Legend of the Crooked Tree

The Crooked Tree Petoskey

The Crooked Tree, photo by Robert Carter

Robert writes: Huge and ancient . . . this locally famous ‘Crooked Tree’ sits beside one of the roads near my home. “Crooked Tree”: “Crooked Tree Arts Center”, “Crooked Tree Breadworks”, “Crooked Tree Golf Club”, “Crooked Tree Septic Service”, “Crooked Tree This and Crooked Tree That”. This may not be the actual tree from which they take their names . . . but it is the most crooked tree I’ve come across in my travels, and it jumps out at everyone as they drive past.

Robert is correct that this isn’t the original. The Crooked Tree; Indian legends and a short history of the Little Traverse Bay region is available online and tells the story of the original Crooked Tree:

A tall, crooked pine tree overhanging a high bluff, served to designate what was probably the most important Indian village in the north, prior to the advent of the white man. “Wau-go-naw-ki-sa” the Crooked Tree could be seen for many miles by the occupants of approaching canoes. After rounding the northwestern extremity of what is now Emmet county, in the state of Michigan, on their way south, it was a familiar sight, and one that never failed to bring exultations of joy from the brave and daring Ottawas.

Just where the Crooked Tree stood we have been unable to ascertain; but tradition says it was in the vicinity of Middle Village of the present day. According to the legend it was bent by Na-na-bo-jo. Formerly it was straight, but as the great hunter and chieftain was climbing the hill one day at this point, with his canoe over his head, the end of the boat caught on the tree and gave him a bad fall. In anger he struck the tree a blow with his fist and bent it over. Where he hit the trunk a large swelling came out, and henceforward every knot or growth protruding from a tree was called “Na-na-bo-jo’s Fist.”

Read on for some cool stories from the area including some about the tree-punching Na-na-bo-jo!

View Robert’s photo bigger and see more in his My Petoskey slideshow.