Jessica Bolduc, Executive Director of the emerging 4Rs Youth Movement, joined us at the Museum’s Strategic Planning Retreat last fall and asked under “what authority” we were using a likeness of an original pictograph on a rock face south-west of Thunder Bay as our logo?



Special Projects Producer, Evan Holt, and Director Emeritus, James Raffan, took a run to Thunder Bay the week of Feb 1-5, 2016 to find the site, to pay respects to the original mazinaawbikinigeen (rock painting), to meet people and to learn. 

Evan is working on creating a short documentary film about the expedition, coming soon!

This is James’s first account of what happened.

“A Superior Journey”

Indication that Thunder Bay might be an excellent destination for two strays from the Canadian Canoe Museum was evident on our arrival on a chilly Monday morning as the municipal sign sports three (count ‘em) canoes! Also, a nearby “welcome” billboard showed a smiley kid in a kayak telling us that the City of Thunder Bay is “superior by nature”.

While Evan did his best to be a serious photographer, I did my best to impersonate an 86kg chipmunk by scampering around the back of the sign to see what Evan looked like from there.  

We were there to snowshoe in to Pictured Lake, which is the ancestral homeland of the Anishinabe of Fort William First Nation and is also where the now famous pictograph on which the Museum’s logo is based.  As such, with the help of Chief Williams up at Curve Lake (who wrote a lovely letter of introduction) our first stop was the council chambers of the Fort William First Nation where we had a grand introductory chat with Chief Peter Collins and the Band’s Culture and Rec’ Coordinator, Gail Bannon.  

We told them of our quest to connect with the people and the place from which our logo image originates We also indicated that we would appreciate their guidance on whether it would be appropriate for the Museum (whose founder, Kirk Wipper, began using the logo as a sign of respect for Native Peoples) to continue using the image. Chief Collins said “We’re urban people here.  We don’t know much about that pictograph at all.”  And with that he asked Gail if she might be able to accompany us on the hike in to the site that afternoon.  She could, she would, she did … and that’s how the 1st Most Excellent Expedition to the Mazinaawbikinigin of Pictured Lake began!  


 And here’s a happy Dave Legge getting back to level ground (ice) on the other side.

And here’s a happy Dave Legge getting back to level ground (ice) on the other side.

 Here’s Gail Bannon starting up the minor mountain on the Karam’s property we had to climb over to get to the water.

Here’s Gail Bannon starting up the minor mountain on the Karam’s property we had to climb over to get to the water.

We were twelve in all:  In addition to Gail, representing FWFN on whose ancestral lands the pictograph is situated, we had six people from the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists, including President Dave Legge and Guide Marian Childs.  We were also joined by outfitter and former Thunder Bay MP, Bruce Hyer and Professor Tom Potter from Lakehead University.  And, key to the success (and legality) of the expedition, we were also joined by Daniel and Linda Karam who own the land over which we crossed to access Pictured Lake.   

VAt the site, using the same sage sheaf used in the canoe blessing ceremony for Canada One in 2012 before participating in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Flotilla, we set the stage for a respectful honouring of the site and the people who’d made this remarkable image on the Precambrian rocks of Pictured Lake.  

We read some of museum Founder, Kirk Wipper’s, words about canoes and Canada from his introduction to Canexus: The Canoe in Canadian Culture.  And then, even though it was a pretty chilly day, after several minutes of quiet contemplation for each of the members of the expedition to give thanks and reflect on the event in our own way, we came back together in a circle to share some spoken words of thanks and appreciation. Gail did a final smudge of the people and the rocks.  It was a moving and meaningful moment for the CCM team (for everyone, I suspect).

Visiting the site of what is for many Canada’s most remarkable pictographic rendering of a canoe, is journey was particularly gratifying in the context of the Canadian Canoe Museum’s drive to rethink and reinvent itself through partnership and (re)connection to the First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities from coast to coast to coast from which a quarter to a third of our collection originates.

From Chief Collins through to the respectful members of the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists, we got some comment on how important it is for the museum to be doing this but it is pretty clear that the likelihood of an individual or an organization compelling us to use or nor use a likeness of this ancient image as our logo is slim to none.  We will have to come up with a position with respect to our logo on our own as an organization. We can and will do more in giving the image context that would link it to the place and to people, past and present, associated with its creation and existence on the rocks at Pictured Lake.