Do You Know How Many Indian Tribes Call Michigan Home?
Unless you live near an active reservation, it's easy to forget that Michigan is home to more than 50,000 American Indians. That's less than half of 1% of the state's total population.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, there are a dozen federally recognized tribes in the state. Five are in the Upper Peninsula, while most of the rest are located in western portions of Lower Michigan. Many are associated with the Chippewa or Potawatomi.
Here's a brief overview of the native peoples that call Michigan home:
The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is the state's largest. Based in Sault Ste. Marie, it boasts a membership of more than 44,000.
Brimley, Michigan—not far from Sault Ste. Marie—is home to the Bay Mills Chippewa Indian Community. This reservation was formed in 1936 during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Its members number more than 2,200 today.
The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians have a reservation in Watersmeet, which is in the far western part of the Upper Peninsula. They opened Lac Vieux Desert Health Center in 2015, which serves tribal members as well as the community at-large.
The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community is based in Baraga, which is actually on L'Anse Bay. According to their website, they are the largest and oldest reservation within Michigan, established by the Chippewa Treaty of 1854.
The Hannahville Indian Community resides about 15 miles west of Escanaba. Like many other reservations, this community prospers with the help of an associated gambling enterprise. In this case it's the Island Resort & Casino.
The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians claim more than 4,000 members and can be found primarily in Charlevoix and Emmet Counties.
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians can be found at Manistee. The tribe was federally recognized in 1994.
If you travel M-22 about half an hour north of Traverse City, you'll encounter the Grand Traverse Bay Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. This tribe was established in 1980 in Peshawbestown, which was named for an early chief.
Think you know where the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe calls home? You might be surprised (or not) to learn it's not Saginaw. It's actually Mount Pleasant. It's probably most widely known for its Annual Powwow, and for Soaring Eagle Casino.
Athens and Grand Rapids are where you'll find the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi headquartered. Roughly 1,500 members strong, this is the tribe that runs Firekeepers Casino.
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi are headquartered in southwestern Michigan in the Cass County city of Dowagiac. The federal government recognized them as a sovereign tribe in 1994.
You'd probably agree that the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Potawatomi Indians of Michigan (Gun Lake) is the state tribe with the most unusual name. This tribe calls Shelbyville its capital and has been federally recognized since 1999.
Note: We live in a day and age where one isn't necessarily sure whether it's culturally permissible to refer to Native Americans or Indians. For the purpose of this article, I chose to use the term "Indians", as that is the terminology used by the government of the State of Michigan.