For several decades, I searched provincial and national archives, files in obscure government departments, collections in provincial parks’ offices and documents in local historical societies throughout the north hoping to find older black and white photographs showing life in the upper Great Lakes and across the boreal forest. I often brought copies of these photographs to native elders for information.
The old saying that every picture tells a story proved true. These images from the late 1800s and early 1900s often showed parents and grandparents of the elders, or aboriginal life ways linked to the past. Images of villages abandoned a century ago, or families living at their traditional hunting and trapping territories, often reminded the transitional generation of Ojibwa and Cree hunters of stories and events nearly lost in time.
Older photographs remain precious and fragile parts of our Canadian heritage. The Tribal Elders Gallery includes Lake Superior Ojibwa, Serpent River Ojibwa, Nipissing elders from Lake Nipissing, Temagami Algonkians, Cree hunters from James Bay and the height of land, and Odawa elders from Manitoulin Island. Most of these photographs come from my work with tribal elders whose voices will continue to teach us for many years.
The Temagami wilderness contains many reminders of ancient and recent history. Several of these Temagami Gallery photographs show local native families building birchbark canoes, ice fishing and living at their hunting camps. Pictographs from Lake Temagami intrigue us as other visible signs of the past.
Many pictographs were created as enduring images meant to communicate across time. The Pictographs Gallery page contains a small sample of red ochre paintings from northern Ontario and a few cave paintings from California.
The Northern Life Gallery includes images meant to convey the diverse aspects of heritage from dog teams and snowshoe construction to ruins of Hudson’s Bay Company posts and fur trade cemeteries nearly lost in the bush.
Sacred landscapes surround us as revealed by older generations of Ojibwa and Algonkian elders. The Sacred Sites Gallery includes legendary rocks from Lake Superior, ancestral standing stones near Lake Temagami, examples of shaking tents used by shamans and mysterious shrines on remote lakes in northern Ontario. This small sample of sacred sites reminds us that we need to live directly connected to the hidden, spiritual landscape that sustains wilderness.