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CCM Logo Rocks—the “Mazinaawbikinigin” of Pictured Lake

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The Canadian Canoe Museum’s logo was handed on with the world’s largest collection of canoes, kayaks and self-propelled watercraft by the museum’s Founder Kirk Wipper who, as a symbol of his great respect for Canada’s indigenous peoples and their connection to the land through the canoe, borrowed the pictograph from anthropologist Selwyn Dewdney’s 1962 book Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lake

Of the thousands of canoe and canoe-related images on hundreds of pictograph sites scattered throughout Ontario, across Canada, and around the world, even as far as Australia, Scandinavia and Siberia, Dewdney reckoned that this image was the most compelling of its kind.  When his book was republished several years later (with the Trent University anthropolgist Kenneth Kidd as second author) the eight paddlers in their big canoe were on the cover!

 

Who painted the image or when it was painted we don’t know.  Many are hundreds of years old for sure, painted with a natural earth pigment called red ochre (hydrated iron oxide) mixed with possibly fish oil and often charcoal.  Some are much older than that, even thousands of years.  And again, because those who actually made the art are long gone, we can only speculate about the site-specific meanings but oral historians and anthropologists, through narrative and semiotic studies have linked pictographs to the search for helping spirits and shamanism.

In many ways, there is no more perfect image to communicate the mission of the Canadian Canoe Museum, which begins with honouring and celebrating the canoe’s genesis in indigenous worlds around the globe and particularly in the nation of rivers and the river of nations that is Canada from coast to coast to coast—a group of people in the same boat, pulling together, linking the past to the present and working collaborative to build a common future.

The Canadian Canoe Museum has always been proud of this logo image and all it stands for, even as it was registered as an industrial trade and became known worldwide as the mark of a Canadian cultural institution inextricably tied to Indigenous Peoples.  But until very recently, no one from the museum had actually visited the site.  Encouraged by our First Nation partners, and as part of a conscious act of renewal and reinvention, in February 2016 the museum organized a first-ever expedition to the storied rocks at Pictured Lake, SW of Thunder Bay, where the logo image is located. 

Connecting with the Anishinaabeg of Fort William First Nation, on whose ancestral territory the site is located, and with the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists, who in 2008 purchased and set aside the 108 acre parcel of land on which the site resides as The Painted Rock Nature Reserve, museum personnel with other friends and members from the area paid tribute for the years of good fortune and guidance the image has bestowed on the collection and everyone associated with it.  We hope this will be the first of many annual visits to deepen and enrich our understandings of and relationships with the people of Pictured Lake, past, present and future.