The Long Walk and the Trail of Tears are often referenced as egregious examples of forced Native relocation, but many people are not aware of what happened in Michigan in 1900.
On October 15, 1900, the Burt Lake Band lost their reservation land base as well as a government-to-government relationship with the United States. The band’s land was illegally seized by a local militia that burned down their homes. Tribal members—mostly women, children, and elders, since the band’s men had left for the day—were forced to sit atop a few of their belongings in front of their houses and watch as a land speculator, with support from a sheriff, his deputies, and locals, doused tribal homes in kerosene and burned the community to the ground, sparing nothing but the church.
It was pouring rain, leading to some members getting pneumonia and a beloved elder passing away. The Burt Lake Band was then forced to march out of their treaty-protected reservation and find refuge wherever they could. To remain close to their homeland, the core of the community later reconstituted on nearby Indian Trail (now Indian Road), where relatives resided, and the tribe remains today.
Bruce Hamlin, the tribal chairman of the Burt Lake Band, says that attending the opening night of Future Cache was “surreal,” and he was awed by Carlson’s creation. “It was such an impressive piece of work. I was a bit blown away at first just to hear about it.” Hamlin is hopeful for more collaboration with the university and other partners in the future but is also grateful for what Future Cache has done for the tribe. “The Burt Lake Band’s story has never received this kind of exposure,” he says.