Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

September 8, 2013

Scout rescues Old Indian Trail markers from oblivion

TRAVERSE CITY – An old Indian trail between Cadillac and Traverse City has a new pathfinder and preserver.

Soon-to-be Eagle Scout Woody Unruh, 16, expects to complete his repair and refurbishing of 33 concrete markers along the 50-mile-long trail by Oct. 15. A member of Boy Scout Troop 105 in Lake Ann, Unruh has worked on the service project for more than a year.

He got the idea from Joel Wright, the troop’s Eagle badge mentor who had been saving the project for just the right person.

“Then along came Woody,” Wright said.

Unruh, of Cedar, is a member Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

“I thought it would be good to learn more about my heritage and also preserve part of the tribe,” he said.

The Little Traverse Bay Bands gave Unruh a $500 grant to pay for paint, brushes replacement aluminum plaques and new concrete markers for two that were destroyed.

The trail dates back to “mound builder “ Indians who inhabited Michigan thousands of years ago and created a vast network of trails and portages later used by Ottawa, Chippewa and Potawatomi Indians as well as early white settlers, who relied on them, the late Marje Holland wrote in a local history booklet “Cadillac to Traverse City Indian Trail.”

In the 1940s, retired Cadillac farmer Milo Petoskey Crosby and Jim Pontiac, then 96, plotted out and later erected the first 14 markers. James Comp and Edward Babcock installed five more during the early 1960s.

Little Traverse Bands member Frank Ettawageshik, working with the Grand Traverse County Sesquicentennial Advisory Agency, helped place the most recent 14 markers in Grand Traverse County during the 1980s as part of the state’s 150th birthday celebration.

Ettawageshik served as Little Traverse Bay Bands tribal chairman 1991-1999 and 2005-2009 and was one of the people Unruh interviewed for the project.

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