MICHIGAMUA was founded in the fall of the year 1901 by a few members of the junior class of that year. One of the charter members, "Pontiac" Fred G. Dewey, wrote:
"On a night toward the close of the first semester a dozen or more juniors sat down for dinner in an already ancient hostelry, the Arlington Hotel. Then and there the aims were unanimously ratified and the choice of the formal details entrusted to committees.
"With the opening of the second semester the Tribe of Michigamua took its place among the campus organizations complete with Sachem, Wiskinke, and a Keeper of the Wampum. Names were bestowed on the braves to distinguish them from the palefaces. One of the redskins recalled a tune learned in the foothills of the Ozarks and to this were fitted the original verses of the Michigamua song. Critics have questioned the authenticity of the Indian music.
"A new Sachem supplanted the first at the beginning of the senior year and gave way to a third who sat at the head of the council table during the second semester. Meantime the idea took form that Michigamua must not perish from earth at Commencement but that the boon must be passed on in trust to others. Ten young bucks were chosen from the Class of 1903. Whitmore Lake was selected as the meeting place for the historic powwow. And there on a cloudless day in June the old braves enjoined on the young warriors observance of the tribal customs, intoned the chant for the last time, doffed the headdresses and passed on the great peace pipe."
The practice of initiating a certain number of the junior class to perpetuate the organization has been continued to the present day. The charter members of Michigamua were: Arthur Merritt Barrett, Philip Everette Bursley, Robert H. Moon, Frank William Copley, Richard D. T. Hollister, Merritt Charles McNeil, James Strasburg, William F. Temple, Claude Thorne Tuck, Henry W. Willis, John W. Woodhams, Fred G. Dewey, Chasen W. Brooks, Henry J. Brown, Arthur G. Browne, Harry S. Durant, Walter T. Fishleigh, Earl Heenan, Roscoe B. Huston, Dan A. Killian, Benjamin C. Loder, Ralph Van Deman Magoffin, Charles S. Matthews, George W. Maxey, Thomas G. Mayhugh, Lauren E. Mills, Hugh H. Parrish, George Fontaine Schmid, Daniel D. Schurtz, Herbert C. Smith, Neil W. Snow, Louis Nap. Udell, Stuart W. Utley, and Milo A. White.
With the passing of time and the ever-changing collegiate customs and ethics, in certain artificial ways the "Tribe," as it is called on the Michigan campus, has also changed — although it has fundamentally remained the same. For instance, election to membership now has more concrete rules of order than in the beginning. At first the "Tribe" was made up of a carefree group of friends who used to meet at the library every night to study and later ran a relay, among themselves on the campus, ending up with a party of cider and doughnuts at a local emporium or someone's room. Most of them were independents, and whether or not they were athletes or scholars made little difference — they were good fellows.
But the situation changed. The University enrollment began to break into the higher thousands and membership Page 1920into Michigamua came to be based on accomplishments on the campus. No longer did every student know every other student. In a sense, mass production of the automobile had pushed the horse and buggy out of the picture. Consequently, today, to become a "Brave" of the Tribe a "Paleface" must achieve prominence among his fellows in some particular extracurricular activity. If he is connected with athletics he must become captain or senior manager. If he works on any one of the publications he must win the business managership or editorship. Presidency or recording secretaryship of the Michigan Union, prominent office in the Interfraternity Council, editorship of the engineering Technic, scholastic honorary societies, etc., all of these activities at least put one's name before the student body and, consequently, the active "Braves" of Michigamua.
Now, although it is practically impossible to be elected to "Tribe" without some office or campus position, there is no hard and fast rule in this respect, and there are cases of "just plain good fellows" being selected to membership. Furthermore, attaining any one of the aforementioned positions does not assure the student that he will be selected. Essentially, and above all else, a young man chosen must be at heart a true Michigan man in the eyes of the initiating "Braves."
Other than students elected members of the faculty have from time to time been chosen as "honorary sachems" in recognition of long years of outstanding service to the University. Among such men have been R. M. Wenley, J. Bursley, F. H. Yost, H. M. Bates, M. L. Niehuss, and H. D. Crisler.
The actual initiation is called "Rope Day." Late in the spring the nucleus of the new Tribe are informed, individually, of their election by a personal midnight call of a band of "howling fiends" who throw the "young bucks" out of bed, pound them heartily on the back, and place in their hands a "birchbark," that is, the invitation. The next afternoon the "young bucks" gather to await the coming of the Tribe. In due time the "fighting braves" appear, daub the "young bucks" with red paint, throw them on the ground, tie them to a long rope by one hand, and force them to "duck-walk" across the campus to the Union, ascend seven flights of stairs into the Union Tower to the "Wigwam of Michigamua," slapping them upon their bare backs all the while. In the "Wigwam," a beautiful birchbark room, they formally become "Braves" of Michigamua and are given Indian names by which they are always known in connection with the Tribe. The "Wigwam" is decorated with paintings, hides, and items symbolizing Indian life.
Michigamua, as an organization, has representatives in every powerful group on the campus, and during the school year at its weekly meetings discusses conditions concerning the University. If the matter lies within its power Michigamua takes action to better the University in some small or large way — for example, in the establishment of the Michigan Union. Many other beneficial movements have had their motivation from the Tribe. But the name of Michigamua does not appear publicly. The "Braves" have always had the policy of working in the background through some other organization.
Thus, although Michigamua has changed, the same undying spirit of Michigan exists today as it did in the original "Tribe," and the members today might well be the same spirited group that pledged to one another: "The object of this tribe shall be to foster a spirit of Page 1921loyalty for our Alma Mater and promote good class fellowship…"