Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lake Superior's Witch Tree Ontario, Canada

On the east side of Hat Point on the Sibley Peninsula stands a single white cedar called the Witch tree.  It clings to the rocks ten feet above the water.  Its trunk is twisted like a corkscrew and its green scale like leaves are scanty.  It is called by some arbor vitae or the tree of life.  This is the oldest type of tree on the Great Lakes shores.  It may live more than 800 years.  People have wondered how it stays alive since it appears as though there is no soil under it; its roots wrap around rock. 

Both the Cree and the Ojibway indians have used this tree for offerings by placing tobacco around its roots.  They call it a Manitou or spirit tree and tell legends about it.  One legend is of the manitou Nanboujou who wears the cedar tree on his head with the roots bound around his body.

Another legend tell of an evil spirit in the form of a large bird who would plunge from the top of the tree and swamp canoes.

Map of area

1 comment:

  1. In 1989, while while visiting my grandmother in Boy River, Minnesota, my father and I took a few days to drive up to Canada, returning to MN south of Thunder Bay so we could once again experience the North Shore. Even though we had done the drive before, it never seemed to get old, even to a 17 year old -my age at the time. I always enjoyed Gooseberry Falls & Split Rock Lighthouse, but this time while having lunch in Grand Marais, if memory serves me right, we noticed the framed posters, photos on the wall and one stuck out -one of The Witch Tree. I immediately become enthralled by it's twisted trunk sprouting from a massive rock along the shore. How could that be? I had to go see it in person. I'm not sure if I asked someone or read it on the poster or what, but my father and I somehow figured out where we had to go to to start looking for this mystical tree. We drove up to Grand Portage and stayed at the Naniboujou Lodge for the night. I remember waking up early and taking a walk along the lake shore at sunrise -it was a chilly July morning, I remember putting on a long sleeve henley. After breakfast, my father and I drove up to the old fort and drove down some road, almost to it's end. We saw one sign, that had no mention of The Witch Tree. I recall thinking at the time how difficult it had taken us to even get to where we were on this search for the tree -this beautiful, intriguing, captivating tree captured on film and printed on posters...one would think that there would have been more interest in seeing this tree and therefore a more clear and defined direction to it, but no. I started walking down a path near the sign on the road and after a few meters the path disappeared; the path I was walking had grown over from lack of usage I assumed. I knew the lake was in front of me so I kept walking till I reached the shore of Lake Superior. Once there, I looked to my right, then to my left, and that's when I saw the tree some meters away. It was magnificent. Soon my father caught-up and we both admired in silence The Witch Tree sprouting from the large lake shore rock. I couldn't believe we had found it. Was it luck, or determination, I don't know -both! After saying a prayer and our farewell, we trotted back through the woods toward the road we came from. We emerged from the trees at a different location, from where we had entered. There I noticed a second sign -it was further down the road and hidden by vegetation. I'm not sure exactly how the words on the sign read, but it mentioned the Native American Tribe and the sacred grounds beyond the road and that only authorized tribe members could walk beyond the sign. It was more than an "oops," to my father and I, but we both agreed that we hadn't disturbed anything and had left the area as we had come upon it. So, we said an apology to the spirits, got in our car, and drove off. Oh, I did take one photograph.