In the Beginning
Historians tell us that the first aboriginals to inhabit the district were most likely the Meramegs; a tribe that seemingly eventually became part of the Ojibwa or Chippewa tribe. The Red Rock Cuesta was a integral part of their culture and served as a meeting place for the natives of the area. It was considered to be sacred ground and rock from the mountain was used for making calumets or peace-pipes. The pipes were beautifully made and highly polished.
Evidence shows that this area played host to some visitors from very far away. It is believed that ancient Mayans travelled to this part of the country from what is now Mexico some 2 000 years ago. High above the water level at the mouth of the Nipigon River, almost directly opposite Red Rock, on the east shore of the river where it enters Lake Superior can be found a major pictograph site. These drawings are thought to be at least 2 000 years old and resemble the art of the Mayans. The pictographs are not the only evidence of these visitors from the south; copper weapons similar to those designed and used by the Mayans were discovered during the construction of Highway 17. It is known that these weapons were not typical of those designed or used by the local native tribes as they used only flint for arrowheads and hatchets.
A letter from Mr. J.P. Berrand, an Executive Member of the Thunder Bay Historical Society dated March 13, 1950 tells us that the Nipigon District first appears in Canadian history in 1655 when a concession was granted to Monsieur Claude Dupuy, Chief Clerk of the Company of a Hundred Associates by Governor Lauzon. Prior to that it is not likely that any French traders had visited this area, thus, all that was known about it was information passed on by the Natives who came to New France with their furs. In 1667, Father Claude Allouez, a Jesuit Missionary, lived with the natives of the area and gave the first real information about the Nipigon River and this area.
By 1680 the first trading post had been established near Lake Helen on the left bank of the river. The fort that was built was named Fort Camanistigoyan and was the centre of the fur trade until 1775. The Nipigon District became one of the greatest sources of revenue for the fur traders and produced some of the finest furs on the Continent. A very famous couer de bois or voyageur spent time in here prior to making his way west to the Rockies. It was while trading in this region that La Verendrye learned of a water route to the Prairies, and ultimately to the Pacific Ocean.
The search for furs carried on for the next 200 years, with companies being established, first by the Northwest Company and later the Hudson’s Bay Company, to trade with the natives of the area.