Plaque honoring Mazinaw is Pictograph unveiled

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Officials involved with the naming of the Mazinaw Pictographs as a National Historic Site applaud as the commemorative plaque is unveiled Friday afternoon at a ceremony at Pikwakanagan. From the left are Councillors Barb Sarazin and Wendy Jocko, Chief Kirby Whiteduck, Willy Dick, a staff member at the Cultural Centre, and Dr. Richard Alway, chair of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

Pikwakanagan — Representatives of Parks Canada and Ontario Parks gathered with officials of the Pikwakahangan First Nation Friday for a formal ceremony dedicated to recognizing an important part of Indigenous history in the province.
Over the past centuries, Indigenous artists had left their mark on a rock cliff at Mazinaw Lake, using red ochre to create figures of animals, humans and geometric symbols and on Friday, a plaque was unveiled to formally commemorate the national historic significance of these pictographs.
The local drum group, Bear Nation, opened the ceremony, with emcee Katherine Patterson, Field Unit Superintendent of Parks Canada, noting the visitors were very excited to be sharing the experience of the drumming and other elements of the traditional pow wow which was being held that weekend.
“Today’s ceremony is a truly special occasion as we celebrate the recognition of the Mazinaw pictographs as a National Historic Site of Canada,” she said.
Chief Kirby Whiteduck of the Algonquin First Nation welcomed the guests and thanked everyone for attending what he described as “an important event”.
“We thank you for assisting us in putting this together,” he remarked. “We’re very pleased to have it happening in Pikwakanagan and to be hosting this event.”
Ms. Patterson thanked everyone for the warm welcome they had received on the unceded, unsurrendered Algonquin territory during the opening of the annual pow wow.
“Parks Canada has been allowed to have this short ceremony to commemorate the Mazinaw Pictographs as a National Historic Site of Canada,” she explained. “I’m so glad we’re able to gather, recognize and raise awareness among Canadians about the amazing culture, history and identity that the Mazinaw pictographs present and represent.”
“Unfortunately, past government policies meant many Indigenous voices and stories have been silenced and oppressed as connections to places across the country were severed,” she added.
She noted it was part of her job to ensure Parks Canada demonstrated leadership in renewing and strengthening its relationship with Indigenous people and reconnections to the land across the country.
“Through this ceremony, we are honouring the national significance of pictographs for Canada today and forever,” she stated.
Chief Whiteduck shared some history of the pictographs, noting the word ‘pictograph’ meant painting or writing in Algonquin.
“And the plaque will reflect that,” he stated.
He said he felt it’s very important governments are starting to recognize some Indigenous and First Nation sites across the country which has been missing for some time.
“I think it’s important for the general public and First Nation people to know there are sites that pre-date Canada itself, as those have become part of the history of the land we now call Canada. It’s welcoming to finally see that there is this recognition that should be there all the time.
“So it’s good to know this is happening and it’s good it’s in Algonquin territory where this site is being recognized.”
He said this and other sites, plus the archaeology and history, are part of the process that show the occupation and, in his view, the ownership of the land and resources that the First Nation and Algonquin people had.
“Along with the archaeology, it demonstrates that our ancestors were here for thousands of years, and the pictographs may well be hundreds, or thousands of years old also and demonstrates some of the art, from hundreds of years back, of the Indigenous people.”
Chief Whiteduck noted red ochre was used in the pictographs, which was also used at the grave sites of Algonquin people over the centuries.
“Red ochre is used quite consistently in burials,” he said.
He said historical records by the Jesuit missionaries also refer to the use of red ocher by the Algonquins.
“That shows the continuity of the Indigenous and Algonquin people,” he remarked. “So the recognition of this is important and it’s important to recognize Indigenous and First Nation sites as part of the history of this land and also as part of the history of Canada.”
“I’m very pleased to be working with Parks Canada to co-ordinate and finally get this event to happen and we have a plaque that will be there a long time to show that.”
Dr. Richard Alway, chair of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board Canada, delivered the official address on behalf of Minister of Environment Change and Climate and the Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna.
“Your ancestors, living in the Anishinabe way, were the first to treat the earth, and all that dwell upon it, with respect,” he read. “And it’s up to us, today, to learn more from your ways and to go far beyond our words to actually earn your trust by working faithfully together with you.
“Your traditions and your knowledge will help us to re-think our way, become open to new possibilities, and enable us all to protect our natural and cultural heritage,” he continued.
He said he was honoured to be part of the ceremony to name the Mazinaw Pictographs as a National Historic Site and make it part of the family of commemorated places, persons and events of national historic significance.
“The pictographs themselves are incredible and inspiring for any of us that have seen them,” he said.
Located on a cliff at Bon Echo Provincial Park, they are accessible only by water.
“That means we can’t be there in person today for the ceremony, but we can imagine with wonder and awe as we reflect back on your ancestors creating those paintings so long ago. Given the significance of the paintings and the connection to the Algonquin people there is no better place to honour the national significance of the Mazinaw Pictographs than here at the Pikwakanagan pow wow.
“The Government of Canada is working to ensure that Canadians have opportunities to learn about the full scope of our history and today’s ceremony is part of our efforts to share a much broader and more inclusive story of our of our past than we have in the past,” he continued. “The history and culture of this land reaches back millienia, long before the country we now call Canada, and those early stories and events own important teachings for us to this day.”
Facts On Pictograph
A Parks Canada release notes the Mazinaw Pictographs National Historic Site is a large collection of pictographic symbols applied to a cliff face that rises sheer out of the water. The official recognition refers to a narrow band of 30 metres to the west and to the east of the cliff face, while the pictographs actually consist of 260 images spread along 2.5 kilometers. Most of the pictographs are scattered in narrow bands just above water level, suggesting that they were painted from boats. Many of the images are now extremely faint and while efforts have been made to carefully record them and monitor their condition, some have been damaged by wave splash and vandalism.