The Canadian Canoe Museum respectfully acknowledges the mazinaawbikinigin (rock paintings) that rest on a rock face at Picture Lake within the traditional territory of Fort William First Nation. We extend our gratitude to Fort William First Nation for their care and stewardship of these lands and waters.
The evocative eight-person canoe pictograph at Pictured Lake, upon which The Canadian Canoe Museum’s logo is based, is located about half an hour by road and another half an hour by snowshoe from the city centre of Thunder Bay, Ontario.
As part of our work in honouring and sharing the cultural histories and stories within the collection, we continue to visit and develop relationships with the community and mazinaawbikinigin.
In mid-February, a small team from the Museum headed up to pay our respects to the site and to continue our relationship building with the people of Fort William First Nation and with the people of the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists (who own and protect the site known as The Pictured Lake Nature Reserve).
This time, on a sparklingly sunny -20º day, Carolyn Hyslop (Executive Director), Jeremy Ward (Curator) and James Raffan (Director of External Relations) were joined by a group of staff and students from Keewaytinook Internet High School (KIHS) along with a number of other Fort William First Nation community members and some friends of the Museum from the Thunder Bay area, including professors Julie Rosenthal and Keira Loukes from Lakehead University and Shawn Patterson, Collections Team Manager from Fort William Historical Park. Special thanks to Fort William First Nation Mentor Cathy Rodger, who passed on teachings at the rocks and led a circle of appreciation, and Helen Pelletier, Anishinaabekwe Fort William First Nation. We also extend our thanks to KIHS Principal Angela Batsford-Mermans, who invited everybody back to the school after the trek for fellowship and a delicious lunch in the warmth of Cathy’s classroom.
In the first instance, when museum Founder Kirk Wipper borrowed this iconic image from a book by anthropologist Selwyn Dewdney (whose birchbark canoe is in the Museum’s collection), he did so to signal the importance of the deep Indigenous roots of canoes and canoeing in Canada. But it was only in 2015, encouraged by friends in First Nation communities with canoes in the Museum’s collection, that we started making treks to the rocks to start building a more personal relationship with the site and with the people for whom this sacred place is home. This trip was our fifth expedition to the mazinaawbikinigin of Pictured Lake.
We look forward to more annual visits and continuing to build our relationship with the keepers of the rocks at Pictured Lake through continued conversations with Fort William First Nation.