Ottawa Valley Culture

Algonquins of PikwÓkanagÓn

Ancient rock art adorns cliff faces throughout Canada. There are several pictographs located in the Ottawa Valley. One is Lake Mazinaw that is situated south of Pikwàkanagàn. The lake is surrounded by cliffs rising straight out of the water. Etched upon this ageless rock are ancient pictographs of red ochre. These pictographs within unceded Algonquin territory are believed to have been created by Algonquin ancestors.

Oiseau Rock is a sheer rock face about 150 metres in height that rises straight out of the Ottawa River. Many Anishnabe legends are associated with it and Aboriginal people consider Oiseau Rock to be a sacred site. There are 77 pictographs depicting canoes, arrowheads, fish, serpent-like figures, thunderbirds and other motifs. The site is deemed by experts to be the most important and prominent rock-art site in Quebec.

Picture writing is an Algonquin tradition that has been found on birchbark, copper and stone. The rock paintings were created using red ochre; a mineral, likely mixed with animal oil as a binding agent.

Pictographs are inherently difficult to date. The red ochre is washed and worn away with time. The red markings that remain are simply a stain of the original red ochre once painted on the rock. Pictographs range from simple shapes or maps, to entire stories or scenes, utilizing mythological and spiritual figures. Common shapes can be found in pictographs from very distant regions such as the shape painted to depict a canoe. 

The pictographs tell Algonquin stories and they are ancient treasures for all people to enjoy. Please treat any pictograph or rock carving you encounter with respect.

This story is taken from the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn cultural narrative found at: