Discovering Rock Art - A Personal Journey With Tribal Elders

A Personal Journey with Tribal Elders

Discovering Rock Art - A Personal Journey With Tribal Elders
In Discovering Rock Art, tribal elders reveal Ojibwa family traditions, legends and oral histories to bring ancient rock art to life.

We learn about shamanic activities, vision quests, the spirit world, the fairy folk and tribal warfare as the basis of many pictographs.

Thor Conway shares rare oral histories, legends and personal experiences collected during 45 years of working with Ojibwa, Odawa and Algonkian tribal elders. Discovering Rock Art presents the voices of shamans, healers and visionaries who retained vital knowledge about the mysterious images preserved on cliffs and wanted this knowledge available to future generations.

Michael Paul and Thor; Dark Lake Snake
A horned serpent with canoes at Darky Lake | Michael Paul, an elder from Bear Island on Lake Temagami with Thor.

Ancient images intrigue us across northern Ontario—at Fairy Point on Missinaibi Lake, the Peterborough Petroglyphs Teaching Rock, Kennedy Island on the French River, Collins Inlet on Lake Huron, Ninth Lake on the Spanish River, Artery Lake in northwestern Ontario, Agawa Rock on Lake Superior, Diamond Lake in the Temagami wilderness, Quetico’s Darkwater Lake and the Pothole site on Little Missinaibi Lake. These pictograph and petroglyphs are well known and accessible in provincial parks. What do these red ochre images mean?

Quotes from Discovering Rock Art

“One word [image] on the rocks is a heck of a lot of meaning. It’s like shorthand. It’s an effort on your soul by spirits.
You become uncontrolled.”
Fred Pine
Lake Superior Ojibwa shaman (1897 to 1992)
“So, what does remain of the past? Artifacts and pictographs can be found. Ruins of cabins now lie overgrown in the bush. Brittle fur trade ledgers sit on shelves... Some stories survive among families; other tales appear in print. But nothing matches the spirit of place to join the past and present. And silent cliffs with painted images hold that link.”
Quote from Ch. 9: The Diamond Lake Pictographs in Lady Evelyn
Photos (left to right): Madeline Katt; red ochre hand print; John Fisher; Wizard Lake theme panel