Northwoods Memories Multimedia Productions


A wonderful experience at the Beaverhouse pictograph site.

Monday, August 15th, 2011
submitted by: Bob Evans

Early last July we made a trip to the Beaverhouse pictograph site.  We had been there several times before.  But this trip was special.  As many of you know we made the commitment six years ago to revisit every pictograph site we had visited in the last few decades and to visit every known site we had not visited.  During the course of that incredible challenge, we have met some wonderful people who are interested in pictographs and the culture and religion of the people who put them there.  A few years ago we made contact with Jon Nelson and his wife Marie.  They were rangers in Quetico, first at the Beaverhouse entry and then at Cache Bay and finally at Prairie Portage.  After leaving the Ranger position, Jon reentered graduate school, completed a master’s degree in archaeology, and worked as an archaeologist in Quetico for some time.  He recently published an incredible book, Quetico: Near to Nature’s Heart.  That book is reviewed in an earlier post here.

Jon put me in contact with Glenn Nolan, who was also a Ranger at the Beaverhouse entry some time ago.  Glenn is Native American.  He first reported the pictograph image at the Beaverhouse site that is up high on the cliff and is multicolored.   It is a white and red image of a caribou.  When we first visited this site, we did not find the image.  On corresponding with Jon, he told me of conversations with Glenn that resulted in Edwina and I meeting up with Glenn and his wife, and Jon and his son and daughter-in-law at the Beaverhouse site. 

We put in on Beaverhouse early in the morning and paddled to the Ranger Station to check in.  By the time we arrived at the station, the winds were already coming up from the west.  When we headed west toward the site the winds were quite strong, whipping up some white caps on the water and the progress was slow.  What should have been an hours paddle was nearly 2 1/2 hours.  

On arriving we met Glen and his wife and Jon’s family for the first time.  We sat and ate lunch while visiting.  Glenn is a very interesting person, very knowledgeable,  and quite spiritual.  During the time when he was a ranger, he and his children came to this magnificent cliff to swim and explore.   It was a favorite place for them.  He told of exploring every ledge, nook and cranny on the rock.

In his time there he found the most interesting image.  It is painted with red pigment, but the white calcites in the rock were used as a part of the painting making it look multicolored.  Some of the white on the image may have been painted with white pigment.   As a result, it blends in to the rock colors more than most purely red images and is very difficult to see from the water.  Glen led me up the cliff  step by step by a vary large crevice in the rock.  As we progressed he pointed out that Marie Nelson had found birch bark scrolls in this crevice many years earlier.  With the several images here, this special image, and the scrolls, this had to be a very special place not only to Glenn but to the people of the area perhaps centuries before.

Glenn stood near the image, his right foot on a very narrow blade of rock, his left foot on a small ledge and extended his hand toward the image.  Of course, he did not touch the image.  As he stood, he told me that the painter of the image had to have stood in exactly this way to be able to paint the image.  Looking at the surrounding rocks, he had to be entirely correct.   As we talked it was obvious in his voice that this was a very special place to him.  He and I and Jon, who had climbed up with us talked for some time.

Additionally, there is a white area to the right of this image that appears from the water to be a very large white caribou.  Jon and I had discussed this area via email several times and I had sent him photographs of it.  Prior to our arrival to the site, Jon had examined the area, and he led me a few more steps along the cliff  to its edge.  On close-up exam, it is clearly made up of small white punctate lichens.  It clearly is not a white pictograph as has been suggested by many  over the years.

We returned to the water’s edge and talked for some time.  Glenn and his wife were returning to Atikokan from there, and Jon and his family and Edwina and I were going on to Quetico Lake searching out some other reported sites, different from the four known on Quetico Lake.  On bidding Glenn and his wife good bye, I thanked him for meeting us here and showing us his discovery.  His reply:

“I prefer not to think of this as a discovery.  It was given to me to share with others.”

Thank you Glenn for a very meaningful experience on Beaverhouse Lake.

More about this image will be included in the chapter on the Beaverhouse site in our book, which is being written at this time.  Keep track of its progress in the category “Pictograph Book Progress.”

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