Northwoods Memories Multimedia Productions


Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Can You Help Us with Darkwater (formerly Darky) Lake?

Monday, April 30th, 2012
submitted by: Bob Evans

Darkwater Lake has two sites, both near the south end of the lake.  One is on the west shore and the other on the east shore.  While the images on both sites on Darkwater Lake can be fairly easily seen, there is evidence that the site has been repainted since the original images were painted on the cliff.  We discussed evidence for repainting in the Northwoods Pictograph Bulletin for Darkwater Lake.  We would like to find photographs taken decades ago to compare the images  across time.

Photos would only be of interest if they were taken at least in or before the 1950’s.  Not only would we like to see if there is evidence or repainting but images on this site appear to be of different time periods, or perhaps to have been painted with different pigment or binding agents.  Images that are very bright right next to ones that can hardly be seen bring this question to mind.

If you have in your family photo albums or old records, old photos of this site we would like to hear from you.  If you are aware of people who might have paddled this area prior to the 50’s we would like to know how to contact them.  If you have any of this information, please contact us at  or call us at 405-823-0469.


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.  (more…)

We are writing a book!

Sunday, August 14th, 2011
submitted by: Bob Evans

We are writing a book utilizing our nearly 4 decades of studying the pictographs in Canoe Country.  It will include sites in both Quetico and the Boundary Waters as well as a few sites near the borders of the two parks.   During the last 6 summers we have revisited every site we visited during those decades and visited every other site of which we were aware.  During that time we have learned about sites not known to us before.  We discovered a site ourselves.  We have visited two sites that we are convinced are  not authentic.  The book will document 63 sites based on our own personal visit to each site.  Several of these sites have not been reported in writing before.  They will be completely new to the majority of readers.  Material in this book should be complimented by the series Northwoods Pictographs presented elsewhere on this site.

We have documented the exact location of every site.  We have carefully studied the cliffs to find all images possible.    We have done extensive photo analysis and using those tools we have identified many images that cannot be seen at all with the unaided eye.  We have clarified a number of images where the unaided eye only sees some red coloring on the rock.    While some would object to photographing the sites, and doing photo analysis,  these images are going away.  They are being removed from the rock surface by a number of erosion processes.  Water running down the cliffs washes the pigments small amounts at a time.  Wind carrying minute particles of sand and dirt acts like miniature sand blasting.  Lichens grow over the images.  We hope we will be providing a complete and accurate record of all known sites.  We are positive others will be discovered in the future, but we will report all currently known to us.

  We have personally benefited  from the study of the culture and religion from which the images have come.  It has been very rewarding learning about these images and the messages they convey.  We have decided to share our learning experiences with others who are interested.

This category will keep interested visitors to our site up to date.  We will write a chapter on each lake known to have a site.  We will post when each chapter is started and will post interesting things about each lake.  We hope to add a new page to the web site which will keep track in tabular form the progress on the book.  We hope you will become interested enough to follow along on the progress.

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 (, 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.

Charles Summers Northern Tier Does Not Carry Our Pictograph Bulletins.

Sunday, July 12th, 2009
submitted by: Bob Evans

For all of our readers who are associated with Boy Scout units headed to the Boundary Waters or Quetico based out of Charles Sommers, the Northern Tier Canoe Base, our Northwoods Pictograph bulletins are not currently stocked in the store there or in the outfitting department.  We wanted to let you know so that if you are traveling a route with pictograph sites, and you are interested in having your Scouts learn about pictograph sites and the related Ojibwa culture, you will need to pick up bulletins before arriving at the base.

You can order from our website, or if you want to save shipping charges, there are several outfitters close to Sommers who carry a complete stock of the bulletins.  You can check our “shop” pages or the “links” page for a list of those outfitters who stock our bulletins. (more…)