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Nopiming Provincial Park | Histogram | 2018-09-29

Just under 1500 square kilometres of protected wildlife space, Nopiming Provincial Park borders the Manitoba and Ontario. Nopiming, an Anishinabe (Saulteaux, Ojibwe) word that means “Entrance to the Wilderness” is distinguished by rocky outcrops and carved by rivers and lakes. Commanded by the Jack Pines and Black Spruces, and scattered with marshes and bogs.

The function of Nopiming is as a Natural Park with a primary purpose to protect the Lac Seul Upland portion of the Boreal Forest within the Canadian Shield. The rocky ridges are a focal point of Nopiming, these Precambian rocks formed more than 2.5 billion years ago as part of an immense mountain range akin to that of the Rocky Mountains. Around 20,000 years ago, what we now call Manitoba was under a sheet of ice that was [in places] 4 kilometers thick, as the glacial period ended, Manitoba emerged from beneath this ice sheet in a series of advances and retreats, carving out the landscape we know and see now.

In and around 10,000 years ago, two glacial lakes formed from the meltwater, Lake Agassiz and Lake Souris. The latter being short-lived and primarily in North Dakota. As Lake Agassiz started to drain into towards the Lake Superior basin, it created a series of beaches which bear the name of the local towns. 7700 years ago, only the Manitoba’s “Great Lakes’ remained as a remnant of their glacial ancestor.

At its maximum, Lake Agassiz was the largest lake in North America, only rivalled by the prehistric lakes of Asia and Africa. A lake during the span of its life covered 500,000 square kilometers (to be noted, only up to 200,000 square kilometers were submerged at one time). Records show that Winnipeg was under up to 200 meters of water. For scale; Winnipeg’s tallest building currently is 128 meters tall.

Research in the vicinity of Nopiming provides evidence to suppose that varous groups of indigenous people have lived in this area for at least the last 8000 years, with one location providing the evidence of tools that were fashioned from copper around 4000 years ago, this evidence could point to a historical workshop. Since about 1800, most of the region east of Lake Winnipeg is the land of the Anishinabe. A branch of the Ojibwe nation, before the arrival of the Anishinabe, this was the land of the Cree.

The legend on how and why the Cree came to this land is found in a version of “The Legend of the Princess of Rice Lake.” A synopsis of this legend; The Cree lived far northward, as winter came, game was scarce. One day hunters returned with little meat and brought news that their enemies were preparing for war against them, in an effort to take their hunting grounds. The Cree did not have the means to share as food was already scarce, so they prepared to defend themselves. The Cree were met by the invaders but were greatly outnumbered, those who remained after the second night fled into the bush. In the days that followed, as they waited for their enemies to overtake them, a soft light suddenly appeared as a golden-haired woman appeared before them. Her beauty soon dispelled fears as she beckoned the remaining Cree to follow her. She led them southward for several days, until they arrived at a small lake. Upon arriving they saw thick growth of wild rice, the band being weary after this long journey paused to eat the rice and fell into a deep sleep, when they awoke, the woman was gone. Where she had laid her head, there were strands of golden hair embedded in the rock.

Nopiming is a unique ecosystem that thrives on fire to maintain its wildlife diversity. As fires sweep through, the heat melted the resin on Jack Pine Cones, that sealed seeds for years. When these cones are exposed to the heat of the fire, they open instantly, and the arid winds scatter their seeds. The hot, shade-deprived ground providing an ideal playground for the seeds to germinate.

In March of 2018, the Wilderness Committee of Manitoba exposed two extensive mineral and logging exploration that has effected parts of Nopiming Provincial Park, causing destruction to this historic area. These quietly approved mineral exploration projects caused damage to the ecosystem by clearing intact park forests to make way for new roads.

The exploration sites are near a lake known as “Cat Lake” which is 200 kilometers east of Winnipeg, in a section of Nopiming Park recovering from forest fires. It remains unclear if there as any environmental assessments conducted before this destruction was permitted.

Protecting our lands and inland waters is a necessary step to preserve the ecosystems we inhabit. We sometimes forget that even though we are the most complex species on Earth, we are still dependent on a healthy and thriving ecosystem. Our constant neglect to this fact, primarily by those in power chasing profit, will forever make it seem our existence in in peril.