Study suggests evidence for Native American survival techniques in Great Lakes region

June 15, 2021

Randall SchaetzlRecent work along the Spoonville Peninsula in Southwest Michigan has uncovered what may be the most extensive collection of Upper Great Lakes cache pits ever to be excavated. According to Randall Schaetzl, a professor in the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences at Michigan State University, native peoples utilized these underground pits centuries before European contact to store food to increase their community’s chances for survival.

Schaetzl and a team of archeologists excavated a number of these pits along the Grand River in Ottawa County’s Crockery Township as part of a federally funded highway project in the region. Results from the project were recently published in the Journal of Field Archaeology by Schaetzl and co-author Michael J. Hambeacher and describe the area as “an environmentally strategic location for obtaining, processing and storing” locally sourced foods.

The team found evidence of cache pits in the Great Lakes region dating as far back as about the year 1000. “We think they were basically constructed by individual family groups” and were sized to hold sufficient foodstuffs, materials, and other goods, Hambacher said. “Each family probably had multiple storage facilities.” In addition, many caches in the region were constructed along trails and hunting routes due to the reliance on external resources by mobile hunter-gatherers.

For a more in-depth look at this work, see the article “Abandoned food caches offer evidence of Native American survival strategies” by Eric Feedman for the Great Lake Echo.