Historian lectures to Ziibiwing Center audience about River Raisin battle

Ralph Naveaux would rather do research on his area of expertise than lecture about it.

Naveaux, a scholar and historian, has spent much of retirement researching his personally-driven interest in the War of 1812. On Saturday, Naveaux described the River Raisin battle in modern-day Monroe at the Ziibiwing Center, 6650 E. Broadway Road.

“We know a lot about the people who lived in the battlefield,” Naveaux said of Monroe residents who lived on the battlefield.

Naveaux said the Jan. 18 and 22 of 1813 battles near the River Raisin drove locals out of their homes. The British, he said, granted some of the refugees asylum in Canada.

Naveaux brought copies of his book, "Invaded On All Sides," which were for sale following his presentation.

Native Americans from various tribes fought on both sides during the war. Some militias also used African-American slaves, Naveaux said. Some of the questions from the audience probed the involvement of Native Americans, their period dress and the impact of the war on Native Americans.

Willie Johnson said the lecture fit perfectly within the parameters of the center’s purpose: to fill in the gaps of the community’s knowledge and serve as a platform for discussion.

“The first significant point is the fact that he’s a new friend,” Johnson said. “Being able to reinforce the work that Anita’s done with Ralph is a good thing. It brings education to our little neighborhood.”

Anita Herd is the research coordinator at the Ziibiwing Center and has worked with Naveaux in the past.

Johnson said he met Naveaux in Monroe during dinner Sept. 28. Johnson brought up the idea to Naveaux about speaking at the Ziibiwing Center. Naveaux, who seldom lectures, agreed to the opportunity.

“If people enjoy it – great,” Naveaux said. “If not, that’s too bad.”

Naveaux said he wrote the book because he felt compelled to write it. He is a direct descendent of those who lived in the battlefield during the War of 1812, he said. He grew up in Monroe and was always surrounded by the history of the three-year war. Musket balls and buckshot, as well as house cellars, are still being found in the River Raisin National Battlefield Park to this day.

Naveaux said the audience brought up questions about certain points that he seldom, if ever, thought about before.

“Those folks asked a lot of great questions,” Naveaux said. “It opens up new areas that you want to research.”


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