Wah Sash Kah Moqua nature preserve opens in Arenac and Bay counties
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ARENAC COUNTY — A new nature preserve has opened in the Arenac and northern Bay county area.
The Wah Sash Kah Moqua Nature Preserve opened on Tuesday, Oct. 4, with a dedication ceremony at the preserve’s main entrance on County Line Road, two miles south of Worth Road.
According to Frank Cloutier, spokesperson for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, the preserve covers approximately 129 acres of land.
The land for the preserve was acquired by the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy through the United States District Court, said Greg Eagle, land protection specialist.
“The court contacted us to see if we wanted to take ownership of the land after a land owner had to forfeit the land based on a negative impact they had on the area,” he said. “We took control and made it a preserve.”
Eagle said the project took five years to complete and over 40,000 different trees and shrubs were planted inside the preserve. He said the preserve is split into three parcels.
“The parcels are laid out in a map like a set of stairs, with three connecting corners,” he said. “One parcel is in Arenac County while the other two come southwest into Bay County.”
The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy currently maintains 10 preserves in the Saginaw Bay region, including five in Arenac County in the Standish and AuGres areas.
Eagle said the Wah Sash Kah Moqua Nature Preserve is expected to increase wildlife activity and habitat. Outdoorsmen will have the opportunity to hunt and fish in the preserve as long as they follow Department of Natural Resources rules.
“They won’t be allowed to camp or make fires inside the preserve,” he said. “But as long as they follow the guidelines of the DNR they are fine.”
The preserve is named after Mary Sagatoo, who married a member of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. She was given the Ojibwa name Wah Sash Kah Moqua, which translates as, “There was darkness but your coming brings light.”
According to Sagatoo’s obituary from the March 19, 1914 issue of the Arenac County Independent and courtesy of the Arenac County Historical and Genealogical Society, “Mrs. Sagatoo' s life has been one for the betterment of humanity and in her passing the world loses a good woman.”
The obituary reads that Sagatoo was raised in Massachusetts, but moved west after meeting Joseph Cabay, a member of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.
“Putting the luxuries and comforts of her eastern home behind her, she started for her new home in the wilderness with her Indian husband,” it states.
Cloutier said naming the preserve after Wah Sash Kah Moqua was appropriate because of whom she was as a person.
“Mary embodied everything the preserve stands for,” he said. “She was a person with strong moral values, and (she) loved Mother Nature.”
Sagatoo also published a book in 1897 titled “Wah Sash Kah Moqua, or, Thirty-three years among the Indians.”