Northwoods Memories Multimedia Productions


Posts Tagged ‘Near to Nature’s Heart’

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…)

“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. (more…)

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 ( ).  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. (more…)

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.