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Odawa Floral Star Quilts in Michigan

Northern Michigan is the ancestral home of the Anishinaabeg or the indigenous peoples of the Three Fires Confederacy. The confederacy includes Odaawaa/Odawa (Ottawa), the Ojibwe (Ojibwa/Chippewa) and Boodewaadami/Bodéwadmi (Potawatomi) peoples. Throughout the post-contact history of indigenous peoples in Michigan have made or used quilts which function in ways both similar to other cultural groups as well as in ways that have specific tribal or pan-Indian meanings and designs.

In 1985, the Michigan State University Museum launched a project to systematically document Michigan quilting history. At Quilt Discovery Days held around the state, community members brought in their quilts to be photographed and documented. At one of the earliest events, a couple brought in a quilt of a central Star design. It was similar but different from other Star pattern quilts in that the corner squares as well as the triangular shapes along each side were appliqued with boldly-shaped colorful flowers and leaves that clearly referenced the floral designs used by local Anishnaabek peoples in their beadwork. The owners knew little about the quilt except that it was thought to have been made by a Native American known as Anna (or Margaret) David. Within a month, another Star quilt made of similar fabrics and also with similar bold floral applique was brought to another Discovery Day. This quilt’s owner recounted that her father had acquired the quilt in trade for some goods, it had been made by an artist known only to the family as Mrs. Ogamahgegado, and that it was a cherished item, never used, and always referred to as the “Indian quilt.” Subsequent research on Mrs. Ogamahgegado revealed that she might also have been known by the English names of Catherine or Jenny Steele and that she lived in a settlement of Odawa known as Ahgosatown, located in the Michigan’s lower peninsula. David’s quilt was selected as the cover of the Michigan Quilts: 150 years of a Textile Tradition, a book that reported on the initial findings of the Michigan Quilt Project.

When James M. McClurken, co-author with James A. Clifton and George L. Cornell, of People of the Three Fires: The Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Ojibway of Michigan, was shown the two quilts he immediately said the floral designs quilts were typical of those that Ottawa used in porcupine quillwork and beadwork. McClurken’s authentication prompted a memory for Michigan Quilt Project director Marsha MacDowell. In the quilting scrapbook her own great-grandmother Alice Lane had kept and eventually gifted to her, MacDowell remembered a full-page photogravure which had a picture of a similar quilt being admired by judges at the 1938 Detroit News Quilt Show. As the caption read, using a demeaning term, “quilt made by an Indian [woman] squaw. Bright colors predominate and the combination of flowers and patches is interesting.”

MacDowell has continued the research on these quilts and has identified eight. Three are now in the collection of the Michigan State University Museum, one in the Shelburne Museum, and three in private ownership. The location of the one depicted in the Detroit News is unknown. In 2020, Minnie Wabanimkee, the grand-daughter of Susan Miller, the maker of one of the quilts, joined MacDowell on a quest to gather more information about this distinctive set of quilts and the women who made them.

- Marsha MacDowell, 2021

With appreciation to Susan Minch, Archie Miller, Frank Ettawageshick, Pearl Yee Wong, C. Kurt Dewhurst, Laura Quackenbush, Susan Salser, Lynne Swanson, and, especially, Beth Donaldson for their assistance in research.

NOTE: The discovery of the David quilt has led to many research, exhibition, and collection development activities by the MSU Museum team focused on Native quilting, including a major research and exhibition project To Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions conducted with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in partnership with many tribal museums, Native quilt artists, and Native arts organizations in the U.S. The MSU Museum now holds what is considered the largest collection of indigenous American quilts in the world.
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Native American Lone Star
Anna David, Odawa
Peshawbestown, Leelanau County, Michigan
c1912
Collection of the Michigan State University Museum acc.#6615.1

Anna David sold this quilt to Mrs. Richard Lay, who in turn passed it on to Elizabeth and Vernon Keye who donated it to the MSU Museum.

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Native American Lone Star
Margaret Ogahmahgegedo, Odawa
Ahgosatown, Leelanau County, Michigan
c1912
Collection of the Michigan State University Museum acc.#6814.1

The former owner of this quilt, Florence Lackie Hanes, writes that her father, Walter Lackie, acquired it "as a trade for some farm goods. Always treasured by the family, and never used [it is] just called the Indian Quilt." The quiltmaker was known to the family as Mrs. Ogahmahgegedo, but further research has revealed that she may also have been known as Catherine or Jenny Steele. She lived in a settlement known as Ahgosatown, located between Omena and Northport, Michigan.

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Native American Lone Star
Maker unknown, Odawa
Peshawbestown, Leelanau County, Michigan
c1912
Collection of the Michigan State University Museum acc.#2011:161.1

This quilt was brought to the MSU Museum in 2011. The owner only knew that the quilt had been passed down through her husband's family in the northwest corner of the lower penninsula of Michigan. Museum staff was able to identify it as one of the quilts made by Odawa school girls in Leelanau county. The family subsequently donated the quilt.

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Native American Lone Star
Susan Miller, Odawa
Peshawbestown, Leelanau County, Michigan
c1912
Private Collection

This quilt was made by Native American photographer and researcher, Minnie Wabbanimke's grandmother. Wabbanimke is currently researching these quilts and their origins with Marsha MacDowell.

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Native American Lone Star
Maker unknown, Odawa
Peshawbestown, Leelanau County, Michigan
c1912
Private Collection

We don't know much about this quilt other than it was documented by its owner, quilt historian, Sue Russel of St. Joseph, Michigan.

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Native American Lone Star
Maker unknown
Peshawbestown, Leelanau County, Michigan
c1912
Collection of the Shelburne Museum acc.#1988-16

This quilt is in the collection of the Shelburne museum. Curator Marsha MacDowell was able to help the curatorial staff at the Shelburne identify this as one of the Peshawbestown Odawa quilts.

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Another Odawa quilt was found in a rotogravure featuring the Detroit News Quilt Club Corner Quilt Show of 1938. The clipping is dated October 7, 1938.
The clipping caption reads, "Miss Alma Knudsen, Mrs. Frances Heintz and Mrs. Walter C. Pomeroy, judges, admired a quilt that was made by an Indian squaw. Bright colors predominate and the combination of flowers and patches is interesting."

MSU Museum staffer, Beth Donaldson, recreated and patterned the first quilt for the book Great Lakes, Great Quilts (C&T Publishing, 2001). Modern strip methods were used and there were enough diamonds left on the strips to make two smaller quilts.

 

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Native American Lone Star Reproduction
Beth Donaldson piecer, Kari Smith Rudisale, quilter
Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan
2001
Collection of the Michigan State University Museum acc.#TC2001:1

The pattern for this reproduction quilt appears in Great Lakes, Great Quilts. It was made using modern methods of rotary cutting and strip piecing.

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Lone Star
Beth Donaldson
Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan
2001
Private Collection

This quilt was made from leftover strips from the Native American Lone Star reproduction quilt.

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Lone Star Miniature
Beth Donaldson
Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan
2001
Private Collection

This miniature Lone Star used the last of the left over strips and a scaled down version of the corner and side triangle motifs.

  • Documentation Project

    Michigan Quilt Project

    Michigan State University

  • Museum

    Michigan State University Museum

    Michigan Quilt Project

  • Ephemera

    The News Annual Quilt Show Opens at Co...

    The Detroit News

  • ca 1920

    Lone Star with fl...

    David, Anna

  • ca 1912

    Lone Star with fl...

    Ogahmahgegedo, Marg...

  • c1910

    Lone Star

  • ca 1912

    Lone Star with fl...

    Miller, Susan

  • ca 1912

    Lone Star with fl...

  • 1901-1929

    Applique and Piec...

  • 2001

    Star of Bethlehem...

    Donaldson, Beth

  • 2003

    Lone Star with Fl...

    Donaldson, Beth

  • 2011

    Lone Star

    Donaldson, Beth

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