People of Detroit:
The Ouendots (aka Wyandots and Hurons)
The presence and influence of Native Americans in the Great Lakes region is worthy of a site all its own. The same could be said of many of the individual tribes. The purpose of this site is to present a history of Detroit from the time of European settlement, I would be remiss to not include information on Native Americans, but I feel I must stress that the quantity of information here in no way reflects the presence or contributions of these indigenous peoples. As with all areas in this site, if you feel something needs to be added to corrected, please .
"Huron" comes from the French word, "hure", which roughly translates to "bristly". The French gave this tribe the name because of their characteristic "bristly" hair. According to the Detroit Historical Museum, these Native Americans referred to themselves as Ouendot or Wyandot. Burton says that at one point the Hurons began calling themselves Wyandots. I will use the term Ouendot and hope to not offend anyone.
Samuel de Champlain found a Ouendot settlement near the Georgian Bay on the east coast of Lake Huron in 1615. He estimated the settlement to consist of 30,000 people in 18 villages. The Jesuits immediately built a mission there.
In 1649, a the Iroquois attacked and destroyed the mission at Georgian Bay. The Ouendots, abandoned the mission and took up residence with the Erie (another Native American tribe). In 1656, the Ouendots were again brutalized by the Iroquois. The Ouendots again fled, this time to Christian Island, then Michilimackinac, and finally, to Green Bay.
Jesuits recorded a Ouendot settlement on Mantoulin island in 1670. In 1671, Father Marquette founded the mission, Point St. Ignace, on the same island.
On June 28, 1703, thirty Ouendot families arrived at Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit, having traveled from St. Ignace. The Ouendots were described as the "most faithful nation to the French". They were also very susceptible to conversion by the Jesuits as it seemed a safe haven from the Iroquois.
In 1728, Father Armand Richardie established a Ouendot (Huron) mission on Sandwich Point, across the river from Detroit. The Ouendots moved their village to an area near Mission House where they enjoyed more profitable trade and a more peaceful lifestyle until tensions arose between them and their former allies, the Ottawa.
For many years, the Ottawas and Ouendots lived in harmony in the area surrounding Fort Ponchartrain. Every year, they would make an annual trek to the Mississippi Valley where they would wage war on another tribe, the Tete Plattes. One year, a Ouendot warrior was captured by the Tete Plattes, who nursed him back to health and sent him back to his own people. The Ouendots were moved by this gesture and decided to stop waging war on the Tete Plattes. They tried unsuccessfully to get the Ottawas to also cease the yearly battle. The following year, when the Ottawas set out on the war path, the Ouendots sent a runner to warn the Tete Plattes. The Ottawas vowed revenge on the Ouendots, who fled to the Ohio River Valley. Still not safe, the Ouendots move to Bois Blanc (Bob-Lo) island in 1744. They lived on Bois Blanc for 5 years with Father Pierre Potier. When the Ottawas were finally ready to give up their revenge seeking n 1749, the Ouendots moved back to Mission House.
In The City of Detroit, Clarence M. Burton says that a portion of the Ouendots settled at Fort Ponchartrain moved to the area of Sandusky, Ohio in 1745 as a result of the current French commandant's (Longueuil?) conflicts with Ouendot Chief Orontony (Nicholas?). He goes on to say that while in Sandusky, Orontony made plans to attack the French posts at and north of Detroit. His plans were ruined when a Ouendot woman told a Jesuit priest of them. Orontony destroyed the Sandusky settlement and built a new one on the White River in present day Indiana. When Orontony died in 1748, the other Ouendots returned to Detroit and Sandusky (Burton says that this is when the tribe changed their name from Huron to Wyandot. Since "Huron" is somewhat derogatory, it is likely that these people never used it to seriously describe themselves).
The Ouendots claimed a large portion of what is now Ohio. In 1815, they were granted a large parcel of land in present day Michigan and Ohio as a result of their support of the English during the War of 1812. In 1819, the land was ceded to the US in exchange for a reservation on the Ouendot River near Detroit, and another one near Upper Sandusky. In 1842, the reservations were sold and the Ouendots were moved to Wyandotte County, Kansas. In 1867, they were moved again, this time to the "Indian Territory". Later they were moved yet again, this time to a reservation in the northeast corner of Oklahoma.