More than fifty years before the General Allotment Act relocated western Native American tribes in Oklahoma, the Treaty of 1836 and Treaty of Washington (1855) effected similar relocation of Native Americans within Michigan. In the Treaty of 1836, the Chippewa Indians ceded two-thirds of the land in Michigan to the United States. In northern Michigan alone, 3.8 million acres of territory changed hands. The treaty paved the way for Michigan to become a state one year later. Following the Treaty of 1836, federal authorities planned to relocate Native American tribes in the ceded lands in Michigan to reservations west of the Mississippi River. When this proved to be impossible, the authorities decided to set aside reservation lands within Michigan. In 1855, the Treaty of Washington designated 148,000 acres of Leelanau County as a reservation. Native Americans from around Northern Michigan settled on the peninsula, including Chief Aghosa in the Omena area, Chief Waukazoo in the Northport area, and Chief Peshaba, who relocated his tribe from Emmit County to Eagletown, now known as Peshawbestown.
At the same time that Chief Peshaba’s tribe began settling in the area, Catholic missionaries arrived from Sault Saint Marie. In the coming decades, Native Americans lost most of the land on the Leelanau Reservation. The reasons that historians offer are varied, from non-payment of property taxes, to difficulties that Native Americans had complying with administrative rules, to outright trespass by white settlers. By 1930, only 130 acres was still owned by Native Americans.
The area tribes formed the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa Indians to petition the federal government for recognition under the Indian Reorganization Act. They were denied recognition multiple times through the early and mid-1900s. In 1980, however, the federal government formally recognized the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians as a sovereign nation.
Today the tribe occupies 1,100 acres of territory scattered throughout the northwest Lower Peninsula. About 600 acres of this land sits within Sutton’s Bay Township. Peshawbestown itself is only twelve acres, most of which is occupied by the tribe’s most recognizable landmark and single largest source of income, Leelanau Sands Casino Resort.