Fostering Historic Preservation in Pullman: Our Native American Roots
Updated: Jan 16, 2021
Pullman, in Lee Township Michigan, has some unique history predating European settlement. This story begins with the Hopewell Indian tradition. The Hopewell were not a single tribe or culture, but instead a grouping of Native Americans that lived a similar lifestyle. Their range extended from Ontario, Canada down to Florida and from the Atlantic coast westward to the Great Plains. This culture thrived from approximately 100 B.C. to 400 A.D.
The Hopewell Indian tradition included building ceremonial and burial mounds. Some of these mounds contained the remains of leaders, but the mounds were more often ceremonial centers. Only a small number of intact mounds remain in Michigan. Many were built upon by European settlers. Two large groups of interest exist in Michigan, one close to Detroit and the other close to Grand Rapids. Mounds have been found to contain not only skeletons, but also hunting tools, pottery, and copper artifacts that were sometimes sourced hundreds of miles away. Some experts believe that a few of the mounds may be lunar calendars. Most scholars agree that the building was done by separate communities and tribes working together. Mysteriously, the Hopewell abandoned mound building and their trade routes that connected the Northeast and Midwest to the South were forgotten.
How does this all relate to Pullman? Located within the Allegan State Game Area are hidden mounds! The location has been kept secret by authorities to keep them protected. Allowing public access would threaten these cultural treasures. You may have stumbled upon them unknowingly as they are overgrown with vegetation. There are no plans to ever research or excavate these sites.
Centuries after the Hopewell, southwest Michigan became home to the Potawatomi tribe. During European settlement in Michigan, a local Native born to the Ojibwe tribe but raised as Potawatomi, Leopold Pokagon, worked with the settlers to protect his people’s heritage and lands. He and his wife Elizabeth converted to Catholicism believing that working with the church in an alliance would spare his tribe. He was correct. While other Native American communities were forced to move west of the Mississippi River, the conversion to Catholicism saved the Potawatomi of the St. Joseph River Valley. They became the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi and Leopold Pokagon became their chief. All of the Potawatomi tribes of Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan were united under one leader. Today, the Pokagon tribe remains unified in Michigan and Indiana.
The mission of Beautify Pullman includes supporting the preservation of Pullman’s history. There are stories of artifacts such as arrowheads found throughout Pullman and Lee Township. When the clinic was built on 109th Avenue, Native American artifacts were found and were moved into storage with the state’s archeologist at the Michigan Historic Preservation Office in Lansing. Perhaps in the future, those artifacts and more can be on display right here in Pullman.
We can honor the early Native Americans residents of Pullman by honoring their plants. As we continue to work in Lee Township and Pullman, our landscaping plans will use as many native plant species as possible. Knowing that hidden deep in the game area is a special piece of history right here at home inspires us to tie together the past and the future. There is an ongoing discussion about creating a mural on the Frontier building at 56th and 109th. Our vision is to create a mural which celebrates the diverse history and cultures of Pullman, from the Hopewell to today. Perhaps a future landscape design will have a serpent shaped berm signifying a ceremonial mound. The possibilities are endless when we work together as a community to preserve and celebrate our history.