September 18, 2017- Trip Day 45
Star Line Hydro Ferry- Destination Mackinac Island
Anishinaabemowin- the language of the Ojibwe people. Betcha didn’t know that! Unlike many languages this one has not been lost. The University Of Minnesota’s Department of American Indian Studies, University Libraries maintains an extensive Ojibwe language dictionary. The reason I bring this up is a roadside historical marker was in English on one side and Anishinaabemowin on the other.
Language of the Chippewa
We are in St. Ignace on the north shore of the Straits of Mackinac. The Straits connects Lake Michigan with Lake Huron- our third Great Lake this trip. The three mile long Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with the Lower Peninsula also known as The Mitt.
Mackinac Bridge Looking Towards Mackinaw City
If one looks at a map of Michigan the area between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron looks like a mitten. Interstate 75 ends in Sault Ste. Marie and runs through St. Ignace. When we left Sault we chose to take secondary roads to our next campground, Lakeshore RV Park Campground locate a couple of miles west of downtown St. Ignace. The route takes us first through farmland with a little dairy thrown in, then through thick cedar forests. Weather resistant cedar is a big industry here. It’s used for roofing shingles, fencing, and outdoor furniture. As usual the route takes us very close to our third Great Lake, Huron, but we see little of it for the trees.
Castle Rock- A “must see” tourist trap
After a pleasant drive the road takes us to a port on Lake Huron- St. Ignace (2400 souls). She is the seat of Mackinac County and gateway to the U.P. for travelers from the Lower Peninsula. Fully one third of her population identify as Native American. The Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa are headquartered here and the Sault St. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians runs a casino just outside of town.
The more we travel the Great Lake Region the more we hear of the Frenchman, Father Jacques Marquette. He founded the St. Ignace Mission in 1671. Earlier he had founded a mission in Saul St. Marie. Marquette was not only a missionary, he was an explorer. He joined Louis Jolliet and departed St. Ignace in 1673 with two canoes and five voyageurs on a voyage to find the Mississippi River.
Voyageurs were sort of the Rambo’s of the fur trade and water transport world. A voyageur hired on a the age of 21 was expected to carry three 90 pound sacks a half mile from one portage to the next. Some could carry five or six! And they didn’t retire until into their sixties. This missionary explorer and Joliette actually found the Mississippi River after following the Fox River out of Green Bay to the Wisconsin River, then to the Mississippi. The followed the Mississippi all the way to the confluence with the Arkansas and would have gone farther but started seeing signs of Spanish influence and turned back.
Father Marquette grew ill and died in 1675 at the age of 38. He was buried where he died near Ludington, MI. At a later date his bones were disinterred and brought to St. Ignace and buried at the mission a place that he truly loved.