This small village, first settled by Euro-Americans in 1850, is at the head of the bay by the entrance to Les Cheneaux. Like its larger neighbor, Cedarville, Hessel grew in the 1880s from a loose settlement of Indian fishermen into a lumber port with a post office. In spring logs were floated here to be loaded onto lumber schooners.
The 1930s WPA guide describes Hessel as having a "simple, unstudied charm." The guidebook points out, "In earlier days, Hessel found winter the busiest season, when the air was vibrant with the noises of lumbering activity; now it is summer that brings excitement to the village, and the turning of the leaves signals the closing of at least half of its houses. On several points of land nearby, marking the sites of Indian villages, is the Indian grass, long and tough-fibered, that was worked with split ash in basket weaving, giving a peculiarly sweet, characteristic odor to the baskets."
There's long been an Ojibwe community around Hessel. Today the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa has built its smallest Kewadin Casino (484-2903) on Three Mile Road north of town, not far from the tribe's development of ranch homes. Les Cheneaux doesn't have the tourist traffic that typically goes with Indian gambling. The third weekend in August, the low-key HESSEL POWWOW (906-484-2298) held by the casino features hoop dancing, fancy dancing, youth, men's, women's, dances to honor the dead, and many more. The Grand Entry for each round is held at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. All are welcome to join in the intertribal dancing, with or without native ancestry. Vendors and food booths.