Happy New Year’s Lake of the Woods
Our home on an island on Lake of the Woods in Canada for fifteen years – through all seasons has me playing tribute to a lake that has endless shorelines and islands, untold magic of Wendigo, petroglyphs depicting spiritual beliefs and fierce fur trade and commercial fishing.
History dates Lake of the Woods being occupied by people since about 8,500 BC. Wild rice, a staple to many of its people began about 800 BC. Initially, the people were nomadic big game hunters, beginning with mastodon, and then bison and elk after its extinction. Eventually, the population increased and settling occurred, currently known as the Cree and Ojibway cultures.
The aboriginal people harvested furs for clothing, food, utensils and ceremonial objects and eventually traded with the fur trading companies. The fur trade was with Europeans – there was a fierce rivalry between the English of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the French of the Northwest Company. The Hudson’s Bay Company ceased operations in Rat Portage (Kenora) in 1918 with a decline of demand and availability of furs.
“The sun overhead told him it was early afternoon. He had slept four or five hours and was startled by the changing landscape. The sun was bleached by a winter grey sky. Snow was driven by a fierce wind in sheets of white. The wind gusted and hesitated before exhaling another blast of freezing cold. He was looking through a hazy filter of snow.” The Pack - Perils and Peace of Nature
Gold mining lured the next group of investors in the late 1800’s. Gold as found on the shore and islands of Lake of the Woods with over 20 locations established for working mines. Most of the mines closed down by 1912, but over the years there were revivals. Demand for lumber, particularly to feed the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway also made Lake of the Woods and its islands a prominent contributor to not only the railway but the settlers heading west. At the same time, steamboats appeared on Lake of the Woods to transport settlers and their possessions over difficult sections of land and water. The largest of the steamers was 150-foot that could accommodate over one hundred passengers
Commercial fishing in the 1880’s was all about sturgeon with a worldwide demand for sturgeon roe (caviar). Between 1893 and 1895, it was recorded that 1.5 million pounds of fish as well as 124,000 pounds of sturgeon roe were harvested! Lake of the Woods was one of the world’s largest sources of caviar but even this great lake could not sustain an industry that had a bottomless appetite. By 1915 sturgeon taken were reduced to a few thousand pounds. The photo from Whitefish Bay is a small sampling of lake trout on a good day.
Baseball caps – I hate them, unless they serve a real purpose. I understand why people wear them backwards – so they can SEE. Mind you, who needs eyes with my nose and ears? Yes, they are in – and will likely stay in because they are really not a style but a statement – ‘I’m cool’. I happen to be cool ALREADY, but hunting caps, now that’s functional.
Bucket hats! DEFINATE-LY, not for me!! Apparently, women drive this trend because it’s their version of a baseball cap. Then there’s straw hats because we all want to be on the beach. No salt water for this delicate coat!