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Michigan's First People

Two Paleo hunters stand on a rocky tundra-like bluff in the Michigan Historical Museum atrium's entrance.Paleo-Indian peoples probably came into North America from Asia by crossing the Bering Straits from Asia to Alaska. Although few in number, Paleo-Indians traveled widely. They followed the herd animals that they depended upon for food and for skins and hides to make clothing.

They first arrived in Michigan about 12,000 years ago. Archaeologists call these people "Paleo-Indians," which means "ancient Indians." Paleo-Indians in Michigan hunted big game animals like caribou. They may have hunted mammoths and mastodons, too. They were able to kill these large animals using spears. They made distinctive, beautifully-shaped stone points from stone to tip their spears.

They were skilled at making stone tools. They made stone knives for butchering, scrapers for This display case features types of stone and a map showing where they were found. preparing hides and wedges for splitting bone and wood. A certain type of stone called chert, used in making tools, was obtained from outcrops throughout the Great Lakes region, either by trading or by visiting the quarries.

They made bone and antler tools, such as needles and awls. They used these to make clothing from the skins of the animals. The Paleo hunters (above, right) are wearing clothing made from caribou skins.

They also gathered many different kinds of plants they found growing wild. They ate blueberries, cranberries, cattails and the inner bark of certain trees. They brewed vitamin-rich teas from leaves of junipers, hemlock trees and other plants. They used their skills at hunting animals and gathering food to feed and clothe their families.

   

New Plants, New Animals

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