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A New Service on Our Website: Canoe Country Encyclopedia

Thursday, April 14th, 2011
submitted by: Bob Evans

News Flash: We are announcing a new service on our website: Canoe Country Encyclopedia.
For about 35 years we have been taking pictures in Quetico and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and for nearly 20 years we have been video taping in Canoe Country. We are now adding a section to our website that will be in encyclopedic form that will use a large number of carefully edited video clips, audio segments, and photographs. We are also expanding this multimedia approach to current pages of our website. Extensive cross referenced links will help you move around our site to gain the maximum possible information.
The initial page of the Encyclopedia will be uploaded in a few days and will be the starting point. As soon as it is on line and tested, we will begin formatting it into pages for ease of reference in anticipation of its rapid growth into many hundreds of entries.
Have you ever wondered what the Ranger Cabin on Kahshahpiwi Lake looked like before it was burned? Would you like to show others what the “bathtub” in Lousia Falls looks like? When you talk to your friends about what a portage is like do they look back at you with a blank stare? Well now you can show them short clips of some of the portages you have carried your canoe and pack over.
If you have never been to Canoe Country but are contemplating a trip you can scan the encyclopedia to learn about the area. If you have made a trip or two, you can learn about other areas and skills, or show your friends and family what your trip was like. If you are a long term paddler in Canoe Country, we hope you will be able to scan through the entries to find clips or photos of that bring back wonderful Northwoods Memories.
Join us in trying out the new Northwoods Memories Canoe Country Encyclopedia. We will appreciate your suggestions and comments here on the blog about the new entry.

Dean Bushey: An Excellent Guide from the Ely Area

Monday, August 30th, 2010
submitted by: Bob Evans

Earlier this summer my wife and I needed to take a particularly difficult trip to visit the last few pictograph sites about which we knew, and we had very little time to make the trip.  One of the pictograph sites, Swartman Lake, involved a long bushwhack trip along a route about which we knew little.  From there we would travel up the East Agnes River to Kawnipi to check out a pictograph site we had discovered two years ago and then on to Montgomery Lake and the Montgomery Creek site.  And we had to do the entire trip in six days, as that was the only time available. 

We elected to hire a guide to provide some extra paddling and carrying power.  Additionally, since we have no bushwhacking experience, we needed someone with excellent woods skills.  After talking with an outfitter friend of ours and a long term friend with lots of guiding experience we were referred to Dean Bushey ( dbushey1@hotmail.com ). Read the rest of this entry »

“Quetico: Near to Nature’s Heart”, by Jon Nelson

Friday, August 27th, 2010
submitted by: Bob Evans

This book is unquestionably the best book I have read about Quetico Provincial Park.  Jon and his wife Marie were Quetico Rangers, first at Beaverhouse, then Cache Bay and Prairie Portage.  After his tenure there he returned to Graduate School for a Master’s program, I believe, in Archaeology, and worked as an archaeologist in Quetico for several years.  During that time he interacted with and got to know a number of the First Nation citizens of the Lac La Croix community.  As we are very much interested in the pictographs of the area, his multiple comments on this aspect of First Nation culture and religion were very interesting to us.

This book relates a broad range of topics from the early geological and natural history of the time when the glaciers of the last ice age were retreating from the area now Quetico, to contemporary issues with the park.  It is divided into sections allowing the reader to read sections of interest in any order.  To me, with my woefully inadequate knowledger of pre-history, the readings on the early post-glacial era and the Paleo-Indians were fascinating.  For the biologist or the reader interested in biology and ecology, the chapters in part three relating to ecology, tell the stories of lichens, orchids (yes, orchids in Quetico), moose, ravens and forest fire ecology along with other topics.  As a biologist and biochemist myself, I found these chapters fascinating, well written, and full of interesting information.  I learned a great deal from them. Read the rest of this entry »

“Reading Rock Art” by Grace Rajnovich

Saturday, April 24th, 2010
submitted by: Bob Evans

The complete title to the book is “Reading Rock Art:  Interpreting The Indian Rock Paintings Of The Canadian Shield.”  It is an excellent resource for people wanting casual reading to learn more about the pictographs of canoe country but it is also a scholarly work with an excellent and extensive bibliography for those who want more intensive study of this subject.  We have used both the text and the bibliographic references extensively in our research into the Quetico and Boundary Waters pictograph sites.  This book is cited as a reference in nearly all of our publications.  The Northwoods Pictograph series of informational bulletins for use in the field (see pictograph pages on our website)  contains extensively referenced work by Dr. Rajnovich.

Grace Rajnovich is an archaeologist who spent fourteen years in field research before writing this excellent book.  Her academic preparation (B.A. from  York University, M.A. in English from University of Toronto, M.A. in Anthropology from University of Manitoba, and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Michigan State University) is excellent, but don’t get the idea that this is a hard-to-read book written in academic jargon.  Her well-rounded approach to the content not only presents interpretations of many figures found on the rocks of the Canadian Shield, but weaves the figures and their meanings into an overall discussion of the culture and religious practice of the Native Americans who painted these messages on the rocks.  Read the rest of this entry »

Trips: French Lake, Pickerel River and East part of Pickerel Lake

Sunday, March 21st, 2010
submitted by: Bob Evans

In this section we describe a short overnight trip  into Pickerel Lake and the return for a few nights in Atikokan.  For beginners–the paddle through the Pickerel River is easy access to Pickerel Lake, a very large lake with lots of campsites and good fishing. We also relate our research time in the John B. Ridley Research Library (http://catalogue.legacyforest.ca/ ).  Of note, the Pickerel River and Pickerel Lake is very rich in history back to the time of the glaciers of the last ice age.  Receeding glaciers created the features of this area including the river itself and many of the features of the lake like the pines area and the glacial moraine visible there.  For excellent reading Jon Nelson, a former Ranger in Quetico and archaeologist there, has written a book, Quetico: Near to Nature’s Heart.  It is excellent reading and has a lot of information about this region of Quetico.  One paddling this area for the first time should definately read this book before going, and folks who have paddled it before should read about the region.  It will probably make them want to go again.  This book is critiqued in a blog posting of August 27, 2010.  We highly recommend the book as excellent reading about the entire Quetico experience.

Northwoods Pictographs Bulletins on this trip:  There are no known pictograph sites on the short trip we took here.

We traveled to the Dawson Trail Pavilion, where we checked in with the Rangers for our overnight permit.  We then drove to the parking lot next to the put-in area and unloaded our packs and canoe. This was an unusual trip for us for we had no real agenda.  Several years before we had traveled from this entry after flying in from Ely.  We paddled south through the park to exit at Prairie Portage.  On that trip we started behind schedule and paddled quickly through the first lakes.  Just south from the entry point, there is a short stretch of water, the Pickerel River.  We both really love paddling narrow rivers.  View the video clip below  of a small part of the Pickerel River.  On this overnight we planned to take time for taking some pictures and video.  Then we would find an early campsite, sleep the night and return in the morning.  In addition to taking some pictures the trip would fulfill the requirement for this entry point toward completing the Quetico Quest. Read the rest of this entry »

We Meet the Nicest People in Canoes!

Saturday, March 20th, 2010
submitted by: Bob Evans

Edwina and I just returned from Canoecopia.   I presented a short program on our three-year project to compile a complete and accurate record of all known pictograph sites in Canoe Country.  As we were driving home from Madison, we talked about how we meet the nicest people in canoes!  While that is not exactly literally what I mean, since we were not in a canoe in Madison, we do mean that canoeing and related activities have introduced us to a group of really great people.

A number of years ago we flew into Atikokan on a float plane and were met by our friends from Canoe Canada Outfitters.  They shuttled us to our hotel room.  It was July 1.  We had planned to spend the rest of the day in Atikokan walking around, visiting, shopping and generally enjoying the small town canoeing atmosphere.  We did not know that July 1 is Canadian Independence Day and businesses would be closed.  We enjoyed being around the town anyway and have gone back a number of times since.  The next day, the folks from Canoe Canada dropped us off at the French Lake entry and we began our trip back to Prairie Portage.  We  looked for the remains of old log cabins, steam boat relics on beaches, and visited the Dore Lake pictograph site.  Nearby was the sunken steam boat in shallow water.   But the best part of the trip happened in Sturgeon Narrows. Read the rest of this entry »

Our Canoecopia Presentation

Sunday, January 31st, 2010
submitted by: Bob Evans

We are excited that we have been notified by the Rutabaga staff that we have had our presentation proposal accepted for Canoecopia 2010.  We will be presenting at 4:30 on Saturday March 13.   

As you know, we started three years ago revisiting every pictograph site in canoe country that we have visited in the last 20 + years of paddling, and visiting the remaining known sites not visited.  Our goal was to produce a complete and accurate record of every known pictograph site in canoe country.  Out of this project has come the Northwoods Pictograph bulletin series and much more. 

As many of you also know, in the course of this study, we have been notified of some sites about which we did not know.  On visiting these we have found some are probably authentic and we also have found two to date that very probably are not authentic.  We have found images at some sites that we have not seen previously reported, often using photo analysis techniques.  We also have found some images where authenticity is not clear.  And we have corrected some long held and incorrect information on the locations of some sites.

So our proposal was to present the most interesting of the new sites visited, authentic or not.  We are also presenting some very new information about some very old and well known sites.  In the presentation we will explain some of the photo analysis techniques used to evaluate images, discover images, and make images more easily understandable.  Check out Canoecopia at  www.rutabaga.com/canoecopia

For all of you attending Canoecopia 2010, please come by our presentation.  We would love to see you.  In addition, we will be on the Canoecopia floor throughout the conference wearing easily recognizable shirts.  Please stop us to say “hi” and visit.  We are looking forward to meeting each one of you.

Island River Pictograph Site: Authentic?

Sunday, October 18th, 2009
submitted by: Bob Evans

When we were in Ely, summer of 2008, I had a conversation with Steve Piragis, owner of Piragis Northwoods Company and the Boundary Waters Catalog.  I was introducing him to our fledgling series of Northwoods Pictograph bulletins.  In the course of the conversation he asked me about the Island River Pictograph site.  During this same visit he had asked me about the South Hegman Lake Pictograph site.  His account with pictures of his trip to the South Hegman Lake site was printed in Boundary Waters News, their on-line newsletter, Fall of 2008.

In June of 2009, after a trip to Ely, I wrote Steve passing on information I had gathered based on some research and our visit to the Island River site.  In it I also included information about  the South Hegman site, and that information was included in my blog post on September 28, 2009.

In July of 2009, Steve reprinted the original article from the previous Fall and my letter to him about the two sites.  Following is the approximate text of part of that publication.  I have edited it slightly from what was published to try to clarify some of the points in my original writing.

I have several unanswered questions about this site: Read the rest of this entry »

South Hegman Lake Pictograph site: Authentic or not?

Monday, September 28th, 2009
submitted by: Bob Evans

When we were in Ely, summer of 2008, I had a conversation with Steve Piragis, owner of Piragis Northwoods Company and the Boundary Waters Catalog.  I was introducing him to our fledgling series of Northwoods Pictograph bulletins.  In the course of the conversation he asked me about the South Hegman Lake site and if I thought it was real.  While the North Hegman Lake site is well known and authentic, we had not heard about the South Hegman Lake site.  He had recently heard of the site and he had visited it and taken some pictures.  He offered to send me the pictures from the site and references to the site location.

His account with pictures was printed in Boundary Waters News, their on-line newsletter, Fall of 2008.  He sent me the pictures and I reviewed them.

Then in May of 2009, Edwina and I visited the South Hegman Site on an easy day trip.  During that same week in Ely, we crossed paths with Steve again when we were eating at the Chocolate Moose.  He asked me about my opinion of the Island River Site.  He wondered if the very large green and gray images were authentic.  We visited briefly about them before moving on to breakfast. Read the rest of this entry »

Should we publish pictograph information?

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009
submitted by: Bob Evans

A little over four years ago, we began developing the ideas for publishing the Northwoods Pictograph bulletins.  In considering the project we were motivated by our long-lasting interest in the history and culture of the Ojibwa in the area that we loved to paddle.  Over and over, in conversations with people we met on the trail, or visited on-line, or talked with in various outfitter locations, we heard that paddlers had difficulty finding the sites.  Sometimes, paddlers had heard of sites but those sites were not listed on the maps.  Paddlers often commented that printed materials about the sites were inaccurate and, after following the directions, they found no site as described by those materials.  And nearly all who expressed an interest in the sites wanted to know more about the history and meaning of the images.

Many individuals report that the Ojibwa do not want photographs taken of the sites and images.  Early in the design of this site, we attempted to contact two Ojibwa elders for whom we had email addresses.  We were disappointed that we did not get replies.  Additionally, as many know, some rangers at the entry points tell paddlers that the Ojibwa do not want pictures taken at all. 

Our most valuable insight came from personal conversations with Jon Nelson (www.jon-nelson.com), a long time ranger in Quetico.  He worked for some years under grant funding, visiting with the Ojibwa elders to learn the basis of their religious beliefs and cultural practices.  He recently published a wonderful book, “Quetico:  Near to Nature’s Heart.”  In that book he also states what we learned from personal conversations with him.  He told me in those conversations that the elders were not so much against taking pictures of the sites, but that they were very much offended by paddlers disrespecting the sites.  He explained that the elders objected to those who would paddle to the sites, and while laughing and joking, take a couple of pictures just to say they were there.  He indicated that the elders did not object to those who were appropriately respectful of the sites and the religious beliefs they represent.

Additionally, he told me that the Ojibwa regard the messages in the images as prayers.  He also states this in the book.  Obviously, respect is due to these sites and their images.  To disrespect them is to disrespect the people to whom they are sacred.

With that in mind, and after a lot of soul-searching, we began the project by looking at the many pictures we had taken in the past and by reviewing our notes from our many visits to sites.  Though we had read many writings on the sites and on pictographs in general, we began again an intensive study of the culture and religion important to the Ojibwa.  We also committed to revisiting every site visited in the past and visiting those not visited in the past, to ensure that our notes and reports were as accurate as we could make them.  We vowed not to compile any information on any site until we had revisited or visited the site during the three year period of the Quetico Quest.  No bulletin would be printed with any information not based on our personal obversations at the site.

With that in mind, we began the project with the most important goals being to answer those questions that we had heard so often.  We wanted to be able to help the paddler interested in Ojibwa pictographs easily find the sites and the images.  Additionally we wanted to study as much as we could, and provide information on the relation of the images to the religion and culture of the people who left them behind.  And finally, we wanted to help paddlers learn from the experience.  From this came the admonition printed on our bulletins:  “Visit the sites!  Respect the sites!  Learn at the sites!’

We hope to help many paddlers visit, respect and learn.  We sincerely hope that every paddler who visits the sites using our bulletins,  will, above all else, not contribute in any way to damaging the sites.