The Washagesiks Return
Tuesday, July 28th, was a busy day at the Beaver Island Historical Society's Print Shop Museum. Don Cross arrived from Alpena to look into his grandparents, for whom Cross's Landing is named. Then the mayor of Manistique came in to see if there were many historic connections between her Upper Peninsula town and Beaver Island, now that the Beaver Island Boat Company is considering weekend runs there with the Beaver Islander. Next it was the film crew from Lynx Productions in Toronto, who are in the process of making a video and a book on Mysterious Islands of the Great Lakes.
After lunch, Louise Kane (Cornstalk) stopped in to say goodbye after her ten day vacation here. She ran into her cousin, Agnes Bird (Washagesik), who had come from Nevada with three of her daughters who live in California. Louise, who was born on High Island, turned out to be a cousin of Agnes, 83, who was born on Garden Island.
Agnes and her daughters came to investigate their roots. Her parents died when she was just a baby, and she was raised by an aunt, who gave her the family name of Bird. When she was six, she was sent (with her aunt, Amelia, and her brother Enos and sister Alice) to the Indian School in Harbor Springs. Up to that time, she had not spoken a word of English, but the nuns in Harbor Springs forbade her to speak her native tongue.
She never lived on Garden again, but she returned from Harbor Springs for the next seven summers to Beaver Island, living with an aunt on Freesoil Avenue. She recalls that the Sheriff had the only car, a Model T. On some years, Father Dorothea from Harbor Springs convened a 3-day campout for Indians on Garden Island, and although she saw many of her friends, she did not return to the home of her youngest years.
When she was thirteen, she was sent to the Indian School in Mt. Pleasant. From there it was off to Santa Fe for two years of arts and crafts, which concluded her education. After that, she began her adult life. Now she has come back, hoping to stumble on cues to an expanded memory. To help this process proceed, she brought two dozen old photographs, which she has allowed us to scan and post. Taken together, they depict a flourishing Native American community, of which little trace or memory remains.
Click Here for the journey to Garden Island to rediscover Agnes' childhood home