Many people know that Native Americans once lived in the Flat Rock and Brownstown area. But that is where the knowledge usually ends. Follow this mini-series to learn more about our area’s Native American history.
The Native Americans that lived in downriver area where known as the Wyandots. The first known contact of the Wyandots was by the French, in October of 1535. They were in the town of Hochelaga, which is now Montreal. It is said that there were about 30,000 to 45,000 Native Americans in the Wyandot and related tribes. After this meeting, the Wyandots decided to move west, into Michigan.
Unfortunately, there was much death in the Wyandot tribes in about 1634 to 1640. War, along with a smallpox epidemic brought by explorers from Europe, brought the number of Wyandots down from almost 45,000 to only 10,000.
The next mention of the Native Americans isn’t until July 1701. The French planned to have peace with the Native Americans, thus allowing them access into Iroquois-controlled territory. They decided to build Fort Pontachartrain du Detroit, and Sieur Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac invited the Wyandots and Ottawas to move to the new fort. These two tribes move from their homes in Michilimackinac and Manitoulin and settle outside of Fort Detroit.
The Wyandots and Ottawas came to the aid of the French, when in May of 1712, the Fox tribe attacked Fort Detroit. It is said that the Wyandots were able to draw many Foxes away from their camp and cut them to pieces in the long lasting fight. Unfortunately, there were many casualties on both sides.
The Wyandots were reported to have the “most industrious nation that can be seen.” In 1718, they were only three furlongs, or 3/8s of a mile, from Detroit. They successfully grew corn, peas, beans and wheat.
In 1728, the Mission of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Among the Huron was established in Detroit. Jesuit Father Armand de la Richardie leads the Mission. There was much hostility within and outside the Fort, because many were opposed to the Jesuits. This included some Native Americans and some French. The Jesuits first arrived in North America through Canada, in 1625.
The Wyandot decided to migrate south during 1730. Some stayed at Detroit, while others decided to settle on the south shore of Lake Erie. They gradually took over the area between the Great Lakes and the Miami River. This takeover gave them great influence on the the council of the Six Nations.
Not till the 1780s are there reports of people in the Brownstown area. Stay tuned for the history of the Wyandots in the 1800s.
All information was collected from the report, The Emigrant Tribe by Larry K. Hancks, located on the website, wyandot.org and loose notes from the Flat Rock Historical Collection in the Flat Rock Library.