Letters

Letters 08-29-2016

Religious Bigotry President Obama has been roundly criticized for his apparent unwillingness to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism.” His critics seem to suggest that through the mere use of that terminology, the defeat of ISIS would be assured...

TC DDA: Focus On Your Mission What on earth is the Traverse City DDA thinking? Purchasing land around (not within) its TIF boundaries and then offering it at a discount to developers? That is not its mission. Sadly enough, it is already falling down on the job regarding what is its mission. Crosswalks are deteriorating all around downtown, trees aren’t trimmed, sidewalks are uneven. Why can’t the DDA do a better job of maintaining what it already has? And still no public restrooms downtown, despite all the tax dollars captured since 1997. What a joke...

European-Americans Are Boring “20 Fascinating People” in northern Michigan -- and every single one is European-American? Sorry, but this is journalistically incorrect. It’s easy for editors to assign and reporters to write stories about people who are already within their personal and professional networks. It’s harder to dig up stuff about people you don’t know and have never met. Harder is better...

Be Aware Of Lawsuit While most non-Indians were sleep walking, local Odawa leaders filed a lawsuit seeking to potentially have most of Emmet County and part of Charlevoix County declared within their reservation and thus under their jurisdiction. This assertion of jurisdiction is embedded in their recently constructed constitution as documentation of their intent...

More Parking Headaches I have another comment to make about downtown TC parking following Pat Sullivan’s recent article. My hubby and I parked in a handicap spot (with a meter) behind Mackinaw Brew Pub for lunch. The handicap spot happens to be 8-10 spaces away from the payment center. Now isn’t that interesting...

Demand Change At Women’s Resource Center Change is needed for the Women’s Resource Center for the Grand Traverse Area (WRCGT). As Patrick Sullivan pointed out in his article, former employees and supporters don’t like the direction WRCGT has taken. As former employees, we are downright terrified at the direction Juliette Schultz and Ralph Soffredine have led the organization...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Visions of Mackinac
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Visions of Mackinac

Robert Downes - May 19th, 2008
If there’s one book you simply must have on your coffee table this summer, it’s “A Picturesque Situation: Mackinac Before Photography 1615-1860” by Brian Leigh Dunnigan.
The book is a treasure trove of the days when the Straits area served as North America’s ‘wild northwest,’ lifting the reader’s soul with visions of our colorful, rough-and-tumble past. Filled with 330 paintings, drawings, maps and documents, “A Picturesque Situation” tells the story of the Straits area at a time when it was the western terminus to the resources of North America.
Here are tales of fur traders, Indian tribes, explorers, settlers, soldiers and 19th century tourists who were drawn to the Mackinac Straits for its strategic importance. As the perfect rendezvous for the water highway to the West, the Straits provided a gateway to
Lake Michigan and the Mississippi Valley as well as the fur trade far up into northern Canada.
The Straits were one of the first areas settled in Michigan by several Indian tribes as well as white newcomers. Dunnigan tells how the Huron and the Ottawa tribes were driven from their homes in Canada by Iroquois war parties in 1648-49, with the refugees settling in the Straits area.
Their neighbors included French trappers and voyageurs as well as a succession of English and American troops who held (and lost) the fort on Mackinac Island.
Here too is the story of the capture of Fort Michilimackinac by Ojibwa warriors during a lacrosse game in 1763, armed with hatchets concealed under the robes of their women. The Ojibwa were angry that the fort had been surrendered by New France to the British in 1760, with whom they had been at war with for six years.
That story dovetails with the account of adventurer Alexander Henry, a British subject who came to the Straits, disguised as a French voyageur, “his face and hair smeared with dirt and grease to obscure his complexion. Henry was eager to engage in the rich fur trade of the region despite the very real possibility that the Ottawa or Ojibwa would kill him on sight.” Henry was held captive by the Indians following the massacre; his account of his journey with a tribe and life in winter quarters remains one of the most thrilling stories in the annals of Michigan history.
Dunnigan’s book is also filled with the observations of soldiers, artists and dignitaries who passed through the Straits, describing it variously as “a very lonesome place” with “40 houses all very badly built,” but also “a post of great consequence” and “The wildest and tenderest little piece of beauty that I have yet seen on God’s earth.”
Dunnigan is the head of research and publications and curator of maps at the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan. He is also the author of “Frontier Metropolis,” a widely hailed book on the founding of Detroit. His work, “A Picturesque Sitation”, combines the best of scholarship and art with the thrill of adventurous tales that are well worth repeating. Sum up his book and the beauty of the Straits with the words of Captain Dave Bates Douglass in 1820: “Nothing could be a finer subject for the pencil.”
 
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