I'm not someone who would call herself a "hiker" per se. However, I do enjoy a great nature trail especially as the weather starts to cool down in Autumn. Plus, the changing leaves make for such a gorgeous background.

Now, in Kalamazoo alone we have an abundance of nature trails, nature preserves, and so on. But, are you aware of the ties to Native American history in those trails? It's something I just learned today.

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I stumbled upon this link to Thumbwind.com while scrolling through the Facebook group, Michigan History. The caption on the post read, in part,

For thousands of years, Native Americans crisscrossed Michigan on a system of trails that were in tune with the land and so perfectly placed that the routes are still in use today by our highways and state roads.

The site, thumbwind.com, went on to say that the paths weren't even created by the Natives but rather traveling bison herds.

What Was the Purpose of the Trails?

To put it simply...trading. Many of the trails would be used for seasonal hunting, fishing or even the collection of maple syrup. Those good would then be traded along the route or at the Detroit Straights which seemed to be a gathering point for many different tribes.

Are The Trails Still Active Today?

I assumed that these trails had most likely been destroyed or paved over as things like this usually are in the history of America. However, I'm happy to say that I was wrong.

The 'hub' seemed to have been located in Detroit with different trails stemming out towards every part of Michigan. Although they may be driven on instead of walked, here in the lower part of Michigan we currently still have:

  1. St. Joseph Trail. The St. Joseph Trail goes from east to west and, today, is shared with I-96.
  2. Saginaw Trail. This was a north to south trail that extended from the Straits of Detroit all the way to Traverse City. Now, the trail starts at the Detroit River and runs down Dixie Highway through Flint all the way to Saginaw.
  3. Cheboygan Trail. The Cheboygan trail, today, follows much of M-33 to the Mackinac Straits.

And those are just a few of the 12 Native American Indian trails that can still be traced in Michigan. See the full list here.

If you're more of a visual person, here's a quick video telling a brief history of the trails throughout Michigan:

I'm still unclear if you can actually walk along any of these trails but, the next time you find yourself driving down a stretch of highway just know that you may be traveling down a path once used by Native American Indians.

Read more about Michigan's Native American Trails here.

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