Upper Thumb Petroglyph Archer

Sanilac Petroglyphs to be co-managed by Saginaw Chippewa and State of Michigan

On Monday, December 2, 2019, Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Chief Ronald F. Ekdahl was joined by the Department of Natural Resources representative Sandra Clark to sign a ground-breaking Memorandum of Understanding.

Signing of the co-management agreement of the Sanilac Petroglyphs
Pictured left to right are Shannon Martin, director of Ziibiwing, Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan History Center, Tribal Chief Ron Ekdahl and Sarah Hegyi, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.

This establishes the tribe’s co-management of the Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park, with the State of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources. This will mark the first state/tribal co-­management of a state park in Michigan.

“This partnership is a major step forward in strengthening the authentic interpretation of the Sanilac Petroglyphs site, which speaks to the connections of humankind to nature and the earth,” said DNR Director Daniel Eichinger. ”We hope this collaboration will serve as a model, both within and beyond Michigan, of respectful, inclusive, equitable management practices that protect important historic resources while helping people understand their relationship to them.”

The Sanilac Petroglyphs are one of our most visited attractions in the Thumb region. Attracting thousands of visitors each year. The historic park has been featured on the PBS television series Michigan Under the Radar.


History of the Historic Park

Sanilac Petroglyphs
Opportunities to learn about the park’s habitat, history, and tribal connections are just some of the offerings at Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park.

The petroglyphs were donated to the State of Michigan by the Michigan Archaeological Society and managed by the DNR since 1971. The petroglyphs are the largest known group of ancient rock carvings in the state. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the park covers 240 acres along the Cass River near Cass City in Michigan’s Thumb region. Stone tools and pottery found on the petroglyphs site on the Cass River floodplain show tribal groups have occupied the area periodically throughout the last 8,000 years. The petroglyphs were likely carved within the last 1,400 years, with some possibly created in more recent centuries.

“This site is special and sacred to the Anishinabe. It is a clear indication of the unique origins and history of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. We know our Ancestors were thinking of us when they left the lessons in stone,” explained tribal elder Bonnie Ekdahl. “The Memo creates a relationship that ties us to this beautiful site and marks an important step of acknowledgment and inclusion of the tribe. I am very thankful and proud of the team at the Ziibiwing Center who preserved and carried the vision for over 15 years, and it is especially incredible to know my son is involved with the final step, miigwetch.”


Sanilac Petroglyphs, or ezhibiigadek asin (written on stone)

Sanilac Petroglyphs - The Archer

Images and information from the preservation of the petroglyphs project were featured on the 2018 Michigan Archaeology poster. The free poster is available from the State Historic Preservation Office or at the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways.

Guided tours of ezhibiigadek asin (Sanilac petroglyphs) are available in the summer months. Learn more about Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park on the DNR website. To see the 2018 Michigan Archaeology poster featuring the petroglyphs and the LiDAR survey, visit Michigan.gov/Archaeology.


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