Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Native Uses of the St. Joseph River

A historic view of the St. Joseph River
Hello everyone! My name is Alicia Gregory and I am an undergraduate student at Western Michigan University, majoring in Anthropology and Biomedical Science. My research partner Carole and I are focusing on how Native American’s used the St. Joseph River around the time Fort St. Joseph and hopefully pre-fort period. What were Native Americans settlement locations based in part to the river? Were there rituals or beliefs involved with the river? An example would be that every time when Natives would get in their canoes and go hunting or just even traveling they would lay tobacco in the water to give thanks because the water supports life and helps with safe journeys. What are some activities that they did that related to the river? These are just a few questions we are hoping to get answered throughout the remainder of the semester.

I decided to focus on the Native American uses of the river because being Native American myself, I thought that it would be interesting to see how they used the rivers in their everyday lives. Many of us know that Native Americans lived off the land but few know how they used the rivers to connect with other tribes, hunt, and even how important it was for them. That is something that my research partner and I want to know so that we can learn about how Natives lived based off the river.

By the end of this project Carole and I are hoping to have uncovered just how Native Americans used the river and hopeful give visitors to the city of Niles some history about the river in general. We have already been in contact with one of our community partner gathering personal knowledge on the Native groups that lived along the river. However, we are planning on contacting local historians in and around Niles to give us more information how what was used from the river and how it impacted their lives.

          -  Alicia Gregory 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Let’s Talk About Transportation!

Historic depiction of the St. Joseph River near Niles, Michigan
But first hello, my name is Julia Tanner and I am studying the impact of the St. Joseph River as a network for transportation around the time that Fort St. Joseph would have been active, (18th century). My research partner Lana and I are invested in finding out exactly what canoes were used for what jobs. What materials made up canoes that were for the fur trade business versus fishing canoes? An example would be that most Native Americans used birch bark canoes because of how light but durable they were. They were easier to carry on the ground when covering the area of a portage. Also how did the use of portages around this area of study affect canoes and the trading business? On a larger scale did the traders who were stationed up in Montreal around this frame use rivers to connect all the way down to Fort St. Joseph? We know that the St. Joseph River was an active channel for traveling and trading, we are going to research just how active and how far reaching the river went as a transportation and trade network.

Lana and I wanted to focus on transportation because everyone overlooks rivers and waterways now in the 21st century. Rivers were the original 1-94 or 131, the highways of a past lifeways and native people and foreign settlers depended on them for surviving and for making a living. Their importance to our past should never be overlooked.

By the end of this project Lana and I hope to have a working knowledge of people who used the St. Joseph River for trade and traveling. We also plan on having contact with community members, in and around Niles to give us more personal information on the river and the uses for it, such as active canoeist and local historians. 

-Julia Tanner