November is Native American Heritage Month and last year, the Archives of Michigan featured one of Michigan’s most famous Native Americans, David Shoppenagon.
Shoppenagon’s birth date is unknown. He died in 1911 and was generally believed to be about 103 at the time! He was a Chippewa from the Saginaw River Valley who settled in Grayling sometime in the 1870’s. Locals believed him to be a chief. However, the Grayling Centennial history (The First Hundred Years: An Introduction to the History of the Grayling Area, edited and published by the Grayling Centennial Commission, 1972), notes that Shoppenagon himself may have never claimed such a title.
“Old Shop,” as he was affectionately known, built a home at the mouth of the Au Sable River’s east branch. He gained wide renown as an expert trapper, hunter and fisherman. Whites often hired him as a guide, and his services were greatly in demand.
The Grayling Centennial history characterizes Shoppenagon as a man who knew the value of promotion. It’s noted that he frequently dressed in Native American regalia to impress his clients. The Grayling history also states that Rasmus Hanson, a local lumber baron, had an arrangement with Shoppenagon and used his image to sell his products. During his long life, Shoppenagon contributed greatly to Grayling area commerce and to general awareness of the Northern Lower Peninsula’s abundant natural resources.
You can read the rest of Shoppenagon and get some links to resources for Michigan Native American history (including the Clarke Library at Central Michigan University) at the Archives and also check out the Michigan Historical Marker at the Shoppenagon home site in Grayling from Waymarking.