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Sanilac landmark endangered by exposure, vandals

Cass City— The archer appears at one end of the sandstone outcropping — carved into the soft rock as a lesson to future generations. For members of the Anishinabek Tribe, this interpreted symbol, known as Ebmodaakowet, is a promise to pass on wisdom and knowledge to the following seven generations.

Here at the Sanilac Petroglyphs, hidden in the woods outside Cass City, the archer is one of the most easily distinguished symbols left behind by Native American tribes hundreds of years ago.

Several feet away, much more recent carvings stand out as well. In one spot, the name “Amanda Emory” has been cut into the rock. Close by, there is also “R.C.,” “E.W.S.” and “W.V.” These are some of the numerous additions by vandals who apparently wanted to add their own touch to Michigan’s only known Native American rock carving.

This one-of-a-kind site still has the ability to awe, inspire and educate. But years of exposure to the elements, human traffic and intentional abuse have taken their toll. Figures that were once easily discernible now require real effort to make out, while others are on the verge of disappearing. And attempts by government, private and native groups to find a way to preserve and protect them have been stalled by politics.

"There is only one petroglyph (site) in this state and that is the Sanilac Petroglyphs," said William Lovis, a professor of anthropology at Michigan State University. "It is unique and important, and it needs to be protected." Read more.

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