Traverse City Record-Eagle

Record-Eagle 150th Anniversary

August 10, 2009

150 Years: Cartographer maps settlements

BEULAH -- Helen Hornbeck Tanner, a Beulah summer resident and historian of Great Lakes American Indians and cartography, created a new historical map of the Grand Traverse region that traces early American Indian and white settlement.

It shows the location of 16 early American Indian villages and seven settler "toeholds" in the 1850s, before the region had roads or railroads.

The map also details northwestern Lower Michigan terrain as it appeared 160 years ago, and identifies American Indian villages, cultivated fields, swamp land, sugar groves, and sugar camps, trails, logging roads and occasional wigwams or huts in Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie and part of Antrim counties.

Tanner, 93, also used information gleaned from her research of old diaries, journals and original documents to determine previously unknown locations of two American Indian villages on the southern part of Old Mission Peninsula.

What surprised Tanner most as she worked on the map was the short time it took for the Grand Traverse Region to shift from "American Indian country" to "settler country."

"It took just 10 years, from 1849 to 1859," she said. "It's interesting, I think, how rapidly that change came about."

Tanner is a senior research fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago and editor of the "Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History," published in 1987. She also served as an expert witness in court cases that led to U.S. District Judge Noel Fox's historic 1979 ruling that affirmed treaty fishing rights for Ottawa and Chippewa tribes who signed the 1836 treaty with the U.S. government.

The treaty ceded much of the western half of Lower Michigan and part of the Upper Peninsula to the federal government and ushered in statehood the following year.

Map completed last year

The map is the final version of one Tanner made last year, in collaboration with Odawa educator and Honor resident John Bailey for a new standing exhibit on American Indian history at the Benzie Area Historical Museum.

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