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

In Anishinaabe Pictograph Sites of The Canadian Shield, I provided an introduction to this series of posts on aboriginal rock painting sites.  Originally one long and unwieldy post, I have divided it up into individual posts for each of the provinces or U.S. state areas where the pictographs are found. This should make the search for specific sites much easier and faster. (N.B. Anishinaabe, Chippewa, and Ojibwe all refer to the same people. To top it off, there are a number of spellings of these terms!

Ojibwe controlled land in the early 1800's

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

All blue text leads to a map,  additional info and/or pix with a click.



Burnt Bluff (Spider Cave)

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



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 – SW 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 -cliff side petroglyphs  in 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, as well as 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.

Minnesota Rock Art Distribution 1997

Michael Furtman’s Magic On The Rocks: Canoe Country Pictographs (2000)  is available at 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

My copy of Furtman’s book is due to arrive in mid-December 2013 and I look forward to getting it. I have never visited the Boundary Waters/Quetico area but my newfound obsession with pictographs definitely 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


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

The above posts all 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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