Michigan Indian Culture in the Thumb
Michigan’s Thumb was recognized as a rich hunting and fishing grounds hundreds of years before Europeans explored and settled in Michigan. As a result, the Thumb was a strategic area that was to be held for the resources and a control point for access to the upper Great Lakes. Michigan Indian Tribes fought and held the area from the Tittabawassee River down to the Detroit straights with the area changing hands many times over history. The story printed below came from a newspaper clipping found at the Caseville Historical Society. This is a small tale of a chief of a band from the greater Anishinabe tribe located near Sebewaing.
A Great Tree Chosen as Tribute to Michigan Indian Chief
January 20, 1933— Memorials of stone were erected by nations, honor their great men but a tribe of Chippewa Indians who lived near Kilmanagh nearly a century ago used a masterpiece of nature to honor its chief.
Chief Standing Oak, head of this tribe, is a figure in many Indian legends, told and re-told many times in the last century that has passed since his reign as chief. Among the legends is that of the dedication of a tall oak tree in honor of Chief Standing Oak. This tree once stood in a grove of oak trees, towering above all the others.
Indians cut down all other oak trees in the grove, according to the legend, and left only the magnificent one as a monument to their chieftain. The mammoth monument fell later under the sway of the ax as “progress” began in the mid-1800’s.
Chief Standing Oak ruled the tribe of Chippewa Indians, living near Kilmanagh between the Sebewaing river and Shebeon creek. According to the legend, this tribe and another Indian tribe, living near were mortal enemies. The latter tribe to have carved Indian signs, visible today, on rocks on the bank of the Cass River, near Holbrook, These Indians attacked Chief Standing Oak’s tribe and a fierce battle was fought on the banks of the Sebewaing river, which was then known as DuFill or Thread river.
The battle lasted all day and was renewed the next morning. Chief Standing Oaks tribe drove the invaders back to the banks of the Shebeon creek, where they made a final stand. Practically all of them were killed at that point.
The numerous Indian skeletons dug up on the banks of the Sebewaing river and Shebeon Creek and the many arrowheads and broken hatchets found on the site of the battleground give credence to this story.
Wins Praise of Tribe
Chief Standing Oak’s generalship in this battle established him more firmly in the regard of the Indians of his tribe as a leader. It is said that his victory in this battle was one of the reasons the Indians of his tribe honored him by selecting a tall oak tree as a monument to Chief Standing Oak, certainly an appropriate memorial to this valiant warrior.