011).
However, the Indians were still involved and residing within the community. The Ottawa, Cherokee, and Potawatomi tribes are direct descendents from the Paleo Indian tribe. Muskegon continues to honor its founders and the upkeep of the Indian Burial Grounds is one way Muskegon displays their respect. There is some evidence that the burial ground dates back before the 1850’s. As you can see from the pictures, the stones are in great shape for being so old.
From the name of our city alone, Muskegon, “Marshy Land” remember the natives who began this wonderful city. We consider our culture with upmost respect. Come and visit the Indian Burial Grounds and reminisce on the Muskegon you have come to love. It would be a whole different place if it weren’t for our founding fathers.
The aroma of burning sage, cedar, sweet grass and tobacco swirled into the air at Old Indian Cemetery Tuesday as about 50 people gathered for the repatriation and reburial of Native American bones. Old Indian Burial Grounds
Native Americans believe burning the cleansing herbs brings good spirits to them, and when smoking tobacco and speaking, the words go directly to God, according to Joseph Genia, a Muskegon resident and member of the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians who led the ceremony. Old Indian Burial Grounds
“Grandfather, have pity on us for digging up our relatives and not doing anything about it,” he said as part of the closing prayer. “Have pity on us and bless us here in this life.” Old Indian Burial Grounds
The centuries-old remains of nine West Michigan American Indians were returned to a proper resting place after a long process led by John McGarry, executive director of Lakeshore Museum Center, and Eric Hemenway, of Harbor Springs. Old Indian Burial Grounds
Hemenway is a research repatriation assistant and member of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. He works with state and federally recognized tribes to pursue the return of Native American remains and sacred objects. Old Indian Burial Grounds
Hemenway reburied the bones at the sacred downtown site and said it is unusual to have remains reburied in the area where they came from, especially if there is not reservation land in that county.
One of the purposes of the ceremony is asking for forgiveness, and honoring the traditions of the Anishinaabek people to take care of their elders, he said.
“A lot of museums, they don’t have to do this,” Hemenway said. “John went above and beyond and pushed to have this happen and rebury them in the county they are from.”
The bones were unearthed by unknown individuals in parts of Muskegon and Oceana counties. They were donated to the museum several years after the museum was established in 1937, McGarry said. They have not been displayed during McGarry’s 19-year tenure. Old Indian Burial Grounds
McGarry and his staff collaborated with archaeologists and tribal leaders, and the museum’s remains were designated “culturally unidentifiable.” The collection of bones was determined to be older than 1600, classifying them as “precontact” with Europeans. Old Indian Burial Grounds
During the hour-long ceremony, Genia explained that Native Americans believe different plants have different spirits and that they can draw spirits near by burning them. He also talked about the significance of the Old Indian Cemetery site, and the traditions of burial ceremonies including blessing the dead with water, and burying fruit, meat, and corn with other gifts to help them on their journey.
“It breaks that fabric of life when we take our relatives and put them on display in a museum,” Genia said. “This helps us mend that fabric. As human beings, we are responsible for all other human beings in the world, even the ones that have gone on before us.”
Source:Old Indian Burial Grounds