The merging of ecosystems meant that each brought with them different plants, animals and geological characteristics. The diversity of food sources, as well as good water routes to travel on, and vast forest for shelter and other goods enabled this region’s aboriginal peoples to thrive and often quarrel over its wealth of resources.
Before Europeans reached the Americas, trade routes stretched from Lake of the Woods west to the Pacific Ocean, north to the tundra, east well into the Great Lakes and south down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.
On Lake of the Woods itself a summer gathering place drew peoples to trade and enjoy this land of plenty – fish from the waters and game from the land. Wild rice harvested from area marshes was a very important food source as were berries and acorns from the forests. Medicines were also derived from many forest trees and plants. On the Rainy River which feeds Lake of the Woods, the largest burial mounds in North America suggest many people brought the bones of their loved ones home to their final resting place. Rock pictographs tell stories throughout the region.
Place names like Sioux Narrows where the Ojibwa ambushed the raiding Sioux, and Massacre Island where early French explorers met their end, add to the history of the region.
The voyageurs used the Lake of the Woods and its rivers in and out as their main trade routes. They came from Montreal and the Great Lakes to the east and from Hudson Bay to the north. Both the Hudson Bay Company and the Northwest Company were active locally. Settlers from many European countries travelled through the Lake of the Woods to reach their new homes on the prairies of Western Canada.
This region is dotted with many First Nations communities and this part of the province has a large native population. Summer pow-wows are frequent as well as local feasts and wild rice gatherings.
A world class interpretive centre now sits on the banks of the Rainy River. A National Heritage site, KayNahChiWahNung celebrates 10,000 years of native history and is a scenic 40 minute drive from our headquarters. We partner with them to offer you a glimpse of their history and culture.