The Land That Gives Life
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There are many cultural sites in Pimachiowin Aki, including:
- Cultural sites for community healing ceremonies, which involve drumming, dancing, and singing of sacred songs
- Special structures like sweat lodges or shaking tents, which are used to summon and communicate with powerful spirit beings
- Special islands where people, especially youth, receive spiritual guidance through visions or dreams
- Offering sites where Anishinaabeg leave gifts for spirit beings (the Creator’s helpers) to pray for safe travel or successful hunting, show respect for the Creator’s gift of life, or acknowledge the sacrifice of plants and animals for Anishinaabe survival
- Thunderbird nests (hollow pits encircled with large and medium-sized boulders), which are to be avoided out of respect. Thunderbirds are the Creator’s helpers and are responsible for many things, including bringing rain, lightning and life-renewing fire to the forest
- The islands and rock faces where memegwesiwag (little rock people), another of the Creator’s helpers, live. People are warned never to point at these places for fear of offending the memegwesiwag
- Pictographs—painted with a paste made of a red ochre and fish oil or bear fat—that serve as a veil through which spirit beings and medicine people pass into each other’s worlds
- Archaeological sites where evidence of ancient life is found, such as campsites with pottery or firepit remains, or quartz quarries where stone was collected to make tools
Thunderbirds are large birds that look after the life in the sky. They build their nests from stones and have their young like any birds do. They come this way in the spring and leave in the fall.Elders Abel Bruce and Albert Bittern
Hundreds of pictographs (rock paintings that are thousands of years old) have been documented at over 30 locations across Pimachiowin Aki. The Bloodvein River waterway contains the largest collection of pictographs in Canada.
Pictographs are typically found in places associated with powerful spirit beings: next to water, at the intersections of sky, earth and water, underground, and underwater.
Read our story about pictographs and the meanings behind the symbols: 5 Spectacular Pictographs Explained
Anishinaabeg continue to make offerings and conduct ceremonies at sacred sites. Offerings are left to respect the entities that inhabit the land, to thank their spirits for giving their lives. The offerings are objects of value, and are accompanied by a prayer for a successful hunt or journey.
There are offering sites in the rocks at either end of Pinesewapikung Sagaigan. People make offerings when they enter the lake and ask the Thunderbirds to be gentle with them so they can have a safe trip across the lake. That lake is shallow and gets rough if it is windy.Elders Abel Bruce and Albert Bittern
There is a cliff on the shore of a river where shaking tent ceremonies were performed. Rattling sounds are heard here. Anishinaabeg know this rock is owned by memegwesiwag. Anishinaabeg make offerings here.Solomon Pascal, in translation