Upper Thumb Petroglyph Archer

Sanilac Petroglyphs – A Michigan Native American Story in Stone

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

History of the Sanilac Petroglyphs Near Cass City

The petroglyphs were donated to the State of Michigan by the Michigan Archaeological Society and managed by the DNR since 1971. The Sanilac Michigan 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.

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.

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.

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.”

“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)

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.

Other Things to Do Near Sanilac Petroglyphs Historical State Park

Thumbwind Staff

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2 thoughts on “Sanilac Petroglyphs – A Michigan Native American Story in Stone

  1. This is a wonderful story on the Ozhibii’igaadeg Asiniing, which in English is the Written Rocks or Petroglyphs. Your story is very informative and instructive. I just wrote a booklet that is 48 pages long titled “The Logging of Holbrook.” Holbrook was the name of the lumbering town located on a section line close nearby. Holbrook today has faded away. The booklet is about the 1876 falling of the gigantic pine trees that once stood in and around the park back before it was a park and the journey of the logs down the Cass River to a sawmill in Saginaw. Also, I wrote about the people involved. A meeting has been set up with me and the archeologist at the park to talk. An odd size work at 48 pages, I hope it will find an audience at some point in time. Maybe it will be a research tool, but I am hoping for a bit more. I very much enjoyed reading your story.

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