Anishinaabe Pictograph Sites of The Canadian Shield introduces this series of posts on Indigenous rock painting sites. Originally one long and unwieldy post, I have divided it into individual posts for each province or U.S. state area where the pictographs are found. This will make the search for specific sites easier and faster.
(N.B. Anishinaabe, Chippewa, and Ojibwe all refer to the same cultural group, speakers of one of the Algonkian languages. There are many different English transliterations of these names; spellings will vary!
While I initially focussed just on the Canadian sites, it seemed a waste not to upload info on the U.S. sites that came up in my research. You’ll see below the start of what I hope will become a more comprehensive list of sites. Any contributions from readers of this post would certainly be welcome.
I know, I know! Pardon this Canuck, eh! … not really a border state!
Check out the excellent web resource provided by the University of Wisconsin’s Mississippi Valley Archaeology Centre at La Crosse. It has descriptions and images of pictographs and petroglyphs from the following Wisconsin sites –
Gullickson’s Glen – S.W. Wisconsin rock shelter with petroglyphs
Hanson – petroglyphs on sandstone outcrop on a ridge overlooking the Kickapoo R. Valley
Indian Cave – petroglyphs
Larson – cave with petroglyphs
Running Deer -cliffside petroglyphs in the Twin Bluff area
Samuel – cave/rock shelter with both pictographs and petroglyphs – found in 1978
Tainter – “most comprehensive set of prehistoric paintings in the Upper Midwest”
Twin Bluff – petroglyphs on the rock face – thunderbird figures predominate
Viola – rock shelter petroglyphs
Not mentioned by the U of Wis. site but also of interest is the following –
While these sites are actually out of the Canadian Shield area and not the work of the Chippewa people who moved into the lower Lake Superior area after 1600 C.E., it is interesting to see the presence of similar motifs and mythological concerns. While the Thunderbird is a central figure in the worldview of the Anishinaabe, it is also found in west coast cultures like the Nootka and in Lakota Sioux myth. The drawing above is of the thunderbirds depicted multiple times on that Twin Bluff rock face!
An excellent summary article –“Visions In Stone: The Rock Art of Minnesota” by Mark J. Dudzik in The Minnesota Archeologist (1995 – 54 (Omnibus Issue):98-108), is available here. Dudzik lists the fifty-five known sites scattered across the state and Includes the map below showing their general locations. It indicates fifteen pictograph sites and a couple of petroglyph sites in the Shield portion of the state along the border with Canada.
Michael Furtman’s Magic On The Rocks: Canoe Country Pictographs (2000) is available on the Amazon site, where you will find the following description of the book’s focus-
“Scattered across the Boundary waters and Quetico, left by its native people on canvases of stone, are hundreds of enigmatic paintings. Generations of canoe country travelers have wondered what these mysterious drawings might mean. Now, in this book, award-winning author Michael Furtman presents a comprehensive guide to the canoe country’s known pictographs and provides insight into the artists’ visions and the traditions that spawned them. Complete with maps and directions to dozens of sites, and the most accurate reproductions of pictographs to date, Magic on the Rocks is an indispensable tool for those who would respectfully visit the sacred sites of a wise and ancient culture.”
I have yet to visit the Boundary Waters/Quetico area, but my newfound obsession with pictographs gives me one more reason for making the journey from Toronto. Furtman’s book will be somewhere in the dry pack!
BWCA forum – a long thread on various pictograph sites – interesting reading – see here.
Burntside Lake – animal and human picto figures
Granite River – indistinct pictograph
Kekekabic Lake – human figure… map here
Lac Le Croix (near Beatty Portage) – animal and human picto figures
Lake Polly – geometric pictograph
Nett Lake – animal, human, and geometric petroglyphs
Red Rock Lake – animal figure pictograph
Rocky Lake – geometric pictograph
Seagull Lake – indistinct pictograph
Anishinaabe Pictograph Sites In Ontario as well as specific posts on
- The Pictographs of Little Missinaibi Lake
- The Pictograph Sites of Missinaibi Lake: Fairy Point & More
- The Pictographs of Wabakimi’s Cliff Lake -Part One: Selwyn Dewdney Takes Us on A Tour
- The Pictographs of Wabakimi’s Cliff Lake – Part Two
- Selwyn Dewdney, Norval Morrisseau, and the Ojibwe Pictograph Tradition
- The Anishinaabe Rock Paintings of Agawa Rock
- Anishinaabe Pictographs On The Bloodvein: The Murdock-Larus Site
- Anishinaabe Pictographs On The Bloodvein: The Artery Lake Site
- Revisiting Temagami’s Diamond Lake Pictograph Site
- The Pictographs of Mazinaw Rock: Listening For Algonquian Echoes
- The Ojibwe Rock Paintings of Killarney’s Collins Inlet
The above posts deal with pictographs “painted” with a hematite powder/fish oil mix. The post below details perhaps the Canadian Shield’s largest collection of petroglyphs – i.e. images carved into the rock face.