Chippewa Pictograph Sites of the Border States (Michigan, Minnesota; Wisconsin)

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!

Ojibwe controlled land in the early 1800's

Ojibwe-controlled land in the early 1800’s – see here for source

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. 

Michigan

Wisconsin

Minnesota

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Michigan

Burnt Bluff (Spider Cave)

Burnt Bluff – another post here.  The pictographs seem pre-Chippewa, but how old is open to debate.

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Wisconsin 

I know, I know!  Pardon this Canuck, eh! … not really a border state!

line drawing of Twin Bluff Thunderbird petroglyphs

line drawing of Twin Bluff Thunderbird petroglyphs – source: Mississippi Valley Archaeology Centre website –  URL here

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 –

Wisconsin River (Gottshall Rockshelter) see here for an interpretive study by R. Dieterle.

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!

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Minnesota

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.

Minnesota Rock Art Distribution 1997

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.”

Magic On the Rocks - Michael Furtman

Magic On the Rocks – Michael Furtman

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

Crooked Lake – see here for the article “The Picture Rock of Crooked Lake” and here for discussion and pix

hand, canoe, and possible human and animal figures, as well as smudges

Fishdance Lake -map here; unenhanced version of pictograph here

Granite River – indistinct pictograph

Jordan Lake – animal and human pictographs – See  BWCA Messageboard posts here and here

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

North Hegman Lake

Red Rock Lake – animal figure pictograph

Rocky Lake – geometric pictograph

Seagull Lake – indistinct pictograph

Pipestone Quarry

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Related Posts:

Anishinaabe Pictograph Sites of the Canadian Shield

Aboriginal Pictograph Sites In Quebec

Anishinaabe Pictograph Sites In Ontario  as well as specific posts on

Anishinaabe Pictograph Sites In Manitoba

Indigenous Pictograph Sites In Saskatchewan

Petroglyphs…

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.

The Peterborough Petroglyphs: Building Over An Algonkian Ritual Site

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7 Responses to Chippewa Pictograph Sites of the Border States (Michigan, Minnesota; Wisconsin)

  1. Joseph Havens says:

    If you haven’t been you should visit the Sanilac petroglyphs in Michigan it’s located in the thumb in Sanilac county. Its a large sandstone formation that protrudes from the ground in a bulge and is covered in petroglyphs. Well worth seeing if your in the area.

    • true_north says:

      Joseph, thanks for the recommendation. Definitely sounds like something worth checking out. I’ll add the info to the post to alert other interested readers.

  2. Mustang_Dude68 says:

    I saw the “Burntside Lake – animal and human picto figures” as a kid. I remember it was on an island, but cannot remember which one. Do you happen to know how I may be able to locate it again? Thanks! T.

  3. Jim says:

    Well, Wisconsin’s not technically a border state, but it may as well be. A lot of similarity between Wisconsin/Minnesota/Michigan. I might even say that it’s the most Canadian-like part of the US.

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