Tag Archives: Ojibwe


IMG_2280We’ve been on treasure hunts today. Gore Bay, where we’ve been staying, has a Friday morning market; it proved too inviting to miss and Cristal soon found some woodwork bowls she wanted to buy. But the walk to the bank for cash only led to a garage sale and, as fate would have it, it was huge and impressive. Combing through junk to get to the good stuff was fun, and we each finally made decisions to buy some glassware that was going cheaply—all thoughts of woodwork bowls gone.

Early afternoon found us once again combing a trading post on the far side of the island. I’ve been after a porcupine quill basket I could afford and finally found one, while Cristal grabbed a deerskin purse. At long last, we drove over to the Spirit Circle Centre for a medicine walk, to learn about the various properties of the plants the First Nation peoples use.

FullSizeRenderI should explain that Manitoulin is considered a sacred island by the various sects of the Ojibwe who live here. Our guide, Red Sky, IMG_2287showed us how to ‘smudge’ to protect ourselves before going on the walk. He had us taste cedar leaves and balsam and feel the bark of birch and other trees, and he ended the session giving us IMG_2288bannock and jam and a mint tea. But what stays in my mind the most is how he said the native people must live in two worlds, the everyday world of paying bills and driving cars and dealing with modern problems, and the spirit world of his ancestors and how they would exist in the old ways. And it struck me that, that is true of authors as well: we live in the everyday world of our families and jobs and the domain about us, but in our heads we live in our books with our characters and the world we’re creating.

So if I’m taking any treasure home from Manitoulin, it’ll be the memory of this afternoon spent learning not only about the plants, but a little bit more about myself as well.


I’ve been seeing the world in layers today. Not onion layers that you peel back to find something at the center, but rather layers that you build upon to get to where you are.

IMG_2201We took a boat ride over to Grand Island, now the property of the Forestry Commission and designated a National Recreation area. A three hour bus tour proved very informative on both the history of the island and its geology. Grand Island is built on sandstone and, depending on the age of the sandstone, each layer has a different color as it gleans more minerals from the earth around it. One variety is brownstone from which many buildings, particularly on the east coast, are built. Eventually, sandstone turns to limestone, a far more dense sedimentary stone. IMG_2204But here on Grand Island, as we viewed one of the original cottages and saw the sandstone used for its chimney, the layers became evident, a color wheel of various shades.

graffiti left by early residents of the cabin, discovered as renovators peeled back layers of wall

graffiti left by early residents of the cabin, discovered as renovators peeled back layers of wall

Later on that tour, we visited a spot where two islands became the one. An area called a tombolo connects the two original islands having built up layers of sediment over thousands of years. The bottom layer would be coarse sand built upon by the waves rolling in and depositing more and more sand until the land bridgeFullSizeRender between the two islands became permanent. Eventually, a thin layer of plant life developed, no doubt helping to bind the final layer.

Finally, of course, there have been layers of people, if you’ll excuse my stretching this metaphor. Evidence on the island shows inhabitants going back to 2000 BC. IMG_2215Coming slightly forward, the Ojibwe/Chippewa nation used the island, ultimately welcoming fur traders in the early 1800s. Fur traders gave way to loggers before the next layer in the late 1800s—wealthy tourists who stayed at a full service hotel or built summer cottages on the shore. WWII put an end to this golden era and the loggers came back, selling out to the forestry commission, who have it now.

We’ve had a lovely clear blue sky all day: Troposphere, Stratosphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere, Exosphere, Ionosphere, Magnetosphere. Layers…FullSizeRender-14