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Northern Michigan's Crooked Trees

September 16, 2016

Two seemingly simple words used to describe a tree. But in northern Michigan you often hear them used a little differently. There is an arts center, library, and even our golf course is named after the term.

What you may not know is Crooked Trees were actually developed and used as navigational tools by Native Americans. A line of intentionally deformed trees was used to keep travelers going in the right direction from Mackinaw City to Grand Rapids. The Ottawa and Cippewa tied down the limbs and cut out the central trunks of young saplings, rendering them useless to lumbermen looking for straight timber.

Tribes all over eastern North America used this method to mark important trails and often were used to designate important gathering places as well. Greensky Hill, in nearby Charlevoix, is one such place and can still be visited today. Peter Greensky, a Chippewa chief and minister, planted a circle of crooked "council trees" in the mid-1800s where other Native American leaders and chiefs could meet in peace and discuss tribal issues. If you are interested in learning more, John C. Wright originally wrote and published "The Crooked Tree: Indian Legends and a Short History of the Little Traverse Bay Region" in 1917.

Directions to Green Sky Hill and the Crooked Trees