Hand Drawn Ojibwe Map of Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay Keith Catton 2016
“Thunder Bay” by Keith Catton
Detail of “Thunder Bay”
k.catt anekiwajiw
Detail of “Thunder Bay”

Thank you to Keith Catton for creating this beautiful map of Thunder Bay, Ontario, labelled in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe). See the artist’s statement below:

The creation of this work originally began as a hand drawn trail map of the “Mountain McKay”; where I grew up. Just as I was about to write in the Mountain’s name with India ink, my hand stopped- I encountered a dilemma in my project. For it was not my intent to propagate place names of Colonial history with my art. Names like McKay (a fur trader) and Loch Lomond (named after a lake in Scotland). Its is important for me to honour my hometown history and the original people of Thunder Bay, the Anishinaabe, while also creating art which inspires critical thought. I was in search of the oldest names that I could find. I spent days riffling through collections of French maps from the 1600’s. “Kaministiqua”; was always present, signifying its importance in fur trade history. It seemed I had hit a wall at that early point, just like my ink, the trail ran dry.

I began searching through books and reading local history. Eventually I happened upon a research paper that a famous local librarian wrote and published in 1921, later reprinted in the collection Life in a Thundering Bay (2007). It just happens the library I frequented during my childhood was named after her. Mary J. L. Black, of The Thunder Bay Historical Society, published Place Names in the Vicinity of Fort William (1921). Black was equally inquisitive about local History as she had interviewed a number of individuals on the place names including translations and stories. The Ojibway language was of the oral tradition and thus numerous names and spellings existed for each location. Around that time a friend at Waverly Library showed me an Ojibway Dictionary from the 1800s by Frederic Baraga, which I then used to cross reference Ms. Black’s paper. I followed a pattern using the oldest names but the contemporary spelling for Anemki. The original names either described the landscape or described a spiritual belief attached to the location. For example, the choice of using “Thunder Point” over “Thunder Cape”, for when consulting the map the landform points toward Thunder Mountain. This was one of the great revelations I had during my research.

The art was drawn with calligraphy pens and ink. The prints are then created by silkscreen and each print completed with hand water-coloring. The visual style is reminiscent of the past, a conceptual decision meant to in a sense amend time. I present this map not as the singular description. But as a medium to hopefully spark further conversation and curiosity in the community consciousness.

Keith Catton



Anemki Wikwed ~ Thunder Bay, Bay of Thunder
Animosaigaigun ~ Dog Lake
Animiki Neiashi ~ Thunder Point
Kakabeka ~ “high cliff falls”
Kaministiquia ~ “river that winds”
Kasasagadadjiqegamishkag ~ “the high lake that is always overflowing”
Anemki Wajiw ~ Thunder Mountain
Kitchi Gami ~ Great Water, Great Lake




  1. Here are the toponyms found on that map, but in the Fiero Orthography:
    • Animikii-wikwed (Anemki Wikwed) ~ bay of thunder, i.e. Thunder Bay
    • Animo-zaaga’igan (Animosaigaigun) ~ Dog Lake
    • Animikii-neyaashi (Animiki Neiashi) ~ Thunder Point
    • Gakaabikaa (Kakabeka) ~ high cliffs
    • • ALSO: Gakaabikong-baawitig (Kakabeking bawtick) ~ high cliffs falls (literally, rapids at the high cliffs)
    • Gaa-ministigweyaa-ziibi (Kaministiquia) ~ river with silt islands at its mouth
    • • ALSO: Gaa-manitigweyaag-ziibi (Kamanatiquia) ~ river that winds\twists
    • Gaa-zaasaagidajiwegamishkaag (Kasasagadadjiqegamishkag) ~ the high water-body that is always overflowing, i.e. Loch Lomond
    • • ALSO: Gaa-zaasaagijiwegamaag (Kazazeekeegewaigamag) ~ the high lake that is always overflowing
    • Animikii-wajiw (Anemki Wajiw) ~ thunder mountain, i.e. Mount Mackay
    • Gichigami (Kitchi Gami) ~ great water, great lake, i.e. Lake Superior
    • Nanabozho ~ Nanabush, a cultural trickster/hero character from the Aadisookaan (traditional narratives)


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