Michigan Early History

First Early Inhabitants of Michigan

Michigan Early History: Michigan Flag

Early history examines the archaeological record that tells the story of the first inhabitants of Michigan. Learn about the prehistory and culture of the first early inhabitants, and what lessons it might teach us about the early history of Michigan.

Michigan First Early Inhabitants Timeline

  • 570-230 Million Years Ago - In northern Alberta is the Peace River Arch; the Transcontinental Arch extends from Minnesota to Arizona and in Montana is the Montana Dome. The Ozark Mountains lie on the site of a dome and from Nashville, Tennessee, north to Michigan lies the Cincinnati Arch. Between Peace River, north-west Canada, and Montana and occupying much of Saskatchewan is the Williston Basin. Michigan lies four-square upon the Michigan Basin, while much of Illinois and Indiana is underlain by the Illinois Basin. Most of these broad, gentle features developed during Paleozoic time and have been dormant ever since. (DD-EVTT, p.172)
  • 500 Million - A 30-mile size crater, a mile underneath the bed of Lake Huron, just north of Port Huron, Michigan, marks the impact of a meteor. It was discovered in 1990 by scientists from the Geological Survey of Canada (LSA, Spring 1995, p.31)
  • 440 Million - A five-mile size crater in Michigan in Cass County by the village Calvin Center marks the impact of a meteor the size of a football field. It was discovered in 1987. (LSA, Spring 1995, p.31)
  • c430 Million - In late Silurian times there was a shallowing of the seas across North America and they may have withdrawn completely from several regions. To the north-west and in the east large expanses of the sea were cut off from the open water. Under the hot, arid climate these giant lagoon-like areas acted as great evaporating basins. In the Michigan basin and the New York area, for example, as much as 900 meters of salt was laid down.(DD-EVTT, p.174)
  • 11000 BC - Scientists in 2005 said archeological sites dating to this time in Michigan, Canada, Arizona, New Mexico, and the Carolinas showed evidence, magnetic metal spherules, for a comet impact that may have wiped out North American mammoths and many other animals. (SFC, 9/24/05, p.B2)
  • 10,000 BC - Paleo-Indian Era (Stone Age culture) the earliest human 12,000 years ago to about 10,000 years ago. When Paleo Indian peoples arrived, there were still glaciers covering parts of Michigan, the climate and environment in Michigan were much different from today. Much of Michigan was grassland with scattered patches of trees. During the Paleo-Indian period, the climate warmed, and forests began to expand, large mammals like mammoths and mastodons were found in Michigan. Paleo-Indian peoples hunted these animals for food, along with caribou, elk, and moose. By the end of the Paleo-Indian period, mammoths, mastodons, and some other species of large mammals were extinct. The "signature" artifact of the Paleo-Indian period is the fluted spear point.
  • inhabitants of America who lived in caves and were Nomadic hunters of large game including the Great Mammoth and giant bison.
  • 9,000 BC - Fisher in the late 1980's, while he was excavating an 11,000-year-old mastodon found at the Heisler site in southern Michigan, found evidence of butchery and under water meat caching by Ice Age hunters in North America. (LSA, Fall 1995, p.38)
  • 7500 BC - Eastern Woodland Culture of Fisher Hunters begins. Permanent houses and farming
  • 7000 BC - Archaic Period in which people built basic shelters and made stone weapons and stone tools  The beginning of the Archaic period was marked by the complete retreat of glaciers from Michigan, the extinction of some large animal species, and the continuation of changing climate and expanding forests. At the beginning of the Archaic period, water levels in the Great Lakes were significantly lower than they are today. Lake Superior was 240' lower, Lake Huron was 390' lower, and Lake Michigan was 350' lower. During the Archaic period Great Lakes' water levels rose. he lengthy Archaic period was characterized by changing environmental conditions that offered a wider range of food resources for Archaic peoples. During the Archaic period, Native Americans began mining copper in the Upper Peninsula and on Isle Royale. Archaic peoples participated in widespread trade networks. For example, on Archaic period sites, archaeologists find stone tools made from good quality chert from Indiana and Ohio, and shell that came from the Gulf of Mexico.
  • 4000 BC Old Copper culture begins in the Great Lakes region in which native copper was utilized to produce a wide variety of tools axes, adzes, arrow head points, knives, fishhooks and harpoons
  • 1000 BC to 1620 Two important developments marked the beginning of the Woodland period: making pottery and constructing burial mounds. During the Woodland period, a very important cultural development occurred. Through the Paleo-Indian and Archaic periods, Native American economy was based on hunting and gathering. While the hunting and gathering way of life continued, the Woodland period saw the beginning of agriculture as Native peoples planted and harvested crops. The bow and arrow was introduced during the Woodland period, around AD 800, which is about 1200 years ago. When the French arrived in the 1600s, they met Native peoples of the Woodland period. Over the next 250 years or so, interaction between Native Americans and Europeans contributed to sweeping changes in Native peoples' way of life. The arrival of Europeans effectively ended the Woodland period and marked
  • 1622 - Etienne Brule (1592-1632) and a French-Huron reach Michigan
  • 1634 - Jean Nicolet explores Lake Michigan for France
    1763 - 1763-1675 -- Pontiac's Rebellion, Chief Pontiac's tries to force British out of the West, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.

Early History of Native Americans in Michigan

The Indigenous People of Michigan

The names of the Michigan tribes included the Huron, Menominee, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Miami, Noquet, Ottawa and Fox tribes.

Following the prehistoric inhabitants, Michigan's residents were the tribal groups of Ojibwa, Ottawa and Potawatomi Native Americans

When European explorers arrived in the Michigan region in the early 17th century it was already populated by Algonkian Indians. The Chippewa and Menominee tribes lived in the Upper Peninsula, while the Miami, Ottawa, and Potawatomi occupied the Lower Peninsula. The name "Michigan" actually came from the Chippewa word "Michigan," which means "great lake."

Before contact with the Europeans, these Native Americans lived by hunting, gathering, and fishing. Some tribes raised squash, corn, and rice. Clothing was made from the skins of animals they ate. Their tools were fashioned from animal parts such as bone and sinew. They constructed their homes of mud and bark.

The arrival of the white man had disastrous effects on Michigan's Native Americans. During the 1700s, nearly two-thirds of their population died from diseases brought by European settlers. Many tribes eventually lost their lands to the US government. By 1838, almost all Indian villages in Michigan had been abandoned.


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