Have you ever been stuck on a deserted island? No? I have. Well I wasn’t really trapped. I was in an intro to field biology class at the Central Michigan University Biology Station, and our adventure for the day was hiking Garden Island.
Garden Island is an uninhabited island in Lake Michigan. It is home to the largest Native American burial ground in North America. We took a boat from Beaver Island to Indian Harbor. First we walked to the Native American burial ground. Our instructor told us about how each family had a special symbol to signify where they were buried it could be as simple as a tipped tree with a scratch in it. You could tell the importance of some of the graves by the way they were decorated. More important people had huts built over their graves with stones sitting on them.
After we viewed the burial ground we walked to the North Shore of the Island. From the North Shore you could see the Upper Peninsula. We sat on the rock beach and ate our lunches. It was crazy to think that nobody had sat where we sat in years.
From the North Shore we decided to hike to Keewaydinoquay Pakawakuk Peschel’s house. She was a medicine woman that had lived on the island years ago, but passed away. People would travel to the island to learn from her. As we were walking to her house we heard music being played. This was strange because we were on a deserted island. Why is there music being played? As we got closer to her house we saw huts that people were clearly living in. When we got to her house there were about 5 people living near her house taking care of it.
The people were her descendants and live on the island during the summer to take care of her house. We asked them if we could look at her house and they let us. Above the door to her abandoned house there is a sign that says, “This is my heart’s home. If you’re shipwrecked or starving to death you are welcome to share whatever I have. If you are just out for fun please leave equipment and supplies as you find them. I need them to save my life. Megwitch.” We then thanked the people and continued back on our hike to Indian Harbor to be picked up by the boat to take my class back to Beaver Island.
This was such a cool experience to reconnect with nature. Our class didn’t take our cell phones, we were completely disconnected. Walking around in the quiet forest that hadn’t been touched in years was a great experience. That’s how Keewaydinoquay and her relatives want it to be. If you do head to the island leave everything as you find it. Do not take the Native American artifacts, it is their home and you need to respect it.
If you ever want to be stuck on a deserted island, head to Garden Island. Adventure is out there you just need to find it!
Emily Butko – YCC member