Assiginack Museum

Assiginack Museum

Manitowaning

A plaque at the entrance of the Assiginack Museum recounts the years of the ‘Manitowaning Experiment.’ After the Manitowaning Treaty of 1836 formally acknowledged Manitoulin Island as belonging exclusively to the Odawa, Ojibwe and Pottawatomi in perpetuity, the village of Manitowaning–Ojibwe for ‘den of the Great Spirit’–became the centre of the Canadian government’s Indian Department to ‘Europeanize’ the Native inhabitants, with an Anglican clergyman, a doctor and a teacher in residence.

The treaty of 1862, still controversial today, revoked the previous treaty, removed the Native population to assigned reserves–except for Wiikwemkoong that was, and remains, Unceded Territory–and opened the Island to settlement by Scots and Irish immigrants from southern Ontario. The ‘Experiment’ failed, and by 1867, the Indigenous residents had moved out and non-Native entrepreneurs moved in, building mills, homes, general stores, churches, hotels and setting up shop as blacksmith, cabinetmaker, tailor, bootmaker, doctor. By 1879, when The Manitoulin Expositor newspaper was founded and published there, Manitowaning was a most prosperous town.

The Assiginack Museum and Heritage Complex, opened as Manitoulin Island’s first museum in 1955, commemorates the origins of the town of Manitowaning and the Township of Assiginack on its grounds, in its limestone lockup and home for the jailer built on Arthur Street in 1878, and in the adjacent temperature-controlled exhibition and research facilities built in 2000 as a millennium project. This newer space is where curator Kelsey Maguire, who has a degree in English from the University of Guelph, a certificate in Museum Studies from the Ontario Museum Association and a special interest in genealogy, directs visitors who are looking for genealogical information on the area’s early families and their descendants, or for records of old properties.

The archives in the air-conditioned and heated facility are open to researchers by appointment year-round; catalogued are census print-outs, obituaries, family trees, files on existing headstones in cemeteries, records of family farms and properties. “The first Manitoulin Expositor is here,” says the curator, “and most all the hard copies of the paper. Although some are missing, the archive is mostly complete.”

In the exhibition hall below, a large collection of early iridescent lime green ‘vaseline glass’ glows in a glass case and rare china pieces that once graced the grand dining rooms of Manitowaning tastefully attest to the wealth of the townspeople in those days. Most of the museum’s extensive collection has been donated by local families whose ancestors settled here in the 1860s and later. “The biggest part of our collection is the china and glassware,” says Mr. Maguire, and there are enough display cases throughout the museum of the most fanciful blown glass and now-vanished porcelain patterns to amaze today’s visitors with perhaps more ‘minimalist’ domestic tendencies.

The spacious reception room features the affectingly executed scale model boats of Jacob C. Shigwadja; the late model-builder handcrafted large replicas of Manitoulin’s first ferries, including the Normac of the 1930s, the Norgoma and Norisle of the 60s (the latter ferry is berthed just down the street in Manitowaning Bay), and a five foot long cedar model of today’s Chi-Cheemaun, launched in 1974.

The original rooms house tools, taxidermy–no home of distinction was without at least a stuffed loon or fox somewhere–and early domestic implements, all witness to a long-gone way of life. A WWI and WWII military display shows rare vintage photographs of Manitoulin’s uniformed contributors to the war efforts; another room houses the last telephone switchboard in Manitowaning, in use until 1973 when dial phones took over, operated for a time by the Assiginack Museum’s former curator, Jeanette Allen.

We pause before a display of early children’s toys, including a gangly, crudely carved wood doll with hand-painted eyes and mouth: “This one,” says Kelsey Maguire, “was made by my great-grandfather, Jim Leeson, for my grandmother Amy Maguire, nee Leeson, circa the 1920s. It was loaned to the ROM’s Ethnology Gallery ‘Dolls’ Exhibit in 1979. It’s a ‘dancing’ doll. If you sit down and hold a wood shingle off your knee and bounce the doll up and down on it, the hinged legs make it look like it’s dancing.”

Among the picnic tables around the grounds are a restored one room log schoolhouse (1878), moved from Ten Mile Point, a driving shed and a blacksmith shop with authentic period settings in which to imagine life back then. One tiny log cabin, belonging to Philomene Lewis, was moved here from Wiikwemkoong. A photographic history of the area’s first schools is a paean to settler industry in establishing education early on. Here are Budge’s Settlement School (1874), Manitowaning’s Continuation School (1880), the Union School in the Slash (1883) and many more.

The curator, born a Haweater, has always lived in Manitowaning, and he is in his element here, amidst the local mementoes handed down through the generations: “This is my family,” he says, taking in the whole museum complex, from hardscrabble beginnings to later grandeur.

On Friday mornings in summer, a lively market and performance by Debajehmujjig theatre group fills the historic setting with local food, crafts and frolic.

The ‘Historic Walking Tour of Manitowaning’ map, available free at the front desk, lists over forty places of interest in the town.

Assiginack Museum and Heritage Complex: 125 Arthur Street, Manitowaning. Tel: 705-859-3905. Hours in July and August: Monday to Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. www.assiginack.ca/assiginack-museum-heritage-complex

Article by

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally. Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine. Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.

Little Schoolhouse Museum

Little Schoolhouse Museum

South Baymouth

It’s a little harder to imagine now, looking around the busy ferry transportation hub that is South Baymouth in the summer, the two-family fishing base of 1878 that became the foundation of a booming fishing industry, when the village became known as ‘The Mouth.’

The original fishing families, the Ritchies and the Wilmans, joined by other pioneers, also built the first school in 1891. Heading south to the ferry, that school is the last building before the terminal–a bright red wood structure, trimmed in white, with belfry and bell, it is now part of the complex known as the Little Schoolhouse and Museum, just the place to explore the humble but ambitious beginnings of the port village.

The Little Schoolhouse was in use until the 1960s and is fully furnished with all the accoutrements conducive to learning–small wooden desks, blackboards behind the teacher’s desk and cards along the top with the perfect cursive writing all pupils had to master, a globe, a wall map of the world, a woodstove, all authentic to Manitoulin schools in the 1940s.

The separate Museum building a few feet away, opened in 2001, is a large, bright space holding captivating displays on all sides and curio cases in the centre that feature this community’s important role in the development of the Island economy. Highlighted are the early activities of catching, salting and shipping fish, the subsequent commerce in fresh fish, the families, Green, Chisholm, Sim, Owen, who joined the original two in building South Baymouth’s thriving fishing industry, the beginnings of regular ferry service to and from Tobermory with the 14-car ‘Normac’ in 1932.

Among the mounted photos of early settlers, mills and scenes of home and farm life are a hundred-year-old ‘Log Cabin’ quilt, an alcove honouring spinning and weaving arts, the community’s first telephone switchboard, and photos and artifacts of WWI and WWII donated by local veterans’ families.

The Museum devotes a section of the exhibition area to the enduring story of the ‘ghost town’ of Michael’s Bay; the site of the old mill town lies 15 kilometres west of South Baymouth. Here, in the place of a former Odawa settlement that dates to the 1600s, as soon as Tehkummah was surveyed in 1866, a mill was built on the rushing Manitou River that before long cut and shipped millions of feet of pine, squared timbers and lath; in 1879, a town plot was laid out. Called ‘Stumptown’ for its only major commercial activity, timbering (which some say account for the rapid rise and fall of Michael’s Bay), it saw the building of boarding houses, stores, a hotel, taverns, a bakery, a school and soon spawned such occupations as millwright, cooper, carpenter, lighthouse keeper, fisherman. By the mid 1880s, the population of Michael’s Bay had grown to 400 souls.

The whole settlement burned in 1914, razing the mill and the homes and businesses to the ground; the booming town that had appeared overnight similarly vanished in smoke. All that is left today is a large expanse of flat field next to the falls where the mill stood, now almost totally hidden by large trees.

The mandate of the Michael’s Bay Historical Society (MBHS) is “dedicated to preserving the history and restoring the Michael’s Bay Townsite …. with the goal of purchasing the land.” The MBHS seeks to protect the five found cemeteries from development; one of these, a Methodist burial ground where 43 graves were found, is roughly signed on Michael’s Bay Road and may be visited by taking a short path leading into an overgrown, leafy glade where underfoot, little white crosses now bloom in the dense ground cover.

For now, the Michael’s Bay town site is under the auspices of the Federal Government due to an ongoing series of complicated previous land dealings; the old ghost town is closed to public access. Outstanding issues, including the Indigenous burial grounds and Anishinaabe land claims, must be resolved. 

The Little Schoolhouse Museum is the repository of the old survey maps of the town plot of Michael’s Bay and of records, photos and artifacts of the time of the lumber boom, the bust years that followed and of the ultimate tragic fire. There’s not much left now but the poignant memories and artifacts of Manitoulin’s first lumbering town and of the dreams and aspirations, not only of the early builders of South Baymouth and Tehkummah Township, but of those of seek to preserve them.

The Little Schoolhouse and Museum, South Baymouth. Tel: 705-859-3663. Open daily (May to October) 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Admission by donation.

The Michael’s Bay Historical Society welcomes inquiries and new memberships ($10 annually) by mail at P.O. Box 7, South Baymouth ON P0P 1Z0

Article by

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally. Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine. Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.

Point Grondine Park

Point Grondine Park

Difficulty ★★★★    •    Approx. 2 – 4 Hours

About the 
Point Grondine Park

A First Nation owned and operated recreational park, Point Grondine has over 7,000 hectares of scenic natural wilderness landscape, old growth pine forest, stunning river vistas and eight interior lakes to explore. The trailhead is ideally situated off Killarney Highway 637 nestled between the Killarney and French River Provincial Parks; it is in the northern terminus of the Georgian Bay Coast Trail, a sustainable world-class hiking trail in the spectacular landscape of the UNESCO Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. The park is accessible through mandatory park permits that can be purchased online at www.grondinepark.com or by calling 1-705-859-3477.

You may wish to bring:

Tips from a Local

The trails on Manitoulin Island have some of the best views around. Bring along a camera to capture your trip and leave the trails exactly as you found them so others can enjoy the hikes. Remember: take only pictures, leave only footprints.

McLean’s Park

McLean's Park

Difficulty ★★★★    •    Approx. 2 – 4 Hours

About the 
McLean's Park

This verdant 100-acre park is located on New England Road, a sideroad off Hwy 6 mid-way between Manitowaning and South Baymouth. The park, about 3km along the New England Rd. features hiking trails based on ancient logging paths. Hardwood bush with some huge trees. The walk takes about 1.5 hours.

You may wish to bring:

Tips from a Local

The trails on Manitoulin Island have some of the best views around. Bring along a camera to capture your trip and leave the trails exactly as you found them so others can enjoy the hikes. Remember: take only pictures, leave only footprints.

Manitoulin Eco Park

Manitoulin Eco Park

Difficulty ★★★★    •    Approx. 2 – 4 Hours

About 
Manitoulin Eco Park

On Hwy 6, just north of Hwy 542, this private park offers a nature interpretive centre with three complimentary hiking trails through five different eco systems (wetland, forest, meadow, pond, escarpment). The Interpretive Centre features mounted animal displays of bears, wolves, hawks and owls plus interpretive information on mushrooms, fossils, edible wilds, astronomy, birds, trees, wildflowers and animals. Picnic area, pool, mini putt, camping, tipi tenting, B&B and store. Observation Deck, Bird Blind, Dark Sky Sanctuary & Astronomy Observatory. Star-gazing night hikes, Perseid events and much more. www.ManitoulinEcoPark.ca

You may wish to bring:

Tips from a Local

Manitoulin hikes can to have a lot of elevation changes over rough terrain. Be sure to pack plenty of water for each person and carry it in a backpack or other hands-free carrier. That way, you’ll have your hands ready to help navigate the trails.

Bowerman Trails in South Baymouth

Bowerman Trails in South Baymouth

Difficulty ★★★★    •    Approx. 2 – 4 Hours

About the 
Bowerman Trails in South Baymouth

While you’re waiting for the Chi-Cheemaun ferry, or after you disembark, this trail is a great diversion. Access points are off the small boat harbour parking lot and across from the boat launch (south of the ferry terminal building) and also off Green Street in the same area. The trails take you up limestone steps, through the bush and offer Lake Huron views. Allow 1 hour.

You may wish to bring:

Tips from a Local

The trails on Manitoulin Island have some of the best views around. Bring along a camera to capture your trip and leave the trails exactly as you found them so others can enjoy the hikes. Remember: take only pictures, leave only footprints.

Bebamikawe Memorial Trail

Bebamikawe Memorial Trail

Difficulty ★★    •    Approx. 2 – 4 Hours

About the 
Bebamikawe Memorial Trail

Located at the end of Beach Road in Wikwemikong, this trail is 14 km of easy to intermediate trails, spectacular lookouts and educational signage. The Outdoor Fitness Park section of the trail is a double track, granular surfaced trail with five fitness stations equipped with outdoor fitness equipment so that trail users can take advantage of resistance training in a scenic natural environment.

Call (705)859-3477 for more information.

You may wish to bring:

Tips from a Local

Manitoulin hikes can to have a lot of elevation changes over rough terrain. Be sure to pack plenty of water for each person and carry it in a backpack or other hands-free carrier. That way, you’ll have your hands ready to help navigate the trails.

Garden’s Gate Restaurant

Garden's Gate Restaurant

Fine Dining • Takeaway

Garden's Gate Restaurant

‘Vibrant Gardens and Fine Dining’ is the way the owners-operators-chef advertise this unique dining spot that operates spring, summer and early fall (until Thanksgiving.) The restaurant in Tehkummah beside Highway 542 and on the banks of the Blue Jay Creek is situated in a beautiful ever-changing garden and features unique specials using Manitoulin sourced ingredients. “A gift for the senses.”

Contact Information:

316 Hwy 542, Tehkummah

Windfall Lake

Windfall Lake

Keen fishermen may find:

About 
Windfall Lake

Its name presumably derives from an area of blown down trees that once distinguished its shore (or maybe it was just one fallen tree that tripped up a surveyor?), but the other meaning of the word seems suitable too. You can readily imagine someone stumbling upon this pretty, spring-fed lake and thinking of it as an unexpected stroke of good fortune.

Even long-time visitors of this smallish lake in the Sandfield part of Central Manitoulin find themselves delighted anew. “Every time I go there, I fall in love with the lake all over again,” a veteran fishing guide told me..

This guide began frequenting the lake in the 1960s, taking guests from Lake Manitou’s Timberlane Lodge out on Windfall for a day of bass (and later, pickerel) fishing. Although a resort named Windfall Cottages for a while sprouted on the north shore of the lake, at that time there was very little here.

“Venus Middaugh, who’s gone now, had a boat up there where the cabins are, an old wooden boat that he’d pulled on shore because there was no dock, and he’d rent it out for the day,” recalled the guide. “Of course, when you keep a wooden boat that out of the water, the seams dry up, you could see daylight between the planks. We’d have to soak it in the water, and even then it leaked the whole time we were out fishing.”

These days most people access the lake from the public launch in the south end of the lake. It’s located amid the 20-lot Dial Subdivision and can be reached by following Trail’s End Road from Highway 542, then turning onto the Dial Road.

The lane to the boat ramp is well marked but steep, making launching tricky. Township CAO Ruth Frawley, whose parents built a cottage on the lake over 50 years ago, says she’s seen “cars actually floating there.” The township has improved the launch, but four-wheel-drive Is still advisable, particularly if you have a hefty boat.

My canoe weighs 50 pounds soaking wet, so I slid it off the roof of my rig and plopped it in the water. Ahead of me spread Windfall Lake, lightly combed by wind, not a single other boat in sight.

You can see pretty much the whole lake, shaped like a cordate leaf, from any point on its circumference, but it’s not a tiny pond. It’s nearly two miles long, and over a mile wide.

The depth varies. According to my guide buddy, even in the middle of the lake you might have just 10 feet of water. Yet just north and east of the public launch, there’s a 50-foot-deep channel, a half mile long by a quarter mile wide, that people call the “Blue Hole,” He says that “the pickerel go down in there when the weather’s hot.”

Windfall Lake was once prized for its pickerel, which were introduced in the 1940s. “We had wonderful walleye fishing there for 30 years, but the word got out, and in 10 years they cleaned her right down, taking the great big spawners,” my friend says ruefully.

There are still some pickerel in the lake, however, “they’re there if you know how to fish for them,” says the guide. “The sad part is that 70 per cent of the ones you get now are the two or three pounders that you have to put back, because they’re in the slot size of 16 to 22 inches.”

For many years pickerel were netted in Windfall Lake by the MNRF and fish hatcheries, and “milked” for their roe and milt. Some of the fry reared from those eggs would be returned to the lake, while others would be planted elsewhere.

Pike were large and plentiful at one time, too. Mr. Hayes recalls hooking a 16-pound pike that “looked like it had quills sticking out of its mouth.” As voracious as pike famously are, it wasn’t the case, however, that this one had attempted to ingest a small porcupine. “They were hooks,” explains my friend. “Nine or 10 nickel-plated and gold-plated hooks, which last, so they’d stayed in its mouth. Every time someone had caught this fish, probably with a light line for perch or bass, it had snapped the line.”

He says that more than 30 years ago, “I could go in there and catch my limit of pike. We’ve got them in there up to 18 pounds, nearly as long as a canoe paddle, over 40 inches.”

While you’re unlikely to find such behemoths now, the fishing guide maintains that “for a small lake, it’s still pretty good; if you want to work for it, you can catch a pike or two.”

I didn’t bring a fishing rod when I visited Windfall, just my paddle. As I paddled, I tried to imagine a pike the length of my paddle. Then I thought about pike poles, those long shafts with spearheads on the end. For the first time ever, it dawned on me that pike were likely named for their resemblance to these medieval weapons, not only because of the pointy snouts, but because of their length.

The lake remained perfectly quiet and utterly barren of boats. I didn’t see a single human being. At one point I caught the whiff of a barbecue, emanating from somewhere deep in the Dial Subdivision, but that was the only indication of sentient life. Unless you count the blue heron that flapped lazily along the tops of the trees, looking for a place to land.

The eastern shore I was following had a rocky limestone shore, densely clad in cedars, juniper bushes, maples, oaks and a few wind-toppled poplars. Windfalls!

There were wildflowers too: bright orange wood lilies, daisies, a profusion of small yellow flowers that I didn’t recognize (they weren’t snap dragons or butter cups, I know that).

There were still no other boats on the lake. I took my time heading back, pausing here and there to rest and gaze down into the remarkably limpid water.

Nearby places to stay, eat and play

Apart from being an exceptionally clear lake, Windfall is also one of the Island’s highest lakes, and unique in having neither an inlet nor an outlet. “It appears to be all spring fed,” says my guide buddy. He’s has seen some of these springs. “while canoeing you can look down and see them, a circular area about the size of bathtub, with water bubbling out,” he told me.

I tried in vain to see a spring from my canoe. I believe that they exist, but I didn’t see one. I got tired of leaning over my canoe and looking, plus it started to seem like a good way to dump.

The question I had, while paddling back down serene, silent, seemingly abandoned Windfall Lake, was: who’s going to rescue me if I suddenly get hit by a rogue wave or freak bolt of lightning? That guy whose barbecue I smelled an hour ago?

But I wasn’t worried. Indeed, I felt lucky to be paddling on such a peaceful, unpopulated lake. It seemed like a, well, unexpected stroke of good fortune.

Sucker Lake

Sucker Lake

Keen fishermen may find:

About 
Sucker Lake

With its unfortunate name and confusing status, many maps still mark a Sucker Lake Indian Reserve (No. 25), although it hasn’t been a reserve for years. Sucker Lake tends to discourage visitation.

This is a shame, for Sucker Lake is an idyllic, peaceful spot with three uninhabited islands, a small public beach and boat launch, a fair number of perch and bass, and … absolutely no suckers.

“I’ve been coming back here for 50 years to fish and I’ve never seen a sucker in the lake,” says Murray Haner.

Mr. Haner grew up in Hilly Grove, near Manitowaning, and in 1969 acquired a farm and cottage property on the east shore of Sucker Lake. From May to November, the retired police officer doesn’t budge from his Sucker Lake retreat, while wife Gloria joins him as often as she can.

A neighbour of Mr. Haner’s also didn’t know why the name stuck to the lake but overserved “Your guess is as good as mine.” “One story I’ve heard is that it’s named after bloodsuckers.”

Bloodsuckers (ie. leeches) do, indeed, inhabit the lake, but not in any greater quantities than occur in many other lakes. The name still seems unfair.

A number of years ago there was a movement to have the lake renamed. Dave Ham, the reeve of Assiginack Township at the time (and now the municipality’s Mayor) recalls that “a chap from Little Current approached me, and said what an awful name for a pretty little lake.” An alternative name was shortly proposed, but there wasn’t enough support for it.

A long-time permanent resident of the lake, reflects, “it’s been Sucker Lake all these years, why change it now?”

Mr. Ham’s choice for a replacement name at this time was Assiginack Lake, a tribute to the famous and controversial native chief John Baptiste Assiginack (aka Blackbird) whose family resided on the Sucker Lake Reserve in the late 19th Century.

Although few people inhabited the reserve after 1968 (at its peak, there were about 50 people, according to historian Shelley Pearen), a few descendants of Assiginack stayed on through the early half of the 20th Century. Finally, around 1950, Eddie Clark, took over the reserve land from his uncle Angus Assiginack. From that time forward, the land, which spans 680 acres and touches on both Sucker Lake and Lake Manitou, was considered privately owned and no longer a reserve.

Ms. Pearen says that the reserve was never an ideal location, and that the First Nations folks who had previously lived at Manitowaning were given a raw deal in being moved there. A corrupt Indian agent named Dupont “wanted the good land for himself,” she says, “and bought up most of the town plot in Manitowaning in the names of relatives and friends.”

Being relatively remote, and not blessed with the numbers of fish found in the bigger waters, there was never much to sustain a community. “In this sense, Sucker Lake was aptly named, I suppose,” quips Ms. Pearen.

Could it be that the lake got its name because the Indigenous settlers there were “suckered” into living there? Probably not, but it’s an interesting way to look at it.

At any rate, people who seek out Sucker Lake today for an afternoon of fishing or a dip in in its relatively shallow waters (the deepest point is about 24 feet, with 12-14 feet being the usual), are not apt to feel hoodwinked or disappointed. If anything, they will likely be surprised by how scenic the lake is.

Not to mention quiet. With only a few residences on the entire lake, three of them seasonal, there’s plenty of uninterrupted shoreline and very little boat traffic.

Mr. Haner and wife Gloria occasionally take a canoe or pedal boat out on the lake. The latter is Mrs. Haner’s preferred mode of transport. “My grandson Ryan and I would go out in the pedal boat and fish for bass,” she says with a laugh. One bass which was caught again and again, and released each time, was dubbed “ol’ Scarface” by Ryan, now a Mindemoya businessman.

Timbering also used to occur at Sucker Lake. And evidence of the logging still shows up in the form of notched timbers, possibly used as boom logs, that lurk under the surface of the water.

Today, visitors can follow the Sucker Lake Road, found just north of Manitowaning, and very easily reach the public launch and beach on the lake’s northest shore.

While not a terribly big lake, the scenery is varied with steep bluffs on the west and southeast shores and the three islands strung out in a row in the middle.

And while the lake has a remote feel to it, it’s not really that far back in the bush. The Haners say they often hear the Chi-Cheemaun ferry blowing its horn at South Baymouth and Lake Manitou is just a mile or so to the east.

“Our son and Andre LeBlanc used to take a canoe and portage it from here over to Manitou,” says Mrs. Haner of those days gone by.

Presumably the portage is downhill, since Sucker Lake is quite a bit higher than Manitou. According to Dave Ham, who has flown over all of the lakes on Manitoulin at some point or other “Sucker Lake is 55 feet above Manitou, and 230 feet higher than Georgian Bay.”

That doesn’t make it the highest lake in the Island (Mr. Ham says Whitefish Lake, on the M’Chigeeng First Nation, has that distinction), but it’s up there, so to speak.

Sucker Lake does, on the other hand, probably have the distinction of being the least appealing by named lake on Manitoulin, although Mud and Mog lakes don’t sound much more tempting.

Nearby places to stay, eat and play

That it hasn’t been renamed Assiginack Lake may have as much to do with uneasiness about the legacy of the famous and famously contradictory chief, as it does with tradition.

Mr. Ham notes that Chief Assiginack was unpopular among many First Nations people for signing the 1862 Manitoulin Treaty (which opened Manitoulin for settlement) and was effectively “booted out of Wiikwemkoong” as a result.

Assiginack was also known to shift allegiances at a whim between the Anglican and Catholic churches, says Mr. Ham, with the result that he effectively alienated himself from both at one time or another.

At the same time, though, Blackbird, was a very dynamic and intelligent man, a much-valued interpreter, and a great war hero, having fought many battles in the War of 1812 in defence of Canada against the United States invaders.

It is not clear how long he lived at Sucker lake, but Ms. Pearen says that “when he had to leave Manitowaning, that’s where he went.” In her book Exploring Manitoulin, she writes that the homestead of J.B. Assiginack exists near Sucker Lake, although nobody on the lake seems to know of its whereabouts.

Probably it has faded into the ground. The former reserve, however remains in the hands of the Clark family, who are descendants of the famous chief, so the thread has not been broken.