Die Stromschnellen von St Marie (The Rapids Of St Mary), Frank Buchser, 1868
By kind permission of the Kunsthaus Art Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland
This website was created by teacher Peter White for the Algoma District School Board
The First Nations people who called Bawating (Sault Ste. Marie) home when the Europeans arrived in the 1600s were the Anishnaabe. The oral history of the Anishnaabe tells that they once lived near the "Great Sea Water" and that they followed a sacred miigis or seashell until they reached Bawating.
What did Bawating (Sault Ste. Marie) look like before the European settlers came? Here are some paintings from the 1800s.
A-wun-ne-wa-be, Bird of Thunder, Ojibway 1845 by George Catlin
Painter George Catlin took Bird of Thunder and boy in the picture below to Europe to promote his paintings. The Smithsonian American Art Museum tells us that in France they "so entertained King Louis Philippe that he asked them to perform for the royal family and invited Catlin to exhibit his collection at the Louvre." (The Lourve is one of the most famous art galleries in the world.)
Chief from Fort William, Ojibway, 1849-1856
What is he holding in his hand? Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana First Nations has commented that the Fort William chief would have been awarded the medal for helping the British in times of war and that he was holding it to remind the British of the promises made to the Anishnabeg in reward for their help. Do you think the chief''s coat was specially chosen for the painting session? What might be the coat's significance? In his notes, "Kane writes that the chief was wearing a “chiefs coat” that the HBC [Hudson Bay Company] had given him. Such coats were given to chiefs in recognition of alliance and loyalty; Kane is correct in stating that the coats were “highly prized by their possessors.”
Ud-je-jock, Pelican, a Boy, Ojibwe 1831
Painted in Paris in 1845
Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana First Nations has commented that paintings by Europeans often added items that would not be part of traditional dress to make them more appealing to buyers. The Smithsonian American Art Museum says that the drawing of Pelican was made in 1831 and the painting was made in 1845. Painters like George Catlin, Paul Kane and William Armstrong would often make sketches as they traveled and make the full painting much later. One wonders if Catlin made additions to the original sketch to enhance the look. Pelican, for instance, appears to be wearing a war medal which seems quite unusual for a boy.
Jú-ah-kís-gaw, Woman with Her Child in a Cradle, 1835 Ojibwe George Catlin
George Catlin described this work as “the portrait of a Chippeway woman . . . with her child in its crib or cradle . . . [the umbilicus] hanging before the child's face for its supernatural protector . . . This woman's dress was mostly made of civilized manufactures, but curiously decorated and ornamented according to Indian taste.” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 51, 1841; reprint 1973)
A Warrior, 1835 Ojibwe George Catlin
Described by Catlin as a "portrait of a warrior … with his pipe in his hand"
Painted at Fort Snelling in 1835
The Midday Woman, Southeastern Ojibway, Saugeen village
1849-1852, Paul Kane
An Ojibwa Chief’s Daughter From Lake St. Clair
In his notes, the painter Paul Kane says that the girl “gave me much trouble in prevailing on her to sit for her likeness, although her father insisted upon it; her repugnance proceeded from a superstitious belief that by so doing she would place herself in the power of the possessor of what is regarded by an Indian as a second self”
912.1.9 "Sault St. Marie," Chippewa/Southeastern Ojibwa, Oil on canvas, 1849-1856 Paul Kane (1810 Mallow, Ireland–1871 Toronto, Canada) ROM2005_5137_1
Tshusick, an Ojibway woman, ca. 1836
by Charles Bird
Shah-wah-nas-ha-wa, Southeastern Ojibway,
1849-1856, Paul Kane
"Among the numerous Indians assembled here, was one that particularly attracted my attention from his venerable and dignified appearance. In reply to my inquiry, as to who he was, I learned that he was called Shawwanossoway, or “One with his Face towards the West,” and that he was a great medicine-man, skilled in the past, present and future" (Paul Kane, "Wanderings of an Artist," 1859:16)
912.1.6 "Shah-wah-nas-ha-wa," Southeastern Ojibwa, oil on canvas, 1849-1856 Paul Kane (1810 Mallow, Ireland–1871 Toronto, Canada) ROM2009_11209_2
Manitoulin or Mackinaw 1849-1856, Paul Kane,
912.1.4 "Ojibbeway Chief," Southeastern Ojibwa, Oil on canvas, 1849-1856 Paul Kane (1810 Mallow, Ireland–1871 Toronto, Canada) ROM2010_11471_1
Wigemar Wasung, 1857
Charcoal and crayon on paper
Object no. 62.181.14
Courtesy of the St. Louis County Historical Society
In a resource created by the Tweed Museum of Art it says that "Johnson drew Wigemar Wasung's face and dress as carefully as a society portraitist would portray a socialite in her jewels back East. While the choker, ribbons, and headband were typical adornments for Ojibwe women, the feather in her hair was not. It may be the artist's addition to the picture, a nod to the stereotypical Indian dress Johnson's audiences expected."
Here are paintings made of Anishnaabe people in the 1800s by artists from Europe.
It is a treasure to have the images above that show Anishnaabe life from the 1800s at Bawating. But we must ask if the European paintings depict life as the Anishnaabe experienced it? How do you think they saw themselves? How did they see the world? Here are some examples.
The First Nations people of the Sault Ste. Marie area made their art in many ways. Two of the most common ways were drawing on birch bark and painting on rock cliffs. To the left are the Agawa pictographs, paintings drawn on the side of a rock cliff on the shore of Lake Superior.
One often sees images of animals in First Nations art because, in their traditional beliefs, animals have a spirit just as people do. On the left is a closeup of one of the Agawa pictographs. The animal with horns and spikes along its back is a painting of Mishipeshu, a creature who is said to live at the bottom of lakes.
What are those dots on the figures in the painting?
The dots represent the disease of smallpox that the missionaries unknowingly spread to the First Nations who had no immunity to it.
Art scholar Carmen Robertson has described this painting as a meeting between a shaman and a missionary. The green in the head of the missionary shows that he thinks with his brain while the green in the chest of the shaman shows that he thinks with his heart.
Artist: Norval Morrisseau, The Gift, 1975, acrylic on paper, Dimensions: 196 × 122 cm (77 3/16 × 48 1/16 in.), Credit line: Thunder Bay Art Gallery, The Helen E. Band Collection.
How do the man's feet tell the story of the painting? What animals do you see besides the thunderbird? What is the thunderbird for the Anishnaabe?
Norval Morrisseau, Man Into Thunderbird, no date, oil on canvas, Collection of the Art Gallery of Algoma; Gift of the Ontario Heritage Foundation
How many different colours are used in this painting? Are there any animals in this painting? What might the woman be looking at?
Norval Morrisseau, Indian Woman in Ceremonial Headdress, no date, acrylic on canvas, Collection of the Art Gallery of Algoma; Gift of the Ontario Heritage Foundation
How many butterflies do you see? How many bees do you see? How many flowers do you see? Why do you suppose they all have a similiar shape?
Norval Morrisseau, Indian Butterflies and Bees, no date, acrylic on canvas, Collection of the Art Gallery of Algoma; Gift of the Ontario Heritage Foundation
Are there any animals in this painting? Most of the colours are similiar. What kind of feeling does this create?
Norval Morrisseau, Heaven Dwellers Society, 1971, acrylic on canvas, On Long-Term Loan from the Algoma University Foundation
What do you see inside the wings of the eagle? What do you think the eagle is about to do? The eagle seems very powerful. How does Peter Migwans create this feeling? Why is the eagle an important for the Anishnaabe? What does Peter's last name mean in Anishnaabe?
Peter Migwans, Big Eagle, 2013
What is the same and what is different about each of the four men? What animals are in the painting? What do you suppose is coming out of each man's mouth?
Peter Migwans, Four Men, 2013
How many animals are in this painting? How many are there of each kind of animal? How many people are in the painting? Which do you think is more important to the Anishnaabe, animals or people?
John Laford, Life of the Sault Rapids, 1980, acrylic on canvas, Collection of the Art Gallery of Algoma; Gift of Mrs. Elsie Jarrett
What animals do you see in this painting? Are there any people in the painting? How are the birds the same? How are they different? What connects the animals?
John Laford, Untitled, 2001, acrylic on canvas, Collection of the Art Gallery of Algoma; Gift of the Artist
The Irish-born Paul Kane (1810-1871) made this painting on the site of an Ojibway village at Sault Ste. Marie in 1846.
Would you have liked to live here then?
How would you get your food?
How would people keep in touch with each other?
Where would you get your clothes?
How would you stay warm?
How did the Anishnaabe do all these things?
912.1.9 "Sault St. Marie," Chippewa/Southeastern Ojibwa, Oil on canvas, 1849-1856 Paul Kane (1810 Mallow, Ireland–1871 Toronto, Canada) ROM2005_5137_1
The Irish-born William Armstrong (1822–1914) was a Canadian painter who ended up having an unexpected extended stay in Sault Ste. Marie in 1870. This painting is of Anishnaabe fishermen using the dip net method to catch whitefish at the Bawating (Sault Ste. Marie) rapids.
The British-born Anna Jameson ( 1794-1860) visited Sault Ste. Marie in 1837 where she made this sketch of the rapids.
Once Anna Jameson ( 1794-1860) finished her sketch of the Sault rapids in 1837, she turned around and painted the lodge of the Anishnaabe man Wayishky.
Here is another painting created during William Armstrong's unexpected stay in Sault Ste. Marie in 1870. This painting is described as an indian settlement at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with the canal in the background.
The American artist George Catlin (1706-1872) painted this canoe race that took place on the St. Mary's River in 1836.
In his Letters and Notes, Catlin said, “. . . one of their favourite amusements at this place, which I was lucky enough to witness a few miles below the Sault, when high bettings had been made, and a great concourse of Indians had assembled to witness an Indian regatta; or canoe race, which went off with great excitement, firing of guns, yelping, &c. The Indians in this vicinity are all Chippeways, and their canoes all made of birch bark, and chiefly of one model; they are exceedingly light, as I have before described, and propelled with wonderful velocity.”
An artist from Switzerland named Frank Buchser (1828-1890) painted this view of an Anishnaabe family at the St. Mary's River rapids in 1868.
Willard Pine is a beloved and respected Anishnaabe (Ojibway) elder from Garden River First Nation as was his father Dan Pine. His great-grandfather Shingwaukonse was the Garden River Chief who signed the Robinson-Huron Treaty at Sault Ste. Marie in 1850.
Hear what Willard has to say by going here.
Dean Sayers is the Chief of Batchewana First Nation (2016). Their traditional lands run along the Eastern shore of Lake Superior from Batchewana Bay to Whitefish Island at Bawating (Sault Ste. Marie). Chief Sayers grew up in Batchewana village where he worked with his father and brother in the First Nation's commercial fishing industry.
Hear what Chief Sayers has to say by going here.
Lyle Sayers is a former Chief of Garden River First Nation. He is a direct descendant of Chief Shingwauk who fought in the war of 1812 and signed the 1850 Robinson-Huron Treaty on behalf of Garden River. In 1999 Former Chief Sayers oversaw the recovery of a wampum belt given by Chief Shingwauk to lieutenant-governor General John Colborne in 1832.
Hear what former Chief Sayers has to say by going here.
Peter Migwans is a painter in the woodland style. He began drawing when he was a miner in Wawa where he would draw images on the dusty windows and have his workmates guess what the image was. In addition to a lifetime of painting Peter has long served as an elder to the Anishnaabe community in Sault Ste. Marie.
Hear what Peter has to say by going here.
Barb Nolan has been a teacher and promoter of the Anishnaabe language for most of her life despite the attempt of residential school to make her give it up. To learn more about the language and how to speak it go to her website barbaranolan.com
Hear what Barb has to say by going here.
Alan Ojiig Corbiere, Bne doodemid (Ruffed Grouse clan), is an Anishinaabe from M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. He was educated on the reserve, the University of Toronto and York University. As of this writing he is the Anishinaabemowin Revitalization Program Coordinator at Lakeview School, M’Chigeeng First Nation, where he and his team are working on a culturally based second language program that focuses on using Anishinaabe stories to teach language.
Hear what Alan has to say by going here.
Dr. K. S. Hele is an Associate Professor and Director of First Peoples Studies at Concordia University, Montreal. He is a member of the Garden River First Nation community of the Anishinaabeg people.
Hear what Karl has to say by going here.
In June 2015, Shirley Horn of the Missanabie Cree First Nation near Chapleau, Ontario, became the first-ever Chancellor of Algoma University. It was a long and difficult journey that began with traveling by canoe at age five to St. John's Residential School and later by train to Shingwauk Residential School. She has dedicated herself to teaching Canadians about the Residential School system and to helping her people claim their land in Missanabie.
Hear what Shirley has to say by going here.
Mabel Lewis-Hill is a retired Native Language Teacher (Nishnabemowin Kina mooshkin ) who was born and raised in Wikwemikong First Nation, Manitoulin Island. Unlike many children of her generation she did not attend Residential School which allowed her to remain fluent in Anishnaabe.
Hear what Mabel has to say by going here.
Crystal Shawanda was born and raised on Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario where she discovered her love for singing. Her passion for music led her to the music program at Korah C. & V. S. in Sault Ste. Marie for high school. Still in her teens, Crystal headed for Nashvillle, Tennessee where, after many struggles with racism and rejection, she landed a recording contract with RCA records.
Hear what Crystal has to say by going here.
Born and raised in Wikwemikong First Nation, Manitoulin Island, James Darin Corbiere belongs to the Bear Clan of the Odawa tribe of the Anishinaabe nation. His Anishinaabe name is Waabi Makoohns which loosely translates to mean “Little White Bear.”
Hear what Darin has to say by going here.
Dr. Niigaanwewidam Sinclair is a Native Studies professor at the University of Manitoba. He regularly talks about indigenous issues on CTV, CBC and APTN. He has written books and contributed articles to magazines. He also teaches a course about graphic novels called, “Super Savages and Aboriginal Images in Graphic Novels.” Niigaan's father Justice Murray Sinclair, was the chair of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Hear what Niigaan has to say by going here.
Here is what some of the Anishnaabe leaders and elders of Bawating (Sault Ste. Marie) look like today.
The Anishnaabe today
How the Europeans saw the Anishnaabe
How the Anishnaabe saw the world
Bawating before the settlers
Norval Morrisseau, "Migration" 1973 Anishnawbek 1873 ROM2005_4064_1
This is what the Anishnaabe migration looks like on google view. Where do you think the starting point and end point are? Do you think any of those map names existed when they made their journey? Where is Sault Ste. Marie on this map?
The Anishnaabe elder Nokomis has said that the lines indicate that there is a relationship between the things connected. The lines show the direct relationship between the human and animal world.
What do the red lines connect in the painting?