The nearly eight miles of motorless highway circumnavigating Mackinac Island is set to get an update this spring. The Native American Cultural Trail features six individual panels discussing the history and impact of Native Americans on the Great Lakes.
“Native American history and culture was not something we were actively interpreting a great deal on Mackinac Island,” said Phil Porter, Mackinac State Historic Parks Director. “We hope these informational panels will educate the public and provide perspective about the pre-contact history, trade, culture and more.”
The panels were drafted by Director of Archives and Records for the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians Eric Hemenway with help from Mackinac State Historic Parks staff and were installed by Mackinac Island State Park operations staff.
The Mackinac Island State Park Commission approved the project in late July 2015 and fundraising through Mackinac Associates began soon after.
“This is perfectly aligned with what Mackinac Associates is meant to do,” said Diane Dombroski, membership coordinator for Mackinac Associates. “Our members were so excited about and generous with this opportunity that we were able to exceed the goal.”
In addition to the panels, the areas next to the roadway where they are located have been landscaped and include benches and areas for bicycle parking.
“Biking around the perimeter of the island is a popular activity, but with three-quarters of a million people or more coming to the island every year it can get congested when visitors stop to take photos or admire the scenery,” said Porter. “Hopefully the convenience of these bike parking areas will decrease some of that congestion while simultaneously offering an important educational experience.”
The panels and areas surrounding them were designed to blend with the natural surroundings so as to not be obtrusive to the island’s natural beauty. Utilizing locally familiar products like cedar and limestone help the panels and parking areas blend into the environment.
“We were thrilled to see such terrific support for this worthwhile project,” said Porter.” This formalized interpretation of centuries of Native American culture on Mackinac Island will go a long way in promoting both enjoyment and understanding of the island’s rich history.”
The trail was officially dedicated in 2016. It is open all year.
Click here to view a map of the locations of the trail spots around the island.