“Manitoulin Islands, Most Southern Part of Canada.” 30×40 inch acrylics on canvas.
The name Manitoulin is First Nations Ojibwe which means “Cave of the Spirit”, an underground cave where a very powerful spirit lives. The Island has several lakes left over from heavy glaciation 10,000 years ago. Another First Nations name of the Island is Odawa meaning spirit island. The Island is also where the administration for the band government of the Sheshegwaning First Nations.
Manitoulin Island is situated on Lake Huron and the most southern part of Canada in the Province of Ontario. It is the largest lake Island in the world with 100 lakes contain in itself!! Evidence of First Nations inhabitation of the Islands goes back 10,000 since the last of the massive glaciers melted away leaving the Great Lakes including Lake Huron. The highest point on the Islands is called “Cup and Saucer” and is 1155 feet feet high. The hills are rounded a testament to the powerful glaciers up to 5,000 feet thick.
Indigenous theater is important on the Islands. The Debaj is the longest running indigenous theater in North America. Theater has replaced churches as people have become disillusioned with Christianity as it has caused a lot of controversy world wide. Church attendance is on the decline, especially in Quebec where churches are empty and in structure decay. The Catholic Church, once a powerful force in communities is a mere shadow compared to the power it once commanded. In British Columbia Christian icons in First Nations Churches have been replaced with Totem Poles reflecting the family crests unique to each community. Local folk lore and history is enacted by theater groups enabling the next generation to understand their heritage so important in a fractured, multi cultural world. Young woman are being encouraged to strive for higher education giving them a vision so they can avoid the downward spiral of teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse. Canadian film director from the Islands, Shirley Cheechoo has become one of the role the models for success that young indigenous woman can look up to for inspiration. The Holy Cross Church run by the Jesuits founded in 1844 and played a significant role in increasing literacy of the Ojibwe language preservation in Canada.
Access to the Islands is a by the little current swing bridge which crosses the North Channel at Little Current. From May till October, a passenger vehicle SS Chi-Cheemaun or Big Canoe access the islands. Winter ice prevents ferry traffic. There are two airports for small aircraft allowing for border patrol access from the USA. Tourism being the number one economic driver of the islands much like the Gulf Islands in British Columbia. The Islands swell with visitors in the peak July and August and return to their more sedate existence the rest of the year.
There are two important and eight townships on the islands. There are almost 13,000 permanent residents adding another 4,000 during the peak tourist season July and August. As well as blue berries the islands have hawberries, which as so distinctive locals are knowns at Haweaters.
Daphne Odjig, a Canadian First Nations painter who painted in what is knows as the Woodlands Style or in Art History as pictographic style. She was also instrumental in setting up the Professional Native Indian Artists Association or the First Nations Group of Seven bringing First Nations Art to the forefront of Canadian Culture. She was encouraged by her Grandfather a stone carver to pursue her art and her Grandmother nurtured her creative spirit. She said art was always a part of her family life. While moving to Toronto for work she explored the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. She was particularly influenced by the Cubists art of Picasso which was revolutionary in the early 1900s paving the way for modern art.