Even in the pre-pioneer days, many of the native people who lived in the Upper Peninsula migrated south just like some folks do today. Only back in the 18th Century, the native people left a lot earlier in the season than their counterparts of today and did not travel as far south. On about August 20, 1763, a family of Ojibwa that Alexander Henry was living with near the Straits began heading south to their wintering grounds in the Lower Peninsula.
Henry lived with this tribe because the chief, Wawatam, had befriended Henry and saved his life earlier that summer. The tribes of the area, upset with British take-over of the Great Lakes region, attacked Fort Michlimackinac at the Straits massacring the English. Henry was saved by Wawatam and lived in hiding with the chief's family for much of the next year. As they worked slowly south on foot, the family took lots of water fowl and beaver. Henry later wrote that he eventually became "as expert in the Indian pursuits as the Indians themselves." As the fall of 1763 passed, Henry reflected on how, â??if his mind had not entertained a lingering hope of one day returning to his former life, he could have enjoyed as much happiness in this as in any other situation.â??
Wawatamâ??s family migrated south to the â??River Aux Sablesâ?? near present day Ludington. Henry stayed with them there through the winter. They hunted and stored meat and furs. Then just after the â??moon of the crusted snowâ?? in February, the family began making preparations to head back north. Along the way, they took time to gather maple sugar and came to the Straits again in late April.
Henry spent the years between 1760 and 1776 in the Upper Great Lakes area. He pursued fur trading and mining in the area and later wrote about his adventures. Even though he came close to death at Michlimackinac and experienced other hair-raising adventures in the Lake Superior wilderness, he lived well into his 80s and died peacefully at Montreal â??esteemed by all who knew him.â??