Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 9, 2013

Touching Michigan's History

MAPLE CITY — Sometimes it’s best to sit on the floor and pass around artifacts to get a feel of early Michigan history.

Fall is that time for third-graders at Glen Lake Community School.

That’s when Leelanau County historian Laura Quackenbush and Hank Bailey, a Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa Indians natural resources staffer, typically appear at the school for a show-and-tell session to explain how Woodland Indians lived for more than 12,000 years before Euro-American settlement in the Great Lakes region and eastern United States.

Bailey couldn’t make it this year, but Quackenbush recently had enough artifacts spread across a blanket on the floor to capture the attention of almost 50 third-graders across two 45-minute sessions.

A partial list of the artifacts: Hand woven baskets, deer spike horns sharpened to a point that could cut holes in deer skins, a piece of a chert stone chipped into arrowhead shape, beach nuts, dried squash pieces that looked like onion rings, a herbal root that soothed sore throats when chewed, rope and cords made of cedar bark, nettle and milkweed fibers.

Third-graders statewide study Michigan history as part of the state’s core curriculum plan. Their lessons focus on general state history, Native Americans, statehood, government, economy, rights and citizenship.

The Lifeways of the Woodland Indians presentation is a yearly component of Glen Lake’s state history curriculum. Third-graders also take field trips in the early fall to the Leland Museum, Fishtown and Carlson’s Fishery, as well as to the Grand Traverse Band’s Eyaawing Museum in Peshawbestown in the spring.

Woodland Indians may be the ancestors of Michigan’s three main tribal groups today: Odawa, Ojibwa and Potawatomi, also collectively called the Anishinaabek.

They all spoke similar Algonquin languages and formed a long-term “Three Fires” confederacy centuries ago. How the People of the Three Fires came to live in Michigan is unknown, but Native American oral histories say they came from the Atlantic Coast.

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