Masthead banner of Park Science: Integrating Research and Resource Management in the National Parks; ISSN 1090-9966; link to current issue
Volume 30
Number 2
Fall 2013
Arrowhead symbol of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior
Home + About + Author Guidelines + Archive + Subscribe +  
Historical aerial photo of Alligator Bay in 1927, Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, showing an uncut pine stand and an overland winter trail In Focus: Archeology in Park Management
Ojibwe cultural landscapes of Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

By Andrew LaBounty
Published: 4 Sep 2015 (online)  •  14 Sep 2015 (in print)
Results: Alligator Bay
Implications for management
About the author
+ PDF +

For seeing the big picture, so to speak, archeologists turn to aerial imagery. For examining cultural landscapes over a large area, such as at Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, historical aerial imagery supplies an incredible wealth of information. Although Voyageurs was not established as a national park until 1975, the earliest aerial photographs were taken in 1927 as a result of a flight conducted by the International Joint Commission (IJC) to manage the waterways between Canada and the United States (Bullard and Scovil 1930). Under conditions of high water and intensive logging (see Lynott et al. 1986), the IJC inadvertently captured not only the status of the waterways, but also aerial images containing more than 250 cultural features related to Ojibwe land use. Using a stereoscope in combination with modern GIS techniques, it is now possible to investigate and record the cultural landscape of nearly 200 years of historical occupation by the Bois Forte band of Ojibwe as it appears in these early photographs.

Stereoscopes have been in use since 1838, often as a recreational device. These units mimic binocular vision by feeding a separate image to each eye through mirrors and lenses. When used to view one scene at two slightly different angles, a stereoscope allows the brain to see a 2-D image in three dimensions. In this case, an airplane took a series of pictures as it flew over the international boundary in 1927, with no thought to later viewing them in 3-D. Each successive picture is therefore at a slightly different point of view, but two adjacent pictures still contain the same features, so overlapping features can be seen in three dimensions with the stereoscope. Our research took advantage of this phenomenon to gauge tree height in 1927 and to differentiate bare earth from thick stands of vegetation in these black-and-white photos. The simulated three-dimensional view also made it possible to distinguish pit features, buildings, and other Ojibwe cultural features from natural variations in topography.

Digital, georeferenced copies of the 1927 aerial photos were simultaneously created by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and overlaid with archeological site locations provided and maintained by the Midwest Archeological Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. Using this combination of data, we selected salient pairs of aerial photographs for examination under the stereoscope, accurately recorded all observed cultural features in a GIS, and compared the observed historical features with previously identified archeological sites. We further based interpretations of observed features on Ojibwe oral histories and extensive research into historical Ojibwe land allotments (Richner 2002), resulting in a powerful way of viewing the historical landscape of Voyageurs National Park.

Return to top

This page updated:  13 January 2014

Page 1 of 5 • Next +
From the Editor
Upcoming Issues/Deadlines
Masthead Information
The Nature Play Zone at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: A case study
The “Monte Video” inscription at Grand Canyon National Park: Why it’s likely from the Bass tourist era
Deep-time perspectives and understanding change on public lands
Predicting the past with GIS at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Archeological contributions to climate change studies: Past, present, and future
  Ojibwe cultural landscapes of Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Use of high-resolution airborne laser scanning for the analysis of archeological and natural landscapes on the northern Great Plains
Native American culture and prehistoric bison hunting in the Black Hills
Park health resources: Benefits, values, and implications
Development of a Healthy Parks Healthy People strategic action plan for Hot Springs National Park
Managing vegetation for children: Enhancing free-play opportunities through direct management
Cars and canyons: Understanding roadside impacts of automobile pollution in Grand Canyon National Park
Cattail hybridization in national parks: An example of cryptic plant invasions
Shoreline Changes in Jamaica Bay, Gateway National Recreation Area, 1924–2006: Implications for Shoreline Restoration
Related Publications + Explore Nature + + Privacy + Disclaimer + Contact Editor
Web Site Last Updated: 16 September 2015