Coloring Pages

Colored line drawing of birch bark biting pattern.
Hand-colored design courtesy of Sofia V.

Mazinibaganjigan (Birchbark Biting)

Mazinibaganjigan (birchbark biting) started with First Nations women who took paper thin pieces of birchbark and used different parts of their teeth to create intricate and beautiful patterns. This type of art has been practiced for nearly ten thousand years. Ojibwe and Cree used this artform long before paper, to create a stencil for quill and beadwork. Pieces of birch bark were separated, folded, then bitten, producing a symmetrical design when unfolded. Wood ash could be rubbed into the bitten part, then placed onto a hide that was to receive the quill or beadwork. The bark could also be used as a pattern by sewing through the bark onto the hide, the same way paper is used today.

Birchbark can be collected from paper birch trees during the time of year when the wild roses start to bloom and the dragon flies come out (beginning of July). A vertical cut is made into the birch tree and then the bark can easily be removed. Removing bark from a birch tree does not kill the tree if it is collected properly. The tree will have a scar for a couple of years and then return to its white and papery appearance. Birchbark can be used to build canoes, homes, baskets, etc.

Fun fact: you can boil water in a birchbark basket!

Learn more about Sofia V., who desiged this page.

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Line drawing of beadwork designs.

Design courtesy of Sofia V.

Manidoominensikaan (Beadwork)

The Ojibwe manidoominensikaan (beadwork) tradition is inspired by things in the natural world to create a floral or geometric design. Beadwork can be made into necklaces, earrings, hairpieces, leggings, moccasins, etc. Appliqué beadwork is sewn/embroidered onto a beading foundation, felt or leather.

Prior to colonization, the Ojibwe people were doing quillwork, an art form similar to beadwork with porcupine quills instead of glass beads. During the fur trade, Ojibwe people began to trade furs for colorful beads and so they started to transfer techniques and designs from quillwork into beadwork.

Learn more about Sofia V., who desiged this page.

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Please enjoy these coloring pages.
Initiial heading words are in Ojibwemowin, the Anishinaabe language, and are linked to a recording of how each word is said.

Recording Sources:

Ojibwe People's Dictionary

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, provided by Ranger Damon. Damon Gezhiibideg Panek is an enrolled member of the Mississippi Band of White Earth Ojibwe and was a Park Ranger at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Before Gezhiibideg’s family “relocated” to White Earth in the 1860’s, they lived on Madeline Island and in the surrounding area. He currently lives on the Red Cliff Reservation with his family.

Line drawing of people in two canoes, spearfishing by torchlight.
waaswaaganing (fishing by torchlight)
Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Waaswaaganing (Fishing by Torchlight)

Waaswaaganing (ishing by torchlight) is a long practice of Ojibwe fishermen. This type of fishing happens in shallow water where the fish come to spawn when the water reaches the right temperature. A birch torch attached to the front of the canoe shines light into the water to mesmerize the fish and reflect off their eyes. A sheet of white bark behind the torch shields the people in the canoe from the light, keeping them in darkness so their prey would not detect them. The shield also protects the spearer’s eyes to stay adjusted to the darkness.
Light shining can also be used for hunting. Deer and other game, tormented by mosquitoes, come to the water’s edge to drink and avoid the worst of these pests. A canoe with a flamelight can paddle along the shore, freezing the animals long enough to obtain them.

• Waaswaaganing is also the name of the Lac du Flambeau (Lake of Flames) tribal lands in Northern Wisconsin. It comes from a style of spearfishing after dark using a birch torch attached to the front of a canoe.

• Waawaashkeshi (deer) comes from the same root word and refers to their flashing white tail.
• Wauswaugoning Bay in Grand Portage refers to the excellent fishing traditionally practiced here.

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Line drawing of a traditional split-toe moccasin.
makizin (moccasin)
Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / S. Veit

Makizin (Moccasin)

Makizinan (moccasins) are the traditional footwear for Anishinaabe and other Indigenous people. They are made from moose or deer hide, and often decorated with elaborate beadwork or quillwork. The common name, moccasin, comes from the Anishinaabe word makisin.

This moccasin is one of a pair that was made in 1937-38 as part of a WPA (Works Progress Administration) Project in Grand Portage. It is an example of the split-toe style, unique to Anishinaabe.

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Line drawing of two eagles, one perched and one flying over a bay. Stylized flowers border the bottom of the page.
Gichi-onigam wiikwed (Grand Portage Bay)
Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Gichi-onigam wiikwed
(Grand Portage Bay)

This bay is the view from Grand Portage National Monument Heritage Center. Often migiziwag (Bald eagles) fly over or perch on the snag in front of the Heritage Center.

Can you spot minong (Isle Royale) on the horizon? It is in the distance between Hat Point and Grand Portage Island.

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Line drawing of two traditional hide boats, one paddled with two people, in a river landscape.
Bull boats were a common way for people and things to cross rivers on the plains.
Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Bull Boat

Commonly associated with the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara, bull boats were necessary to cross rivers in the West. They transported loads of meat and firewood up and down rivers. These light vessels could drift as much as a mile during the crossing! Hair side facing out helped keep boats from spinning, and a tail served as an attachment point for towing. Weighing as little as thirty pounds and made from the hide of bison, they replaced canoes west of Grand Portage in a landscape where birch was scarce. A willow frame covered with fresh hide could be built in a day. The paddles were made from cottonwood, sometimes with a bison shoulder blade. Bull boats need to dry out periodically to prevent them from becoming waterlogged.

bimishkaa (she or he paddles along)

Bull Boat photo gallery

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A line drawing of three people paddling a canoe in a lake next to an island.
jiimaan (canoe) Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Jiimaan (Canoe)

Jiimaan (birchbark canoe) is one of the most recognizable symbols of Native American and First Nation cultures. All of the raw materials (birch bark, cedar and spruce root, plus spruce pitch, bear grease, soot mixed together to seal the seams) come from the Boreal Forest in the northern part of the continent.

Traditional canoe building knowledge passed orally and by demonstration from generation to generation to create canoes that were durable, functional, and elegant. To produce quality canoes efficiently, labor was divided – men made the wooden parts and assembled them, women lashed and gummed the seams. Jiimaanan can be different shapes according to their function. Ricing canoes, for example, are flatter to navigate shallower water and are propelled with poles to protect the fragile plants. Anshinaabe/Ojibwe crafted birchbark jiimaanan (canoes) for the fur trade. A North Canoe was equal to about 25 beaver hides worth of trade goods.

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A person wearing fire protective gear, holding a drip torch in front of a fire and distant buildings.
ishkode (fire). Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Ishkode (Fire)

For generations, Indigenous people managed the landscape with fire. Ishkode (fire) regenerates fire adapted plants and stimulates their growth. By clearing the understory, it opens a forest for living, creates forage to attract game animals, and maintains certain species like miinan (blueberries). Here you see a modern person igniting a fire to clear a meadow to encourage wiingashk (sweetgrass), a culturally important plant for the Anishinaabe.

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Two people in historic winter clothing, one holding snowshoes, with two sled dogs and a toboggan.
aagim (snowshoe) and nabagidaabaan (toboggan)
Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Nabagidaabaan, Aagimag
(Toboggan and Snowshoes)

Aagimag (snowshoes) and nabagidaabaan (toboggan) originate in northern snow country. The word toboggan comes from the Anishinaabemowin words: nabagi (flat) and odaabaan (sled). Native people used these sleds, often pulled by dogs, to move their belongings over snow. A pair of dogs could pull a load between 200-500 pounds for 20 miles in five hours.

The Northmen of the fur trade depended on aagim (snowshoes) to get around during the long winters, made by Native women in the villages where they built trading posts.

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Two dragonflies and some waterlilies.
oboodashkwaanishiinh (dragonfly)
Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Oboodashkwaanishiinh (Dragonfly)

Who loves dragonflies? Do you love to watch them – their colorful bodies and lacey wings darting around while they eat mosquitoes? Yay!! Less mosquitoes!

In addition to watching a oboodashkwaanishiinh (dragonfly) eat mosquitoes, did you know that observing dragonflies gives us a great measuring tool? Dragonflies spend their lives in streams, wetlands, lakes, and other water bodies, so their larvae (young) can tell us about mercury in the environment. Mercury comes from air pollution carried on the wind from places like smokestacks and tail pipes. It attaches to dust and water particles that fall as rain into our waterways where it is ingested by tiny insects and fish.

Dragonfly juveniles live below the surface, on rocks, plants, and in the mud, eating smaller insects and even small fish, making them high on the food chain. Each time a predator like a dragonfly larva eats prey with mercury inside, it takes up that toxin too. In turn, it becomes food for many fish and birds. Those fish and birds are then eaten by other fish, birds, and mammals, which are then eaten by larger animals and humans. Therefore, examining these larvae for mercury can tell us the condition of the water where they live and if there is a risk to humans and other animals.

Learn about the Dragonfly Mercury Project

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Line drawing of blueberry plants, a small bear head, and Ojibwe floral pattern.
miinan (blueberries). Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Miinan (Blueberries)

Have you ever picked wild blueberries? Mmmmm. Miinan (blueberries) are a favorite food, now and traditionally. Anishinaabe use fire to maintain lowbush blueberry patches as a way to prune the plants and clear competing brush plus open the canopy to allow more sunlight. This process stimulates growth and fruit production. Berries can be eaten fresh or dried for winter food.

Bears love berries too! Makwa (black bear) clan wears blueberry beaded medallions as part of their regalia to acknowledge and show gratitude for their food source. Anishinaabe beading patterns take nature for inspiration. Can you see the blueberries in the traditional flowers along the bottom?

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Line drawing of three striped turtles sunning themselves on a log in a pond.
miskwaadesi (Painted Turtle). Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Miskwaadesi (Painted Turtle)

Miskwaadesi (painted turtle) is the most common turtle in this region. Watch them sunning themselves on partially submerged trees. In Grand Portage they can be seen crossing the road in early summer to their breeding ponds from where they spent the winter. Adult size is seven to ten inches in length and they can live five to seven years. These turtles eat plants, fish, crayfish, aquatic insects, snails, tadpoles, and carrion. Their legs, necks, and tails have black and yellow stripes. They are the only turtle in Minnesota with orange-red markings – on the shell (carapace) and parts of their bodies.

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Line drawing of a frog, dragonfly, and wetland plants.
mashkiig (wetland)
Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Mashkiig (Wetland, Swamp or Muskeg)

Northern Minnesota is a very wet place! It is still drying out from the last Ice Age, which gives us many lakes and wetlands. Mashkiigoon (wetlands) come in several types, including bogs, swamps, and marshes, depending on the type of vegetation and amount/duration of water. Wetlands act as filters. They improve water quality, provide a natural reservoir, and help moderate the water table and the flow of rivers and streams. Wetland plants provide erosion control during flood events as their roots hold soil in place. Wetlands provide critical habitat for birds, amphibians, and many rare plants.

Cultural Importance

Manoomin (wild rice), an important food staple for the Anishinaabe, depends on these wet areas. In addition to the very useful apakweshkway (cattail), traditonally used as fluff for diapers or bedding and weaving material for mats, a surprising number of flowering plants prefer wetlands. Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor) and Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) are two seen commonly around Grand Portage.

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Line drawing of a swimming beaver holding a leafy branch.
amik (beaver). Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS graphic / G.M. Spoto

Amik (Beaver)

Amik (beaver) is the largest member of the rodent family in North America. Beavers were an important animal for the fur trade, when they were trapped and their pelts traded or sold to make hats and goods. Traditionally, Native people caught them for food and other items.

Beavers alter the places they live by cutting down trees with their teeth to build their homes. Their front teeth are orange from an iron coating that makes them stronger and holds a sharp edge. Did you know they can cut down a six-inch-thick tree in fifteen minutes? Beavers raise their families in lodges they build of sticks and mud. They escape predators by swimming into their den through underwater openings. They have special coverings, like goggles, for their eyes and close their nose and ears to be able to stay underwater for as long as twenty minutes!

Beaver lodges block streams and trap water to make ponds. These ponds can be homes for other animals and fish. Beavers work hard to plug holes to keep their lodges dry inside and maintain the ponds. If beavers leave an area, their lodges fall apart, the ponds disappear, and the remaining area dries into a fertile meadow. These meadows act as sponges, absorbing flood waters that later serve as caches in times of drought.

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Line drawing of a moose standing in vegetation.
mooz (moose). Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS graphic / G.M. Spoto

Mooz (Moose)

Mooz (moose) is the largest member of the deer family, which also includes waawaashkeshi (deer), omashkooz (elk), and adik (caribou). Moose are also the largest of Minnesota's wild animals. Their long legs make it easy to walk through deep snow and ponds where they eat water plants and willows. They run as fast as 35 miles per hour and swim up to 10 miles in one stretch.

The changing climate causes problems for moose. Warmer winters allow ticks to thrive and weaken moose. Also, less snow brings more deer to the area to compete for food, and more wolves that follow the deer and also prey on moose. Deer also carry a parasite, brain worm, that kills moose, elk, and caribou.

The name moose comes from the Anishinaabe word mooz. They are a traditional food source for Anishinaabe people in northern Minnesota, weighing around 1000 pounds – a lot of meat! During the fur trade years hunting to provide food took most of these animals from this area.

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A line drawing of a caribou framed by a flower chain.
adik (caribou). Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS graphic / G.M. Spoto

Adik (Caribou)

A member of the deer family, adik (caribou) eat lichen and browse shrubs. In winter when food is scarce on the ground, they move to ridge tops where deep snow enables them to reach lichen high in the trees.

Caribou are a boreal species that lived in northern Minnesota until logging in the second half of the 19th century changed the forest too much to be suitable habitat. They are one of the Anishinaabe clan animals whose images can be seen as rock paintings around the Lake Superior drainage. Did you know that reindeer and caribou are the same animal?

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Line drawing of a doe's head.
waawaashkeshi (deer). Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS graphic / G.M. Spoto

Waawaashkeshi (Deer)

Waawaashkeshi (deer) is the smallest member of the deer family that also includes omashkooz (elk), mooz (moose), and adik (caribou), all of which lived in the Grand Portage area at one time. When caribou still lived in northern Minnesota, deer were uncommon. Changes from farming and less snow in winter make this area better for deer now. All members of the deer family eat plants (herbivores).

White-tailed deer have a long tail that they wave like a flag to signal danger to the herd. Male deer (bucks) grow antlers beginning in spring and shed them at the end of winter. Baby deer (fawns) are born in spring and have white spots on their fur for their first three to four months.

Many animals prey on deer. Ma'iinganag (wolves), coyotes, makwag (black bears), and gidagaa-bizhiwag bobcats hunt and eat deer, often when they are young fawns and easier to catch.

When you color this doe, think about where she lives and draw a background for her home.

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Line drawing of the head and shoulders of a wolf with two distant wolves.
ma'iingan (wolf). Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS graphic / G.M. Spoto

Ma'iingan (Wolf)

Ma'iingan (wolf) is the largest member of the dog family, which in Minnesota also includes coyotes and waagoshag (foxes). Northern Minnesota once held the last remaining wild wolf population in the Midwest. Over time, wolves moved into more areas of Minnesota, nearby Wisconsin, and into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Wolves are very social and live in family groups that work together called packs. Usually this is a pair of mates and their pups, sometimes also pups from previous years. In Minnesota and the Midwest, packs average four to eight members. When older pups are present in a pack, they might assist with raising the newest litter by watching over them or helping hunt for food. Wolves prey on deer, moose, and also beavers or other small mammals.

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Line drawing of a Canada lynx with flowers.
bizhiw (lynx). Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS graphic / G.M. Spoto

Bizhiw (Canada Lynx)

Did you know Minnesota has a healthy Bizhiw (Canada lynx) population? Northern Minnesota is at the southern edge of their range, with 100-200 that live and breed here (breeding is a sign of health). The number of lynx goes up and down depending on the availability of waabooz (snowshoe hare), their main prey. Snowshoe hares are less common in mature forests where it is harder to find food, so lynx are more likely to be in areas with shrubs and small trees.

Bizhiw is about the same size as a gidagaa-bizhiw (bobcat), with larger paws and long ear tufts. Mostly bobcat and lynx areas do not overlap because a lynx’s large paws make it easier to stay on top of deep snow while they hunt. Bobcats go where there is less snow. Do you think warmer winters will have an effect?

North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nebraska are places lynx visit looking for food. Some lynx live in Montana and New England. Historically, they were common both in northern Minnesota and on Minong (Isle Royale).

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Line drawing of a marten standing on a branch in a tree.
waabizheshi (American marten)
Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS graphic / G.M. Spoto

Waabizheshi (American Marten)

Waabizheshi (American marten) is a member of the weasel family. Martens are important animals. They are a clan animal of the Anishnaabe. In northern Minnesota martens are at the southern edge of their range, which extends into Canada and Alaska. If conditions here change too much, they will move north. This would be a sign that the land around Grand Portage is becoming a different kind of forest.

Historically, martens were valued for their fur in fashion. Like beavers, they were trapped to near extinction in Europe and over harvested in North America during the fur trade era. Also, they lost their homes when this area was logged in the late 1800s. To thrive, martens need a forest floor cluttered with brush and debris, as well as dense tree coverage. They do best in northern forests with a lot of snow, away from human disturbance. In winter they stay warm in the air created by brush or roots covered with snow, where they also can find small rodents to eat.

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Line drawing of a bear cub holding its mother,
makwa (bear). Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS graphic / G.M. Spoto

Makwa (Black Bear)

Here you see noozhe-makwa (sow) and makoons (cub) together. Black bear cubs will stay with their mother for about a year and half. During this time young bears learn what to eat and how to stay safe while they grow.

Makwa (black bear) is the only type of bear in Minnesota. They usually live in the upper third of the state in forests and swamps. They can also be seen in farming areas because they like to eat corn, apples, and other crops. Bears are omnivores like us, eating all kinds of food, like berries, nuts, grass, and ants. They are also very good hunters that prey on moose calves and deer fawns that are too young to run fast and get away.

Bears hibernate in a den during winter from November or December to March or April. Females go into dens first and those with cubs come out latest when there is most likely to be food for the five-to-six pound cubs that were born in the den. Next winter, when they are a year old, the cubs will hibernate with their mother. Imagine sleeping in a den with your mother, brother, and sister!

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Line drawing of a fox holding a hare in its mouth.
waagosh (fox) with waabooz (snowshoe hare).
Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Waagosh (Fox)

You probable have seen a waagosh (fox) looking for food scraps. Did you know they are also fantastic hunters? Have you ever seen one jump into the air to pounce into deep snow for a small rodent? This one caught a waabooz (snowshoe hare).

Red foxes come in several colors including the usual reddish orange coat, with white-tipped bushy tail, and black legs, ears, and nose. Some are almost all black. Others can be red with dark bands on their shoulders (cross fox). Like wolves and coyotes, they are members of the dog family. Originally a boreal species, they live throughout Minnesota and are native to much of North America. Foxes sometimes cache (hide) their food for later. They occupy deep dens in the woods or forest, mostly for raising kits (young), as they like to sleep out in the open. Their big bushy tails help keep them warm when they curl up. During the winter, look for their tracks in the snow. You may be surprised at how many live in your neighborhood!

Snowshoe hares, like ermine, turn white in winter for camouflage. In Minnesota, look for them in coniferous forests (the northern half of the state and along Lake Superior).

Both foxes and hares are long jumpers. Which would win a jumping contest?

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Line drawing of two views of nest cavities with a large bird feeding two chicks.
meme (Pileated Woodpecker). Click on image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic derived from photos with permission © Travis Novitsky

Meme (Pileated Woodpecker)

Meme (Pileated Woodpecker) is one of the year-round birds in northern Minnesota. They are large birds, almost the size of crows, that are easy to spot. Black and white with a large red crest, and drumming that can be heard from a distance, these woodpeckers are easy to recognize.

Meme eat insects, larvae, and caterpillars, like spruce budworm, and wild berries. Large, dead trees are the best source of their favorite foods and for nest trees. Nest holes are large enough to later house owls, ducks, bats, and martens. Remember that standing dead trees provide important habitat for a variety of birds and other wildlife!

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A bird holding a berry in its beak, perched among leaves on a branch.
zegibanaanishiinh (Cedar Waxwing).
Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS graphic / G.M. Spoto

Zegibanaanishiinh (Cedar Waxwing)

This zegibanaanishiinh (cedar waxwing) is eating a gozigwaakomin (serviceberry, juneberry, saskatoon, wild currant). Waxwings get their name from waxy-looking red feather tips on their wings. In size they are between a sparrow and a robin. Cedar waxwings eat all kinds of fruit, including cedar berries in winter that give them the rest of their name. What kind of cedar grows at Grand Portage? (giizhik, northern white cedar, which is used in canoe building)

Cedar waxwings live all over North America except Alaska and the northern provinces of Canada. They are found at Grand Portage year round, and often form big flocks. You can see them where you live! If you live in the southern half of the United States, you will have to wait for winter.

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Line drawing of a pair of Sandhill cranes in flight.
ajijaak (Sandhill crane). Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS graphic / G.M. Spoto

Ajijaak (Sandhill Crane)

At five feet tall and with a wingspan of seven feet, Ajijaak (Sandhill crane) is Minnesota’s largest bird. They have a distinctive red patch on their foreheads. Ajijaak is another Anishinaabe clan animal.

Sandhill cranes are famous for their courtship ritual, which involves bowing and singing a “duet” between the pair.

These birds are usually found in fields and meadows and can be seen this area during spring and fall migration. Recognize them by their calls as they fly overhead.

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Line drawing of two birds holding food in their beaks, bending over a broken off stump.
gwiingwiishi (Canada Jay) Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Gwiingwiishi (Canada Jay)

We see gwiingwiishiwag (Canada Jays) when we camp or picnic on the North Shore. Nick-named “Camp Robber” because they appear where human food is available and might even take some from your hand. They live in the boreal forest and Rocky Mountains, and use resin of boreal conifers to help preserve their winter food stash. The freeze-thaw cycle of warming winters spoils the defrosted cache, like unplugging your freezer would at home. Because chicks hatch at the end of winter before fresh food is available, their survival depends on this stored food.

Canada Jays have incredibly thick, fluffy plumage that puffs up in cold weather, and protects their legs and feet - even their nostrils are covered with feathers. They nest during late winter, incubating eggs in temperatures that may drop below minus 20°F.

To store large quantities of food, Canada Jays use sticky saliva to glue small food items behind flakes of bark, under lichen, in conifer needles, or in tree forks above the height of the eventual snow line, and can remember where their food is cached for later use.

Northern Minnesota is at the southern edge of their range. To thrive here depends on cold winters, so they are considered an indicator species of what is happening with the boreal forest as climate changes.

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Line drawing of bell-shaped flowers on slender stems.
Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia). Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Godotaagan (Bell)

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

Harebells are lilac-colored flowers that grow in a variety of places in northern Minnesota, including rocky bluffs! They bloom all during the warm season. Look for them in the woods and near the shore while you are exploring. Campanula rotundifolia is the scientific name. Godotaagan (bell) is the Anishinaabe name.

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Line drawing of three different wildflowers growing on a cliff at the edge of a lake.
Alpine Bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), Bird’s-eye Primrose (Primula mistassinica), Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris). Click on the image for a coloring page.

NPS Graphic / G.M. Spoto

Remnants of a Colder World

The most recent Ice Age ended 10,000-12,000 years ago. As glaciers receded, plants that could grow in harsh conditions started to appear on the newly exposed ground. Some of them still exist in pockets along Lake Superior’s North Shore today!

Lake temperatures keep the shore cool, and ice scraping prevents other plants from growing, so these “arctic relicts or disjuncts” remain. They survive on very little soil in crevices in the cliffs, the same cliffs that give this area its stunning beauty. This shoreline came from lava flows about a billion years ago and is made of minerals favorable to these wildflowers. They are called relicts or holdovers because they survived from an earlier time, and disjuncts because the rest of their population is far away in the subarctic where conditions are similar. What could happen if Lake Superior temperatures continue to rise and no longer chill the air along the shore?

Fun fact: one of these, Butterwort, supplements scant soil by being carnivorous. Its leaves are sticky enough to trap, dissolve, and absorb small insects.

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Last updated: June 19, 2024

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