Michigamua Tribe of '35. Ford is the third row down on the far right column. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library


In a January 1935 letter to the Michigamua tribe, Dr. Harold Hulbert (tribe of ’14) wrote, “Congratulations to the Tribe and to Tapping and Ford.” With this line, he confirmed what the tribe had done in December 1934 by initiating through a special ceremony the University’s star football center, Jerry Ford, into Michigamua.


Using the tribe’s own terminology, Ford was elevated from “pale face” to “young buck” and was made a member of one of the University’s prestigious honor societies. The Michigamua Tribe met in the “Wigwam,” a room in the top of the Union’s tower.  The room was adorned with animal skins and mounts, Native American artifacts, and outdoor gear.


The "Wigwam" in the Union. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.




Traditionally, the tribe selected about 25 second-semester Juniors whom they judged to be loyal and prominent students who would bring credit to the University. In the Spring semester those students would be “tapped,” or notified, of their selection and undergo initiation rites. Tribesmen were expected to undertake service projects that would benefit the University but that would bring the student no public credit.


Ford’s selection was unique, coming after the “Tribe of ‘35” already had been assembled. No reason is offered as to why he was invited as a late addition. But he was given his tribal name, “Flippum Back Ford” (because as a center, he flipped the football to the backfield), and he supported Michigamua’s efforts to find jobs for athletes and award letters to cheerleaders.