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Michilimackinac is derived from an Odawa name for present-day Mackinac Island and the region around the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.[1] Early settlers of North America applied the term to the entire region along Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior.[2] Today it is considered to be mostly within the boundaries of Michigan, in the United States. Michilimackinac was the original name for present day Mackinac Island and Mackinac County.


Overhead view of the Straits of Mackinac linking Lakes Michigan (left) and Huron (right)

The area around the Great Lakes had been occupied by succeeding cultures of indigenous peoples. At the time of European contact, the Native American nations of the Ojibwa (called Chippewa in the United States), along with Odawa, inhabited the area. The French were the first Europeans to explore the area, beginning in 1612.[3] They established trading posts and Jesuit Catholic missions.

One of the oldest missions, St. Ignace Mission, was located on the north side of the strait at Point Iroquois, near present-day St. Ignace, Michigan. This mission was established in 1671 by the Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette. The area was already known to the Odawa as Michilimackinac, meaning "Big Turtle".[4] Later, it was called "Old Michilimackinac" or "Ancient Fort Mackinac".[3]

The French later established a fort and settlement on the south side of the strait. It was called Fort Michilimackinac. The fort became a major trading post, attracting Native Americans from throughout the northern Great Lakes. After Great Britain defeated France in the Seven Years' War (French and Indian War), their colonial forces took over the fort and territory.[5]

Fort Michilimackinac fell to an Ojibwa attack during the Native American uprising of 1763, sometimes called Pontiac's War.[5] It was reoccupied by the British in September 1764. In 1780, during the American Revolution, British commandant Patrick Sinclair moved the British trading and military post to Mackinac Island, which was held by the British for some time, and abandoned Fort Michilimackinac after the move. After the rebel Americans gained independence in the Revolutionary War, this site became part of a territory of the United States.

Today, Fort Michilimackinac is preserved as a tourist site. Re-enactors portray historic activities of the French and English. An archeological dig at the site is open for viewing.

Political control of the Michilimackinac area[edit]

Term start Term end Commander Name Picture Forts and missions in the Michilimackinac area Missionaries, explorers, and tribal leaders in the Michilimackinac area Regional Governor (dates)
1671 1683 New France did not have a post yet. St. Ignace Mission Jacques Marquette (1671–1675), Louis Jolliet (1673–1674), Father Henri Nouvel, "superior of the Otawa mission" (1672–1680 with a two-year break in 1678-1679, and again from 1688 to 1695.) Governor General of New France -- Daniel de Rémy de Courcelle (1665–1672), Louis de Buade de Frontenac (1672–1682), Joseph-Antoine de La Barre (1682–1685)
1683 1690 Olivier Morel de La Durantaye St. Ignace Mission Father Henri Nouvel "superior of the Otawa mission" Joseph-Antoine de La Barre (1682–1685), Jacques-René de Brisay de Denonville, Marquis de Denonville (1685-1689)
1690? 1691? François de la Forêt (Tonty 2nd in command)[6] St. Ignace Mission Father Henri Nouvel "superior of the Otawa mission" Jacques-René de Brisay de Denonville, Marquis de Denonville (1685-1689)
1691? 1694 Louis de La Porte de Louvigné Fort de Buade and St. Ignace Mission Nicolas Perrot (1690–???) Louis de Buade de Frontenac (second term) (1689–1698)
1694 1696 Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac Fort de Buade and St. Ignace Mission (abandoned by 1705) Étienne de Carheil 1686–1702 Louis de Buade de Frontenac (second term) (1689–1698)
1696 1714 (Post abandoned by New France in favor of Detroit) St. Ignace Mission Father Étienne de Carheil 1686–1702. Kondiaronk "Le Rat" / Chief of the Hurons. Father Joseph Marest (1700–1714) Louis-Hector de Callière (1698–1703) Philippe de Rigaud Vaudreuil (1703 to 1725)
1715 Constant le Marchand de Lignery Fort Michilimackinac Philippe de Rigaud Vaudreuil (1703–1725)
1722 1725 Constant le Marchand de Lignery Fort Michilimackinac Philippe de Rigaud Vaudreuil (1703–1725), Charles le Moyne de Longueuil, Baron de Longueuil (acting governor 1726)
1729 ??? Jacques-Charles Renaud Dubuisson Fort Michilimackinac Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois (1725–1747)
1730 1733 Jacques Testard de Montigny Fort Michilimackinac Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois (1725–1747)
1738 1742 Pierre Joseph Céloron de Blainville [7][8] Fort Michilimackinac Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois (1725–1747)
1744 1744 Monsier de Vivchevet [9] [10] Fort Michilimackinac Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois (1725–1747)
1745 1745 Louis de la Corne, Chevalier de la Corne[11] Fort Michilimackinac Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois (1725–1747)
1745 1747 Nicolas-Joseph de Noyelles de Fleurimont [9] [12] Fort Michilimackinac Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois (1725–1747)
1748 1750 Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre[13] [14] Fort Michilimackinac Roland-Michel Barrin de La Galissonière (1747–1749)
1750 1750 Monsieuer Duplessis Faber [9] Fort Michilimackinac Jacques-Pierre de Taffanel de la Jonquière, Marquis de la Jonquière (1749–1752)
1753 1753 Louis Liénard de Beaujeu de Villemonde [9] Fort Michilimackinac Michel-Ange Duquesne de Menneville (1752–1755)
1754 1754 Monsieur Herbin Fort Michilimackinac Michel-Ange Duquesne de Menneville (1752–1755)


  1. ^ Blackbird (1887), pp. 19–20.
  2. ^ Strang (2005), p. 1.
  3. ^ a b Strang (2005), p. 3.
  4. ^ Nichols, John D.; Nyholm, Earl (1995). A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  5. ^ a b White (2010), p. 287.
  6. ^ Clarence Monroe Burton; William Stocking; Gordon K. Miller (1922). The city of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922. The S. J. Clarke publishing company. pp. 103–.
  7. ^ Kelton (1889) pp.2–
  8. ^ http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/celoron_de_blainville_pierre_joseph_3E.html "in 1738 captain. He received the latter rank a few months after his appointment to the command at Michilimackinac. ... he was awarded the cross of Saint-Louis in 1741. The following year he was transferred from Michilimackinac to command at Detroit."
  9. ^ a b c d Kelton (1889) pp106-108
  10. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=N1AVAAAAYAAJ&lpg=PA150&ots=JAifvw3qc9&dq=DUPLESSIS%20FABER%20%20Michilimackinac&pg=PA150#v=onepage&q=DUPLESSIS%20FABER%20%20Michilimackinac&f=false "Mackinac: Formerly Michilimackinac" By John Read Bailey p150
  11. ^ http://www.mifamilyhistory.org/mimack/military/EarlyMilitary/officerindex.asp?MackinacMilitaryOfficersPage=1
  12. ^ http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/noyelles_de_fleurimont_nicolas_joseph_de_3E.html "When in 1744 Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye, uncle of Mme de Noyelles, lost the privilege to exploit the fur trade while exploring a route to the western sea, the governor granted it to Noyelles. The latter too soon learned with his associates the hindrances to trade: warfare between the far western tribes and the Sioux, scarcity and high cost of trade goods during the War of the Austrian Succession, and high overhead in transporting furs and merchandise over long distances. He concluded that further search for the western sea was futile. In 1746 Noyelles submitted his resignation; it was accepted the following year by the minister, who was convinced that Noyelles had neglected exploration for trade even more single-mindedly than his predecessor. Noyelles had returned to Quebec in 1747"
  13. ^ http://www.mifamilyhistory.org/mimack/military/EarlyMilitary/officerindex.asp?MackinacMilitaryOfficersPage=1
  14. ^ http://users.usinternet.com/dfnels/legarde-zip.htm "In 1747 he became the Commander of Fort Michilimackinac & involved in the Second Sioux Company until 1749. His next command was"


  • Blackbird, Andrew J. (1887). "Earliest Possible Known History of Mackinac Island". History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan. Ypsilanti, MI: Ypsilanti Auxiliary of the Woman's National Indian Association.
  • Kelton, Dwight H. (1889). Annals of Fort Mackinac. Detroit Free Press Printing Co. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  • Strang, James Jesse (2005) [1854]. Ancient and Modern Michilimackinac, Including an Account of the Controversy Between Mackinac and the Mormons. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Library. Retrieved June 11, 2006.
  • White, Richard (2010). The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815 (Anniversary ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]