Washtenaw County's historic preservation program is dedicated to supporting local historic districts, spurring heritage tourism, and attracting investment in our historic resources.
First Peoples have lived in the area we call Washtenaw County for many years. The name Washtenaw combines the Chippewa words waushte and nong, meaning “the land beyond.” Tribes living in the area include the Pottawatomie, Ottawa, Sauk, Foxes, Mascoutens, and Chippewa (also known as the Ojibwe). Additionally, the Iroquois Nations moved west into Michigan after Europeans inhabited New York and Pennsylvania.
Early European settler accounts provide us with some First People village locations. Native American trails frequently became roads used by early settlers, and many are still roads today. The Burns-Stokes Preserve in Scio Township is located along a prehistoric Native American trail which connected to a village east of the Preserve. There are records of European settlers interacting with First Peoples along this road into the mid-1860s.
First Peoples’ diets varied seasonally and were dependent on availability of local sources. Both men and women would collect food throughout the year by hunting and gathering. They would hunt game such as deer, rabbits, squirrels, and fish. They also hunted larger game like bear, caribou, and moose. In addition to using animals for a food source, First Peoples used every part of the animal for clothing and tools leaving nothing to waste. Tribes also cultivated corn, squash, rice; and collected wild berries and fruits.22 Many of these food items could be dried or smoked for use during leaner months.
The recipes below belong to various First People groups, and many ingredients can be found when in season today. Look out for Midwestern wild rice, Michigan berries, vegetables, maple syrup, and pumpkins at local farmers’ markets or co-ops. Some local farms also sell meat, and during the fall hunting season many Michigan families provide venison to family and friends. These recipes, adapted from Celebrating 300 Years of Detroit Cooking 1701-2001, have been passed down in oral tradition, and do not include measurements. Though this lack of specific direction is strange for us, recipes including measurements are a recent phenomenon. As each generation taught the next to cook, their children learned measurements through personal experience.
Wild rice Fresh cranberries Water Fresh blueberries Fresh raspberries Maple syrup Cook rice and cranberries together in water until rice is done. [See rice package for directions] Mix in berries and maple syrup. Can be eaten warm or cold.
1 cup wild rice 3 cups of water Mushrooms 1 small onion Other vegetables Venison chops or steaks Bacon strips In a small roasting pan, mix wild rice with water, mushrooms, and other vegetables. [You decide how many mushrooms and vegetable you want to use in the recipe] Place venison chops or steaks on top. Layer sliced onion and three strips of bacon over the venison. Ingredients will look watery; moisture will steam off in the cooking process. Cook covered in pan on top of the stove or in a medium-hot oven (~400°F) until the rice and venison are done – about an hour.
1 pumpkin, seeds and pulp removed Broth or water Wild rice Bake the pumpkin by placing the pumpkin face-down on a baking sheet and roast in a 400°F oven until fork- tender. Cook wild rice in water or broth, and place cooked rice inside the pumpkin. [See rice package for amount of broth/water needed to cook the rice. General rule of thumb is two cups of liquid to one cup of uncooked rice.] Serve the stuffed pumpkin whole and scoop out rice and pumpkin flesh at the table. Variation: Add chopped meat to the rice. This recipe pairs well with game dishes.
Sources: Humes, Marguerite J., Celebrating 300 Years of Detroit Cooking 1701-2001. Detroit Historical Society Guild, Detroit, MI, 2001. Native American History in Michigan: Introduction. Accessed 26 August 2015. http://www.umich.edu/~bhlumrec/programs_centers/artsofcitizenshipprogram/www.artsofcitizenship.umich.edu/sos/topics/native/index.htm. Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission. Native American Trails Historic Marker (2009). (Cover Photo Source: Angela J. Cesere, AnnArbor.com, http://www.annarbor.com/news/dexter/burns-stokes-preserve-a-popular-site/ )