If you drive to the top of Michigan's lower peninsula, you will arrive at Mackinaw City, which lies along the southern shore of the Straits of Mackinac. Across the straits and connected by the Mackinac Bridge lies the state's Upper Peninsula.
|Mackinaw Bridge reflects the setting sun in the Machinaw Straits, which connect Lake Michigan with Lake Huron.|
The first European to pass the site of Mackinaw City was Jean Nicolet, sent out from Quebec City by Samuel Champlain in 1633 to explore and map the western Great Lakes, and to establish new contacts and trading partnerships with the Indian tribes of the region. The area was inhabited by three Algonquian peoples, known collectively as the Council of Three Fires: Chippewa (Ojibwe in Canada), Ottawa (Odawa), and Potawatomi. These tribes had long frequented the area of the Straits to fish, hunt, trade, and worship.
|A reconstructed trading tent replicates what it might have looked like during the time Fort |
Michilimackinac was under French or British control.
Even after the British took possession of the fort, French civilians were allowed to live within the walls, as they had good relations with the Odawa and Ojibwe for the fur trade. As a part of Pontiac's Rebellion, Chippewa and Fox warriors captured the fort on June 2, 1763 in a surprise attack during a game of baggatiway or lacrosse; the British at the fort were taken prisoner and mostly killed.
It was months before Europeans returned to the fort. When they did, the traders promised to trade more fairly with the Native Americans. When the British later abandoned the vulnerable site on the mainland, they burned what they could not take with them to prevent the Americans from using Michilimackinac as a base.
Machinaw City really got its start in 1857, when two men planned what would become Mackinaw City. The plan preserved the northern portion as a park, to preserve the area that was once Fort Michilimackinac and to accommodate a much-needed and future lighthouse. Now the town caters to tourists visiting the area, with a variety of gift shops and restaurants. In addition, there are two lighthouses to see in town, but more on those in the next post about this trip!
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