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Excerpts from the Michigan Pioneer & Historical Collections

Native American Collage

The Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections (MPHC) are an important but often overlooked Native American resource. Produced from materials presented at the annual meetings of the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, the collections contain a high quantity of primary resources and historical papers concerning many aspects of Michigan's past.

The MPHC consists of forty 600 to 700 page volumes. Each volume includes letters, speeches, memorial reports, private and professional papers of individuals, as well as personal remembrances and historical essays. The bulk of these materials span a period of roughly two hundred years, from 1650 to 1850. However, these dates are not entirely inclusive. For example, the collections contain essays written about Michigan's ancient burial mounds as well as documents from the civil war era. It is also important to note that while most of the MPHC concerns the events and people of Michigan's past, materials pertaining to other parts of the mid-west are included as well.

The job of annotating the collections was very large. Choosing selectively, we focused on those entries that dealt directly with Native Americans, discussed them at any length, or were deemed particularly relevant to scholarship. These were given precedence over entries that marginalize Indians or only mention them in passing.

The annotated materials have been grouped into seventeen categories. The following alphabetical listing of topics contains a brief description of each category.


American Revolution

Includes many primary sources, especially the letters and orders of various military commanders and the speeches of Native American leaders. Documents relate to the different alliances that existed between the British, the Americans, and groups of Indians; the threat posed by the loss of Indian allies in the region; and the participation of Indians in various battles and military actions.

Battle of Fallen Timbers

Includes mostly primary sources, esp. letters and speeches to and from Indians and the United States government. Also contained are a few documents that refer to the British reaction to the battle in 1794, and the chain of events leading up to the Treaty of Greenville (1795).


Many of the historical essays and personal "reminiscences of pioneer times" include detailed information on specific Native Americans, often chiefs and other leaders such as Kishkorko, Noonday, Okemos, Pokagon, and Shavehead.

Criminality and Legality

This section is composed of a variety of sources (letters, essays, memorandums, etc.) that deal with issues of law, violence, trial, and punishment. Accounts discuss both Native American and Euro-American legal customs and perspectives as well as developments that took place when these different systems interacted. The majority of the crimes discussed are murders, committed by both Whites and Indians. Many of the sources make reference to the Saginaw Ojibwe Chief Kishkorko, who had intricate dealings with the law in both cultures during his lifetime.

Legacies of Isabella County's Early Native American Reservation

This section has been subdivided into four categories: Ojibwe (Chippewa), Odawa (Ottawa), Potawatomi, and General (meaning that the Native Americans discussed in the document are referred to only as "Indians" and not by a more specific or accurate name). Entries include information on subsistence techniques, personality, gender roles, clothing, housing, hospitality, leadership, drinking habits, burial practices, dances, disease, games and social activities, medicines, totems, justice, naming customs, teaching, religious practices and beliefs, and the process of as well as resistance to the Potawatomi Removal (1840).

Fur Trade

Documents relate to the lives and experiences of White fur traders and Native Americans, the types of goods that were traded, the regions that experienced heavy trading, and the economic impact on both Indians and White people.

General Relations with the Americans

This section is comprised mostly of letters, speeches, and memoranda of American officials such as Henry Knox (as Secretary of War), Lewis Cass (as General and later as Governor), and William Hull (General and Governor). For specific information concerning Indian relations with various governments during the time periods of the American Revolution, Battle of Fallen Timbers, or War of 1812, see the sections that bear those titles.

General Relations with the British

This section is comprised mostly of letters, speeches, and memorandums of British officials such as Henry Bouquet, General Robert McKee, Robert McDonnall, and Arent de Peyster. For specific information concerning Indian relations with various governments during the time periods of the American Revolution, Battle of Fallen Timbers, or War of 1812, see the sections that bear those titles.

General Relations with the French

This section is comprised mostly of letters, speeches, and memorandums of French officials such as Cadillac, Vaudreuil, Raudot, as well as speeches made by Native American leaders to the French during council meetings. For the most part, this section concerns the interactions that the French had with Native Americans (specifically Odawa and Miami) residing in the areas around Detroit.

Native American Missions and Missionaries

A collection of essays and biographies, this section deals with the Christian missionaries and the Native Americans who they came into contact with in Michigan. The majority of this section concerns the activities of missionaries (Jesuits, Moravians, etc.) who lived and worked in the Detroit, Mackinac, and Grand Rapids areas.

Native American Presents and Gift Giving

This section, which consists almost entirely of primary sources, concerns the Euro-American policy of giving gifts to Native Americans and the importance of this policy as a diplomatic instrument. It contains returns and lists of the items given, instructions to Indian agents regarding how the gifts were to be distributed, and statements made by agents regarding the quantities and types of gifts that were necessary to further various political objectives.

Conflicts between Native American Nations

This section discusses the conflicts that occurred between different Native American societies both before and after White contact, with concentrations of material on the conflicts between the Ojibwe and the Sauk, as well as the conflicts between the Odawa and the Miami.

Pontiac's Conspiracy

Primary documents such as the reports of military commanders and the speeches delivered by Native Americas, as well as secondary sources describe the events leading up to the revolt, the capture of Fort Michilimackinac, the siege of Detroit, and the aftermath.

Prehistory and Archeology

Composed mostly of historical essays, this section includes discussion of the ancient burial mounds, garden beds, grave goods, skeletal remains, and other "relics" of Michigan's pre-European contact Native American cultures.

Speeches and Councils

Composed of transcripts of the speeches delivered by both Indians and Whites at numerous councils and meetings, this section is subdivided into three categories: Indian nations' councils with other Indian nations (1704-1807); Indian councils with the British (1771-1828); and Indian councils with the Americans (1785-1815).


This section references primary sources that contain direct transcripts of treaties and discuss the diplomatic relations and conditions which generated them, as well as secondary sources discussing the process of treaty making and the results of various agreements. This section is also subdivided into three categories: Land cession treaties to individuals (1780-1797); treaties with the British (1768-1795); and treaties with the Americans (1785-1828).

War of 1812

This section is composed of a large number of primary sources, such as speeches made by Native Americans and letters of British and American military commanders, as well as several secondary sources. Documents relate to the alliances created and destroyed by the conflict, the involvement of Indians in battles and military movements, and the relationship between the war and the religious revitalization/revolt that was led by Tecumseh and his brother, the Shawnee Prophet.


This bibliography was compiled by Robert M. Hendershot and Michael W. Phillips Jr. in 2001. We encourage users to direct any questions to the Clarke Historical Library staff at