By Roger Duval
I am happy to see that my articles on history of the lake create an interest for more detail. I also asked Stacy Brooks to create a drawing of a Potowatomi chief overlooking the lake from the island at sunrise at a time when only Native Americans were the only summer residents. She really did a superb of creating the image that I have been searching for in all my prior articles on the Native Americans on Bald Eagle Lake.
My summer, 2009 article regarding the oldest house on the lake made reference to the various dates that different parts of the lake were deed by the government. The south end of the lake was deeded over 50 years later than the other parts. Ken Bush of the Ortonville Historical Society said that it was most likely occupied by squatters during those years as the property was not deeded from the government to David Croop until 1889. He also stated that the Beers Atlas printed in 1872 and 1876 show other people living on the land.
A resident, after reading my article in the history section of our website about the Potawatomie Native Americans who used that part of the lake to hunt and fish, asked if they could be the aforementioned squatters. As my prior article indicated many arrowheads were found in this area.
I paid a visit to the Chippewa Tribal Judge Ronald Douglas who reviewed my earlier article on the Potawatomi. He told me that of all the names used to describe Native Americans, squatter was not one of them. He provided more insight as the Chippewa and the Potawatomi were friendly to each other.
He said that the 50 year lag was most likely that a farmer had been using the property and it took time to sort out the deeding process. Even though the Native Americans were present during those early years, in their culture, private ownership was not normally recognized. There were a few – rare – deeds granted to Native Americans at that time, but it was unlikely that any were granted in Michigan. It was not until the 1890's that Native Americans recognized deeds when reservations were established.
I asked if he thought the Potowatomi lived at the south end of the lake. It is his opinion that Bald Eagle Lake was a summer camp. Men were hunters, farmers or gatherers and would have only been here for such purposes. They returned to their villages in the fall with the goods. Since the villages in the Flint area were Chippewa the Potawatomi most likely were from a village in Lansing or Brighton. The Chippewa went north to the Saginaw area to hunt fish or gather, whereas the Potowatomi moved east to our area. Women actually owned the villages, since they stayed there all year to take care of the children and the affairs of the tribe. When a man married he would move to her village. If a Potowatomi married a Chippewa the man would become a member of the women's tribe, During the summer, if there were deaths, the burial would take place but the service for all deceased would be delayed until the harvest was completed in late fall. The village ceremony was similar to "All Souls Day". Now we know why there are burial grounds in our area.