The Pictographs

Scholars have attempted to attribute meanings to these images. Pictographs will depict life in the forest or will show signs of medicine such as drums, rattles or medicine bags.

Some of the possible meanings to the images* found in Shield rock art are linked with the Oiseau Rock pictographs and are explained below:

Nanabojou Figure Nanabojou Figure

This figure with the upraised arm is probably the most common figure in rock art sites. It may be Nanabojou who is also called Weeskijock (the Manitou who created the ground, the animals and plants.) Nanabojou was the first stone tool-maker so the stone points shown on the pictograph may indicate homage to this spirit and for the gathering of flint for the making of tools. Also, the upraised arms could may signify that the seeker was reaching to receive gifts from the Kitche Manitou who is the Great Spirit, the highest Manitou. A seeker of medicine may have fasted and perhaps, he documented the number of days fasted by the seven tally marks above the figure shown.

Acual canoe pictograph on Oiseau Rock

Boats are common motifs on Shield rock art. According to Grace Rajnovich in her book, "Reading Rock Art", the Ojibwa attributed the origin of the canoe to Nanabojou. Their images They can may mean various things, like a boat representing the movement of spirits or shamans to other worlds. Often, they have a stick-like projection which is either likely a torch employed in spearing fish at night or a flag.

Thor Conway, in his book "Spirits on Stone: the Agawa Pictographs," has noted that this panel at Oiseau Rock of four canoes led by two fish is similar to a site in Missinaibi Provincial Park where the panel there depicts a diving beaver leading three canoes arranged vertically.

Canoe pictograph
Bear pictograph

This may be a bear which was a special animal to Algonkians. An Anishnabe man told an anthropologist that the spirit of a hunted bear would return to the Bear Manitou in a mountain. The tracks may signify a real or metaphorical journey. There are other rock art sites in Ontario which depict moose or bear with marks behind or below them.

Bird pictograph


This figure may be bird and it could relate to the legends about Oiseau Rock. The thunderbird was a powerful Manitou who would help people by driving away the bad Manitous of the earth and water.

Fish pictograph #1


These fish may be the totems of the picture writer . A totem is the emblem of a family, group or an individual.

Fish pictograph #2

Non-aboriginal missionary pictograph

Non-Aboriginal Missionary

Gille Tasse in his report of 1977 speculated that this figure might be a Non-Aboriginal missionary showing his "black robe."

This anthropomorphic figure's head was lost to shifting rock. Just above this figure and to the right is a small canoe.
Actual pictograph of missionary on Oiseau Rock

Possible serpent or snake


Finally, this figure may be a serpent or a snake. The serpent was believed to be in a struggle with the Thunderbird Spirit. Often they are depicted in pictographs as having horns which signify its power. The serpent especially the underwater one is a common figure in Ojibwa, Cree and Algonkin stories.

* The organization, "Friends of Oiseau Rock" is sensitive to the beliefs held by some First Nations People who do not want pictographs reproduced as they are a representative form of their spirituality. No economic benefit has been gained from the reproduction of these images. They are produced with the purpose to educate the public that they exist, enlighten others about Anishnabe spirituality and to prevent further desecration of the pictographs. The last purpose is particularly relevant to the Oiseau Rock site since many people painted graffiti on the Rock were unaware that there were pictographs present on its rock face.

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