Great Lakes Moment is a monthly column written by Great Lakes Now Contributor John Hartig. Publishing the author’s views and assertions does not represent endorsement by Great Lakes Now or Detroit Public Television.
Metropolitan Detroit sits on the traditional territory of the Wyandot of Anderdon Nation.
Most people know the Wyandot from the Trail of Tears or the forced relocation of Native Americans from their homelands during the 1830s and 1940s to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. However, not all the Wyandot of Anderdon Nation left their homeland during that time. Some remained in Michigan and Canada and continued to elect Chiefs and Tribal Councils, observe cultural ceremonies and build sweat lodges.
Today, they are proudly reclaiming their heritage, passing it on to the next generation and raising awareness about their tribe throughout Metropolitan Detroit and about their role in history.
The Wyandot of Anderdon Nation sits within the Wendat Confederacy, which consists of the Huron Wendat Nation of Québec, the Wyandot of Anderdon Nation, the Wyandot Nation of Kansas, and the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma. And still on this land is a place where Detroiters and other guests can learn about the Wyandot and pay respect to the First Nations that lived in the land first.
Six Points is located along the lower end of Brownstown Creek, near its confluence with the Detroit River off South Gibraltar Road in Gibraltar, Michigan. Six Points was the village of the Wyandot Chief Tahounehawieties, whose settler name was Adam Brown. Adam Brown is the great, great, great, great grandfather of Chief Billy Friend of the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma. Brownstown Township in Michigan was named after him. The name Six Points was given because it acknowledges the Six Sacred Directions: North, South, East, West, Earth and Sky. It is sacred ground to the Wyandot people. Indeed, Six Points has been acknowledged by archaeologists from the University of Michigan for its significance to the Native American culture.
In 2015, this land was purchased by Chief Billy Friend and the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma for their brethren in southeast Michigan and southwestern Ontario – the Wyandot of Anderdon Nation. For many years, the Wyandot of Anderdon Nation has been trying to obtain federal acknowledgment. One factor working against them, members note, is that the tribe did not own any land. Acquiring Six Points could help them to become acknowledged by the federal government.
Six Points is a 15-acre tract made up of about half wetlands and half uplands. Immediately upon acquisition of Six Points, the Wyandot of Anderdon Nation reached out to graduate students in landscape architecture at the University of Michigan to help develop a site master plan. The goals of the master plan are to:
- Build a village that would house the tribal office, gathering places and a cultural center that would include history and Wyandot artifacts;
- Build a traditional longhouse;
- Work to acquire artifacts and ancestors’ remains from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University for the purpose of re-interment to honor and respect Wyandot ancestors;
- Build trails, including a culturally significant “medicine walk” trail to be used by the Wyandot for healing purposes;
- Restore the wetlands and uplands, and enhance the Turtle Pond located on the south side of the property; and
- Integrate activities among the Wyandot of Anderdon, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, Lake Erie Metropark and the River Raisin National Battlefield Park.
Already completed by the Wyandot at Six Points are trails, a council ring and more. Indeed, there is already much to see and learn.
It must be remembered that this land was lost by the Wyandot over 200 years ago, but their ties to it have never been broken. The Wyandot have proudly regained this land and are reclaiming their heritage in hope of educating their children and grandchildren, and making their presence known in the Metropolitan Detroit area and beyond. Chief Ted Roll of the Wyandot of Anderdon Nation has articulated their mission best:
Learn from the past, build the present, including a sense of place at Six Points, and plan for seven generations into the future.
There is much to learn from the Wyandot.
Six Points is a unique destination on the north-south Downriver Linked Greenway Trail adjacent to the north greenway trail entrance to Lake Erie Metropark. It is only a short jaunt south from Humbug Marsh – Michigan’s only Wetland of International Importance – and the Refuge Gateway and Visitor Center, and a short bicycle ride from the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge’s Gibraltar Wetlands Unit where you can see osprey. So the next time you visit one of these locations, come visit Six Points as well.
John Hartig is a board member at the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. He serves as the Great Lakes Science-Policy Advisor for the International Association for Great Lakes Research and has written numerous books and publications on the environment and the Great Lakes. Hartig also helped create the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, where he worked as the refuge manager until his retirement.
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Featured image: Grand Chief Ted Roll at the Wampum Belt presentation during the Native American Days’ celebration at Six Points in 2018. (Photo courtesy of the Wyandot of Anderdon Nation)