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Odawa Traditional Jingmatok
and Tribal Naming Ceremony
Antrim County, Michigan
Few people today are old enough to remember the Ottawa Indian village three miles north of Elk Rapids at the tip of Elk Lake. White people called it Indiantown. The Indians called it Wekwagamaw, which very loosely translated means "the bay at the end of the lake." There used to be a sign with that name on it to mark the site, but that's gone now and so is the village, although two or three Indian families still live in the neighborhood. Nobody knew how long the village had been there. But there were Ottawas in Michigan long before Columbus "discovered" America. And since the village lay on a branch of the Mackinaw Trail, paleo-Indians probably camped there for several thousand years.
In February 1884, the Elk Rapids Progress reported the death of Kewaydin (North Wind) chief of the band at Wekwagamaw, after whom the present village was named. Nobody knew the chief's age, either, but he must have been crowding 100 if it was true, as he said, that he had served against the British under head chief Aishquagwonaba in the War of 1812, participating in the massacre of River Raisin.
Kewaydin was the greatest hunter and trapper in the region. Regularly each spring he would show up with a pack of furs twice as large as anyone else's. Kewaydin was also a witch doctor and sorcerer. In his medicine chest were the skins of eight species of snakes, plus toads and lizards, and a stuffed beaver, which he said, upon being fed the "bad medicine" made from the crawly things, would snort fire from its nostrils and scoot along the floor.
The chief's word was law. For people he wished to punish he had a hex that never failed. He'd draw a picture of the offender on birch bark, then smear an arrowhead with the "bad medicine" and stab the point of it into the heart or head of the culprit's image, thus killing or driving him crazy. But the chief was a benevolent dictator and only exercised such powers when the nature of the crime warranted. His people feared him, but they also liked and respected him.
Kewaydin had a traditional Indian funeral with "modern" trimmings. He lay neatly dressed in an open coffin along with artifical flowers, his hunting knife, a small quantity of corn for seed in the spirit land, two extra white linen collars in case the one he wore became soiled on the expected four days' journey, cotton cloth for a tent, and most curious of all, a long leather strap with a hook attached. The latter was for use for scaling the walls of the "celestial city" if he was refused admittance.
With regard to the strap and hook for climbing the walls to heaven, the Elk Rapids Progress story had this to say: "There is many a man deems himself among the elect who would do well to imitate this custom, for many will need a longer strap than poor old untutored Kewaydin."
From GHOST TOWNS OF MICHIGAN - Vol. II, by Larry Wakefield . Used with permission.
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