The first known settlers of Cross Village were members of the Odawa Native American tribe, who were in search of better land for farming. Members of the tribe came South from the Upper Peninsula, and picked the area near Cross Village because of its suitable terrain to grow corn. The Odawa established a small village here in the late seventeenth century, and called the settlement Waganakisi.
Before the Odawa came, the very first people to call Cross Village home were the Moscoutens, a Native American tribe whose name means, “The Little Prairie People”. Very little is known of the Moscoutens, or their time spent along Lake Michigan. By the time the Odawa arrived in Cross Village, the Moscouten tribe had moved south toward Little Traverse Bay. The Moscoutens eventually moved farther south, near present-day St. Joesph, possibly after an attack by the Odawa in Cross Village. Little is known of these events, only that the Odawa became the dominant tribe in the area by the turn of the eighteenth century.
The original Odawa village was located on the shore below the bluff, and quickly grew because of the success of the corn harvests. The natives built wigwams along the shore, and according to a French traveler, one could walk along the coast 18 miles, from present day Cross Village to the north end of Little Traverse Bay, and never lose sight of at least one wigwam. The frame of the wigwams consisted of saplings, bent and fastened together at the top. This frame was then covered with bark or animal skins, which provided substantial cover, even during the winter months.
The Waganakisi village prospered for many years, although the arrival of Europeans greatly impacted the Odawa. The Odawa welcomed French traders and missionaries, and converted to Catholicism when the Jesuits arrived. In 1763, the French gave up all possessions in North America as part of the Treaty of Paris, to the disappointment of the Odawa. The tribe greatly disliked the British, who now controlled all of the Great Lakes region. Around 1770, a smallpox epidemic brought by the British killed almost half of the inhabitants of Waganakisi, further adding to the animosity between the village and British.
The Odawa were able to rebound from the devastating smallpox outbreak, and by 1781 the village contained over 750 people. Around this time, the Odawa chief moved the village from the shore to the bluff, where present-day Cross Village is located.
A model Odawa wigwam, which were scattered along the coast near Cross Village