March 22 • 08:27 AM

Native Americans are part of Almont's past

September 16, 2009
A few weeks back I mentioned that the Indians had played an important part in Almont history. In Hildamae's book, "Almont…The Tale of Then and Now," she has a little story called, "Indians in Almont."

I will tell it to you in part.

The early settlers of Almont had many interesting adventures with Indians who frequented this locality. Mrs. Taylor, who lived on West St. Clair St., (the first house west of the creek on the north side of the road), had a frequent caller, an Indian squaw, who spoke very good English. After the tribes were pushed back far into the north, the squaw made her yearly trek to the Almont area to gather sweet grass to make her baskets. She always called on Mrs. Taylor who would serve her guest green tea along with something to eat.

These Indian squaws built the wigwams, sometimes in tepee shape, but more often in shanty shape. Using saplings for the framework, they would stretch over them the skins of bear, wolf and deer, turning the fur inside for warmth and tanning the outside until it was white and shining.

It was the white man who took the firewater to the Indian, causing his downfall. Almont at that time did not lack this liquid adventure.

The Almont brook, the north branch of the Clinton River, was much larger then, and the Indians called it Shus-hu-ga. (I digress for a moment. A branch of the Clinton River or, 'Shus-hu-ga,' I used to whisper its name, as it meandered across our "45" and then as it babbled at the edge of Don and Carol Heim's property where we lived until the flood of August 9, 09. That early morning it yelled obscene language at us as it rushed into our homes. I am now staying with Lee and Lynda near Mayville until the damage is repaired.)

There was a big willow tree on the south side of West St. Clair Street, near the brook, that should have been called 'The Indian Tree,' for it was the sacred meeting place for the Indians for many years on their yearly visits to Almont. Some of us old-timers remember that tree.

In the early days, there was strong evidence of a fierce battle having been fought among the Chippewas and the Miamis on lands southwest of Almont. I believe Elizabeth Halsey has a framed collection of arrowheads found on her father's property to prove it. Each Indian tribe had different arrowheads.

Another favorite Indian camping site was along Belle River 4 1/2 miles north of Almont, and white children frequently went to play with the Indian children in camp.

It was a common sight to see the Indian squaws come riding into Almont on their ponies each with a papoose strapped to her back and a big willow basket hanging on each side of the pony in which she brought beads, baskets, moccasins and other things to sell or barter for provisions and supplies at John Roberts' Trading Store (now Maria's restaurant).

The Indians were our friends and many times our foe but, they were only fighting for what was theirs; their land, their homes, their hunting ground to keep for their children.

I am reading a book that Lynda's United Methodist Women's Group has read. It is called "Giving Our Hearts Away—Native American Survival." The author is Thom White Wolf Fassett. Food for thought.

On the back cover we are told it is a short, straightforward narrative of the history of what is now the United States, from a Native American perspective. A story filled with pathos as unimaginable events unfold out of the clash of cultures and the competing ideologies.

—Country Cousin

Gertie Brooks, of Almont, has been a columnist for the Tri-City Times for over three decades now. Gertie's style of reliving days long past in her writing make her one of the Times' most popular columnists.
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