In the early stages of planning for the Ojibwe Heritage Murals at Grand Portage National Monument, local Ojibwe elders were asked what they wanted to see as artwork on the walls of the Heritage Center’s cultural demonstration area. They said, “To see Grand Portage people doing Grand Portage things.” The oil paintings, created by North Shore artist David Gilsvik, were completed in 2015. They grace the four walls of the center’s second floor presenting a “visual poem” to Grand Portage Ojibwe culture, history and persistence.
There are images based upon traditional pieces in the center’s collections: a moccasin with intricate floral beadwork, a powwow dancer in traditional dress, a fisherman in a birch bark canoe using a net to catch lake trout and a wooden tray with hand-carved designs used to cool boiled maple sap into delicious treats. People are based on old photos: women repairing snowshoes, making birch bark baskets, tapping sugar maples and boiling the sap, a boy proudly holding the lake trout he caught, men scrapping a deer hide, grouse hunting, carrying canoes on a portage, and delivering the mail in winter with toboggans and sled dogs.
David tried to make the mural about Grand Portage as a place and a people, and to honor both. Come and experience these vibrant and poignant depictions of Ojibwe culture. The gallery also offers a stunning view of the Grand Portage Bay, home place of the Grand Portage community for hundreds of years.