Beaumier exhibit to feature Lewis Cass expedition

With help from the Northern Michigan University swimming and diving team, the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center installs a 30-foot replica voyageur canoe on loan from the La Compagnie Historical Society of Minnesota. It will be the centerpiece of the Center’s new exhibit, “Claiming Michigan: the 1820 Expedition of Lewis Cass.” The center expresses its appreciation to Heidi Voigt, head coach of the swimming and diving team, and her student-athletes for helping in the endeavor. (Photo courtesy of Isabelle Fritz, NMU communications and marketing)



Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — The Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University opened a landmark exhibition on the 1820 expedition of Lewis Cass on the Great Lakes today.

The exhibition, “Claiming Michigan: the 1820 Expedition of Lewis Cass,” will feature dozens of images, excerpts from journals, detailed narrative information and large format maps.

There will be an opening reception at 1 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres and light beverages. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public.

“I think it’s something that a lot of people don’t have a memory of,” Beaumier Director/Curator Dan Truckey said. “It’s an expedition that took place 203 years ago.”

However, Truckey called it an important expedition.

“It really was the first sanctioned American expedition to the upper Great Lakes region and into what was known as the Michigan Territory at the time,” he said.

Even though it was technically part of the United States due to British treaties, Americans hadn’t really claimed it, he said.

“That’s exactly was Lewis Cass was doing,” Truckey said. “He was meeting with the Native American tribes and identifying or saying to them, ‘OK, we’re the new masters here. This is now our land. You’re going to answer to us.'”

The trip, he noted, also paved the way for further treaty negotiations.

According to NMU, in 1820, the governor of the Michigan Territory, Lewis Cass, and 35 companions participated in an expedition from Detroit to the farthest limits of what would become the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Everything they experienced had already been seen before by the region’s indigenous people and early European explorers, and without the assistance of their Anishinaabe guides, they would never have traveled to all the places they visited.

“In the end, the point of the expedition was not to discover but to claim the region for America and make their presence known,” NMU said on its website. “Less than six years after the War of 1812, America’s hold on the region was still tenuous. Along the way, they studied the landscape to determine what resources might benefit the United States in the future. Little did they or anyone else know the lasting impact this journey would have on the Great Lakes region, which within the next 30 years would see a boom of American settlement.”

NMU noted that individuals who are part of this story include Henry Rowe Schoolcraft; Shingabowossin, chief of the Ojibwe at Bahweting-Sault Ste. Marie; Ozhaguscodaywayquay (Susan Johnston); Charles Trowbridge; and David Bates Douglass.

Determining the natural resources available in the region, including the Upper Peninsula, was another purpose of the expedition, Truckey told The Mining Journal.

“They wanted to know what the landscape was because they had heard about the great riches and mineral resources — in particular, copper — but the coastlines and the landscape had never really been studied by the government, by proper geologists, in their minds,” Truckey said.

Schoolcraft, a mineralogist, had the task of studying rocks or formations to identify whether there was copper or another metal, he said.

The mode of transportation in the expedition, in fact, also was notable.

Truckey said the expedition traveled by canoe and not by ship to study rivers, lakes and shorelines.

“That was why it was an important expedition, but the aftermath was that it paved the way for settlement and exploitation of the U.P., Wisconsin and Minnesota’s natural resources — its lumber, its copper, its ores — and the impact that had on the indigenous people was pretty huge,” Truckey said.

People might have to come away with their own ideas regarding the expedition.

“What I tried to do with this exhibit was just to put the facts out there,” Truckey said. “I didn’t try to draw any conclusions and that, but I do show that these things had a negative effect on the Native Americans of the region, obviously, but also the environment of the region was devastated by the settlement. Of course, billions of dollars were made, and the cities we live in are here because of that.”

The Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center is located at the corner of Seventh Street and Tracy Avenue. For more information, call 906-227-1219 or visit www.nmu.edu/beaumier.

The exhibition will be open through Jan. 27. Open hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 550. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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