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Father Marquette Cemetery History

Hessel, Clark Township, Mackinac Co., Michigan

Old Indian Cemetery.

Source: History of Les Cheneaux Islands by Frank R. Grover published 1911 - pgs. 76-78

On the banks of the mainland, opposite Marquette Island, between Les Cheneaux and Pensylvania hotels, at the location known for many years as "Patrick's," is an old Indian cemetery, used for more than a generation by the Indians of Les Cheneaux. In the early days, before the advent of saw mills, each grave was roofed over with bark, ad the later, within the memory of the writer, with boards.  These little roofs over the graves, were but one to two feet in height and in every instance open at the gables, following the Ojibway custom, as described by Schoolcraft and other writers, for the purpose of protecting the departed from storms, and by leaving the gables thus opened to permit the spirit at the appointed time, to take its proper flight in a westward journey toward the Pacific ocean to the permanent abode and happy hunting grounds provided by the Great Spirit for all worthy (and so far as can by ascertained, unworthy) Indians. It is also said by the same writers, that Ojibway burials on account of the supposed western location of this paradise were almost invariably made with the body facing the west but they fail to explain why the gables of the little roofs of these final earthly abodes were left open at both ends. It certainly would be unfair to our present Indian neighbors to suggest that possibility of spiritual flight in the wrong direction by any of their ancestors.

In this little cemetery, in sight of his former home across the channel on Marquette Island, reposes the dust of Chief Shab-wa-way. For several years, Indian burials have not been permitted in this cemetery, as the Indians failed to obtain title to the land, or to legally establish cemetery rights. Many of the graves have been obliterated.

It would certainly be an appropriate proceeding to preserve this land mark, at least, by erecting a monument, marking the site of the old chief's grave.

Although a digression, it may here be noted that among the Hurons there was the same myth as among the Norsemen - that the Milky Way formed the spiritual bridge across which departed souls reached this same immortal and coveted goal, while the souls of dogs took another route, by certain constellations, known as the "Way of the Dogs," possibly the origin of our own folk lore expression "going to the dogs." (Sagard Voyage des Hurons, p. 233.)

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