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For related terms, see Mackinac (disambiguation).

Michilimackinac is a name for the region around the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Early settlers of North America applied the term to the entire region along Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior.[1] 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 County.


South–facing overhead view of the Straits of Mackinac linking Lakes Michigan (right) and Huron (left)

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 (or Chippewa), along with Ottawa, inhabited the area. The French were the first Europeans to explore the area, beginning in 1612.[2] They established trading posts and Jesuit Catholic missions.

One of the oldest missions, named St. Ignace (St. Ignatius), 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 village around the mission became known as "Mackinac" or "Michilimackinac". 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.[4]

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.

Sinclair abandoned Fort Michilimackinac. 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.


  1. ^ Strang, James Jesse (1854). Ancient and Modern Michilimackinac, Including an Account of the Controversy Between Mackinac and the Mormons, p. 1 [n.p.]
  2. ^ Strang 1854, p. 3.
  3. ^ Strang (1854), p. 3.
  4. ^ Richard White, The Middle Ground, 287.
  5. ^ Richard White, The Middle Ground, 287.


  • White, Richard (2010) [2010]. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (Anniversary Edition). New York: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Psenka, Charles J (2008) [2008]. Michilimackinac. Leelanau, Mich.: SBTC. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 

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