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Social Science Cultural

Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes

by (author) Selwyn Dewdney & Kenneth Kidd

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Dec 2018
Cultural, General, Native American, North America, Native American Studies, Social History
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    Publish Date
    Dec 2018
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This book describes in word and illustration the results of an exciting quest on the part of its authors to discover and record Indian rock paintings of Northern Ontario and Minnesota. Numerous drawings were made from these pictographs at a hundred different sites; the originals range in age from four to five hundred years to a thousand, and were done with the simplest materials: fingers for brushes, fine clay impregnated with ferrous oxide giving the characteristic red paint. Where an overhanging rock protected a vertical face from dripping water or on dry, naked rock faces the Indians recorded the forest life with which they lived in intimate association—deer, caribou, rabbit, heron, trout, canoes, animal tracks—and also abstractions which puzzle and intrigue the modern viewer. Many of the paintings could only have been done from a canoe or a convenient rock ledge.


Selwyn Dewdney travelled many thousands of miles by canoe to make the drawings of the pictographs which illustrate every page of this fascinating and attractive book. He provides also a general analysis of the materials used by the Indians, of their subject-matter and the artistic rendering given to it, and his artist's journal records in detail the sites he visited, the paintings he found at each, the comparisons among them that came to mind, the references to rock paintings in early literature of the Northwest. Kenneth E. Kidd contributes a valuable essay on the anthropological background of the area, linking the rock paintings with early cave art in, for example, France and Spain, describing the life of the Indians in the Shield country, and commenting on what the pictographs reveal of their makers' attitudes to their external world and of their thinking.


This is a book which will appeal to a wide audience: to those interested in primitive art forms and in Canadian art in general, to all students of the early history of North America, to travellers who in increasing numbers follow the canoe trails of the Shield lakes and rivers.

About the authors

SELWYN DEWDNEY is the author of two highly acclaimed novels, Wind Without Rain and Christopher Breton, as well as numerous works on Indian history and culture such as They Shared to Survive.

Selwyn Dewdney's profile page

Kenneth E. Kidd (1906-1994) was a professor emeritus of anthropology at Trent University. He established and chaired the Native Studies Program which was the first of its kind in Canada.

Kenneth Kidd's profile page

Other titles by Selwyn Dewdney

Other titles by Kenneth Kidd