Viewing the Michigan Petroglyphs

I recently had the opportunity to visit the historic site of the Sanilac Petroglyphs in MI.  As some of you may know, my husband and I have been hunting for petroglyphs in the Southwest, but this is our first time to see some so close to home!  Another item to cross off our bucket list 😉  And it’s a good thing we did.  According to park rangers, they may be gone in the next 20-30 years 😦

In case you don’t get a chance to see them–although I recommend that you do–let me take you on a little tour!  The stories our guide shared were so interesting and made the trip out there even more worth it.  After all, you can’t really tell what some of them are, as they’re getting worn away by the elements.

To start, the one at the top of this page is called Bow Man and is believed to represent a hunter.  As the story goes, he’s receiving the wisdom of the ages and shoots the knowledge into the future.  Cool!


As you can see, the one above is almost completely indistinguishable.  Luckily, our guide provided the replica below.  It’s a carving of a very cool creature–a sort of Underwater Panther guarding the underworld and controlling the sea, sometimes even causing storms.

In contrast, we have the underwater panther’s counterpart or rival–The Thunderbird–or master of the powers of the air.  They’re opposing forces that also serve to counterbalance each other.

My personal favorite is this carving of a sea turtle.  There’s a famous Native American creation myth suggesting that part of the Earth grew from a bit of earth on the back of a great turtle until it became an island.  Eventually the turtle held the new world on its back.  Some say it created the entire continent of North America.  The Ojibwe tribe call the turtle spirit Kitchi-Manitou.  There’s also a similar legend native to Mackinac Island about a turtle called Makinauk.

The final petroglyph that I would like to highlight is the Night Walker.  The upside down Y makes up his legs and body.  If you look very carefully, you can even see a small child to his left being lured away by the Night Walker.  Watch out!

It’s fun to see a piece of history carved in stone.  For an artist like myself, it’s especially gratifying to be able to view some of the world’s first drawings.  I hope preservation efforts will prevail and these gems will last forever.  But just in case, you might want to make your way over to Cass City and view them while you can!




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