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Native American's In The Agricultural Core

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The Native Americans living in the North American Agricultural Core within the boundaries of the state of Michigan have helped to define much of the human geography we observe daily. These natives have influenced everything from state and animal names to jewelry and clothes. However, the original people of this state have changed greatly in a short time span due to contact with European settlers. These new people not only changed the way the natives dressed, cooked, worshipped, and hunted, but drastically changed their lives and destinies forever. Most of these changes were forced upon them either directly or through other means indirectly. The natives went from having free reign on an entire country, to being corralled within a few thousand acres within 200 years. This paper will focus on the main tribe inhabiting this part of the Agricultural Core contained in Michigan's borders, the Potawatomi.

Native Tribes

When Europeans first arrived in Michigan, the most powerful tribes and largest in number present were the Ottawa, Chippewa, and the Potawatomi respectively. According to Rubenstein and Ziewacz, they thought of themselves as a family, with the Chippewa the elder brother, the Ottawa the next older brother, and the Potawatomi the younger brother, and referred to their loose confederation as the "Three Fires" (3). These three groups are known as the three fires because they were closely related and were at one time one large tribe. They had a common language, dialect, and culture, and were all affected by contact with Europeans. The tribe that populated the area of Michigan contained within the agricultural core is the Potawatomi. This group was the smallest of the Three Fires in population.

Native numbers

Prior to outside contact, according to Rubenstein and Ziewacz, the natives numbered almost 100,000 in the Great Lakes region (2). There are approximately 59,630 people in Michigan that are Native Americans according to the United States census of 2000. There are no records that indicate exactly how many of these people were Potawatomi when Europeans arrived due to the Natives not keeping a written record of their history. One of the main reasons for the serious depopulation is due to the new diseases Europeans brought with them from across the ocean. According to Clifton, Cornell, and McClurken, Native Americans had no immunity to highly contagious European diseases such as smallpox, diphtheria, scarlet fever, measles, and tuberculosis, and fell prey to the new illnesses that swept the land (76). Although there are other reasons for the dramatic loss of native life, none are as drastic as the loss due to disease. According to Clifton, Cornell, and McClurken, historical evidence obtained from colonial sources has confirmed that 70-80 percent mortality rates were not uncommon for native peoples who initially encountered previously unknown diseases (76). Another reason for the Potawatomi depletion in numbers from this area is the treaty they signed in 1840 which forced the tribe out of Michigan and "relocated" nearly every member of the tribe, with the exception of one band named the Pokagon, to Kansas (CMU).

Native Life

The Potawatomi tribe had roles for every member of their society. Men were hunters, traders, and defenders. Women were farmers, cooks, sewers, and raised the children. Hinsdale claims, "There is a deep meaning in the woman's work as an agriculturist. The female stood for increase. The seeds would possess greater fertility if planted by a woman, and the soil would have a greater yield if she tilled it, because her sex controlled reproduction. According to this conception, it was perfectly logical that planting and cultivation should be exclusively woman's work" (51). At the heart of all Potawatomi social and economic activity was something called reciprocity. This is basically what we commonly refer to as bartering. According to Rubenstein and Ziewacz, there are three types of reciprocity (6). The first is general reciprocity. This was usually done between close relatives and assumed a balanced exchange. Part of this transaction was based on one person doing something for another and trusting the other person to do something equally valuable for them in the future. The second type and most common was balanced reciprocity. This was a straight trade of goods or services assumed to be of equal value. Trade such as this was often between distant relatives or non-relatives who were not well known to the other party. The final form is negative reciprocity. This was very rare and was when one party knowingly attempted to cheat the other. When others heard of such behavior, the guilty party was usually excluded from future trading (Rubenstein and Ziewacz 6). The Potawatomi had lived by these rules for many generations. The driving force behind this concept is the lack of personal property by the Potawatomi, something that Europeans coveted and based themselves. Potawatomi people believed the land was for everyone to use, not to own and keep as your own, whereas the Europeans based their social and financial significance upon how much land and other possessions they owned.

Native Agriculture

Potawatomi life in Michigan followed the seasons. These people were agriculturally based. During the spring and summer, they were free to plant their crops that they would gather around fall. Springtime was a time to collect maple sap for making syrup and sugar. When winter fell upon the Potawatomi, they relied on the crops gathered during the fall and the men to hunt animals for food. Before contact with Europeans, the Potawatomi provided themselves with everything they needed and wanted. If they were hungry, they would hunt or gather some crops. If they were cold, they would kill an Elk for its pelt or weave a blanket. Hunting was done for survival, not sport. Potawatomi agriculture revolved around the three sisters: corn, squash, and beans. It is not surprising that the natives in this region farmed because the land in this region is very fertile. If the land were no longer producing crops well enough, the tribe would simply move to another area and begin farming there. The Potawatomi received their name from the Chippewa term "Potawatamink," which means "people of the place of the fire" (Rubenstein and Ziewacz 7). This is most likely due to the practice they used to clear the land. To clear land for agriculture, they simply burned the grass and brush to clear the fields for planting.

Native Religion

Among the Potawatomi, religion



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