Ojibway Winter Camp, Lake Couchiching, Ontario - c 1880

Portraits Page 9

Great Canadian Portraits


Ojibway Tent Camp, Northwest Ontario - 1878

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure An Ojibway camp, masterfully captured forever, by Frederick Verner, somewhere in the Lake of the Woods region of far western northern Ontario, at a time when Canada's First Peoples were still living in a traditional way.

Frederick has given us a good view of a typical tipi used by the Woodland Indians for thousands of years - basically a simple tripod with extra poles, and draped with large pieces of birch bark. It was wide open at the top to let smoke out. A blanket door, held in place with another pole, also could be opened up to allow more light in. What is astonishing is the small size of the tipis.


Ojibway Family Gathering, FA Verner 1878
Orig. wc - Size - 10" x 14"
Found - Toronto, ON
We assume Frederick got the proportions accurately. His painting makes two powerful general statements that apply equally to almost all of Canada's First Nations at the end of the 19th century. First, in marked contrast to the lifestyle of Canadians today, Verner illustrates that the Ojibway were entirely "outdoor people" only retiring to the interior of their small bark tents for a crowded night's sleep. Secondly, they were enormously social people, spending almost all their time in constant contact with other members of the tribe, quite different from today, when the modern nuclear family prefers to, both, spend lots of time indoors, as well as being separate from other groupings, except on special occasions.




Great Canadian Heritage Treasure Vying with the best Indian works of Peter Rindisbacher, Frederick Verner, and William Armstrong, is this fabulous work of an Ojibway winter camp, masterfully captured forever, by Julius Humme, probably on the shore of Lake Couchiching in central Ontario, at a time when Canada's First Peoples were still living in a traditional way.

The tent camp is situated near a good supply of water for cooking and washing. The tents appear to be made of canvas, which by mid 19th century became available from stores and traders in the neighbourhood. With canvas you could build a larger, more windproof dwelling.

It was easier to collapse, and carry to a new location, than bulky animal skins used in the past. You could also decorate the outside of the tent more easily. Racks outside held the chewables away from the knawing critters. Tent camps in winter tended to be larger as outlying groups gathered to socialize and make the winter dark and cold pass more quickly.

Ojibway Winter Camp, Lake Couchiching, Ontario - Joseph Julius Humme OSA, c 1880
Orig. oil on canvas - Size - 42 x 60 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Signed monogram JH

In the spring these larger camps would break up as family groupings dispersed to better fishing sites.

There they would set up tents of bark harvested from large trees they found locally.

Tent camps in winter and summer and winter had one great advantage; you could leave the filth that built up from many people in one place, behind as you sought out a cleaner environment.

Once people settled in one place, into cabins, controlling the filth build-up became a major problem for children picking up diseases from the offal that surrounded them.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

In 1900 many Indians in Ontario were still living in traditional bark huts in the summer; in the far north they lived in them in the winter too.

Shrapnell, gives us an interior view of the type of bark tent painted by Verner top. Certainly Shrapnell uses artistic license as his bark tent is far more spacious than the real thing was and had far more poles than any such structure ever had.

But Shrapnell is an educator and wants to give Europeans an idea of the life of Indians in the remote sections of the province.

Ojibway Family in Tent, ES Shrapnell, 1901
Orig. oil on canvas - Size - 19" x 30"
Found - Toronto, ON

Signed, ES Shrapnell, 1901

Ojibway Tent, Northern Ontario - 1901

Ojibway Tipi, Northern Ontario - 1880

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A Chippewa tipi camp, painted in the mid-nineteenth century on the Black River which flows into Lake Couchiching in Northern Ontario. The Chippewas are Algonkian (Ojibway) speaking people.

From the size of the huge slabs of elm or birch bark that were used for the tipis, it is clear that lumbering had not yet raped the land of its ancient trees in this part of the province. Before long, trees that could provide bark of this size would be only a memory, as they remain to this day.

We can see that while Indians still lived at least part of the year in bark tipis, they wore store clothes.

This group of women are also involved in making baskets, many still for personal use, but others for use by nonnative pioneers that were coming in to settle on their former hunting and trapping grounds.

Ojibway Basket Weaving, Black River, Ontario (detail) - Joseph Julius Humme OSA (1825-1889)
Orig. oil on canvas - Size - 41 x 54 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

Signed monogram JH

Towards the end of the century tourists, whose lungs were increasingly clogged by urban coal dust and smog came to the wilderness areas to breathe fresh air, enjoy nature, and buy Indian tourist wares.

Today their descendants are the Chippewas of the Rama Reserve, getting wealthy from another tourist pastime - gambling.

Right is another Julius Humme, of an Indian Chief, very likely also Ojibway.

Members of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation are descendants of a larger Band known as the Chippewas of Lake Huron and Lake Simcoe. In October of 1818 the Chippewas surrendered a large tract of land south of Georgian Bay, and in 1830 they were settled by Sir John Colborne onto land between Coldwater and Lake Couchiching, the "Coldwater Tract."

They surrendered this settlement in November of 1836 and subsequently subdivided into three distinct Bands and settled onto separate reserves -- Chief Yellowhead and his Band going to Rama in 1838, Chief Aisance and his Band going to Beausoleil Island in 1842, and Chief Joseph Snake and his Band going to Snake Island (now Georgina Island) in about 1838. Two parcels of the Rama reserve land were later surrendered and sold -- one in the late 1870s and the other in 1885. (Chiefs of Ontario)

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