1836 Halfbreed Ottawa and Chippewa Census – the Hidden Stories

I’ve just finished entering the names on the 1836 Census of Ottawa and Chippewa Halfbreeds (Michigan) into the Native Names document.  Here’s the link to the original source if you want to take a look. http://www.mainlymichigan.com/nativedata/1836OttChipCensus/1836OttChippPaging.aspx and http://www.mainlymichigan.com/nativedata/1836OttChipCensus/1836OttChipp-index.aspx

There is a lot of good information contained in this document that needs to be sifted and retrieved.

First, it’s of note that all of the 585 “halfbreeds” as they are called, have non-Native surnames.  They also have non-Native first names.  If you didn’t know they were Indians, you would never know by looking at their names.  And this is in 1836, still very early.  Many of the adults were born in the 1700s.  There weren’t many old people.  The oldest man was 80, born in 1756, and ironically, a drunk.  Two people were in their 70s, ages 74 and 70.  One was 65, eight were in the 50s and 13 in their 40s.  Many people weren’t just half, they were one quarter, so the admixture had been occurring fairly regularly it appears, for some time.  It appears to not have been unusual.

By far the majority of the admixture that could be easily determined was French, and all French men and Native women.  There were a few non-French names, such a Butterfield and McDonald, but not many.  There was one mention of a negro who married a Pawnee woman.  For the most part, as best I can tell, it appears that paternal naming patterns had been widely accepted, at least relative to the mixed people.  Having said that, of course there must be one that is different.  John Holliday is a resource mentioned often in terms of identifying who is related to who, but his own son is listed as George Berkhart.

People lived in a number of locations.  Locations where people lived that were approved included:

  • Grand Isle
  • Grand River
  • L’Arbre Croche
  • Macinac
  • Moskego
  • Sault St. Marie
  • St. Ignace
  • Iroquois Point
  • Beaver Island
  • Grand Traverse

People had to be residents of specific locations in order to collect the funds.  Another treaty had been arranged elsewhere as the “Treaty of Chicago” was mentioned.  I wonder if they also provided for their mixed-blood relatives.  A number of reasons for rejection were given.  Too young, born since the treaty, lives out of the district, 1/8th blood, so not closely enough related, and no relationship to the Indians.  There were only 4 of those, but it seems that money always attracts someone trying to take advantage, then as now.

One of the things I found so interesting is the wide range of places that people lived.  Two places have people living there that were both approved and rejected, based on the situation at hand: Green Bay and Lake Superior.  One man said he went to Green Bay in the fall on business and returned this spring.  What kind of business would he have there that would take the entire winter, and why would he travel in the fall?

Locations and other tribes mentioned were:

  • Lake Superior (Indians)
  • Black River
  • Detroit (attending school)
  • Leach Lake and Leech Lake Indians
  • Northern Indians
  • La Pointe and La Pointe Indians
  • Font du Lac
  • Pawnee
  • British Indian (meaning Canadian)
  • North end of Lake Superior
  • Lac du Flambeau
  • Red River
  • Cree descendant
  • Grand Portage
  • child of Muskego parentage
  • Menomonee
  • Chippewa River
  • land West of the Mississippi
  • Mississippi Indians
  • Saginaw Indians
  • Chicago
  • Northwestern descent
  • Canadian Indians
  • descended from Hudson Bay Indians
  • West end of Lake Superior
  • Mt. Oberlin
  • “on the lakes”

Anyone who thinks these Indians just stayed home in their local villages is obviously sorely mistaken.  The Great Lakes and Rivers obviously served as highways and the Indians traveled widely.  The Hudson Bay is a long way, especially if you are paddling.


About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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7 Responses to 1836 Halfbreed Ottawa and Chippewa Census – the Hidden Stories

  1. Jenny Wood Shangraw says:

    Greetings Roberta! I am writing a story about the village I grew up in, Pewamo, named for Chief Pewamo in 1857. Pewamo is located 14 miles east of Ionia. What Indian Census records night exist at that time that I can search? His descendants had the name Pewyoma Knox-Sah. I found many descendants in the late 19th century Kansas Indian Tribal Census.

    Thank you
    Jenny Wood Shangraw, a Retired Cybrarian who still loves the search!

    • Hi Jenny. My understanding is that Native people who were part of a tribe would not have been enumerated on the regular census until 1900. So during this timeframe, only the tribal census would have included them, and I don’t believe they started this early. I have seen several from the 1880s, but not earlier. However, different parts of the country were different and these people in particular might well have been enumerated on the regular census since they were half-breeds (their words, not mine) and might not have been considered tribal members. I would take these names from the 1860 list and see if they are on the 1860 census and go from there.

      • Jenny Wood Shangraw says:

        You are such a sweetheart for answering! The U.S.1860 Federal Census revealed nothing when I searched the names. I believe Chief Pewamo had a Native Indian name, which I do not know. I am contacting his descendants who might have a clue, but probably not. Chief Pewamo often lived in Ottawa, Canada so I might check with the Ottawa Province. Thanks again.

  2. Liz says:

    “One man said he went to Green Bay in the fall on business and returned this spring. What kind of business would he have there that would take the entire winter, and why would he travel in the fall?” e would have been in the fur trade.

    • Fall may have been his last chance to make it to Green Bay before winter started, and he may have simply been obliged to spend the winter in Green Bay until the weather improved enough in the spring to permit his return.

  3. arorasky says:

    Leaving during fall and being gone thru winter could have a few very normal reasons during this time period..furs of the wild animals are much thicker and much more desirable than those of summer and spring. This is still true even today. So trapping would have created larger revenue for those within fur trades and traveling the rivers brought ability to trade at fort posts set up along the rivers as well as with other tribes/nations whom also moved, traveled during winter months..some for hunting /fishing purposes. If one reads within the jesuit relations repertoires its then understood original names of n8v ppl were dropped by missionaries..and new christian names were almost always assigned to those receiving baptism..and in most cases..the euro baptismal names give no hint no similarity no sign of n8v heritage or family ties.

  4. Betty says:

    I am related to the Grondin on the mix breed 1836 from St. Ignace. You can check out our web site at http://www.mackinacband.com …….. we are the Oldest Indian Tribe in Michigan and still fighting for Federal Recognition. My name is Betty.

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