Quetico Park Pictographs
Wouldn’t it be neat to be paddling along a rock cliff in the Quetico Park and discover a new pictograph? Michael Furtman describes doing just this in his book called, "Magic on the Rocks; canoe country pictographs." Pictographs are an amazing thing to see and when the water is low like it is this year I can’t help but wonder if any undiscovered pictographs have been revealed and are waiting to be discovered.
Pictographs are paintings that tell a story and link the past to the present. There are 28 known sites in the Quetico Park and they are primarily red in color. The red color is from red ochre(rusted iron ore) mixed with some sort of bonding agent, perhaps bear grease or fish oil. This mixture has proven to be far better than any paints created today since some of the paintings could be 500 years old or more.
The pictograph closest to us is located right in Cache Bay, just a 20 minute boat ride and less than an hour paddle away. Mike and Abby went to see the pictograph site when they were in the Quetico Park last month. Before they went to the site they talked to Janice, the Cache Bay Ranger, about the pictograph. She told Mike and Abby about the Native American paintings and how they are sacred to the Ojibwe people. Abby listened in a trance like state as Janice continued to say some people believe in leaving an offering as was often done in the past, usually an offering of tobacco.
The pictograph in Cache Bay could mean a variety of things. There are two canoes each with many passengers. There are also what appear to be three Maymaygwayshi, leprechaun like people who were capable of good and evil. Janice has a story about a possible battle that was fought near Silver Falls that this pictograph could be depicting. It could be telling a story about any type of journey, whether it be physical or spiritual. In any case it represents a story from the past that we are lucky to be able to see.
Abby enjoyed visiting the pictograph site, even though she did get a little "freaked out." When you see a message left from long ago it is difficult to not feel some of the magic that Michael Furtman describes in his book. There are some who believe pictographs should not be photographed but Abby assured me her offering of a Dorito chip would make it ok.
The next time you plan a canoe trip be sure to include a visit to a pictograph site. When visiting sites please do not touch the paintings because oil from your skin could cause the pictograph to deteriorate. If you have some spare time this fall then come on up and see if you can discover your own magic on a rock.