Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (Formally Pic River First Nation) is located on the north shore of Gchi-Gami or Lake Superior. Approximately 350km northeast of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Biigtigong is accessible off the TransCanada Highway 11/17 on Highway 627. The reserve land is 332.7 hectares in size while the traditional territory encompasses over 2 million hectares combined with Exclusive and Shared territory with neighbouring First Nations. Adjacent to Pukaskwa National Park, Biigtigong provides cultural programming for park guests and participates in co-management projects. There are approximately 500 people living on reserve land and 1200 members total.
In 2016 Gchi-Waaswaganing opened off highway 17 in partnership with the Town of Marathon. Located in the lodge of the old ski hill, “Gchi-Waa” quickly became a community gathering space for ceremonies, events, workshops, and selling the work of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg Artisans. In Anishinaabemowin Gchi-Waaswaganing means “big torch” or possibly “big light.” When seeking a name,
Florinda Christianson and Liz Michano gave an offering and gift to Elder Myra Michano. Myra sat on her couch and patiently listened to the vision of what the centre would be and how it would solidify a partnership between Biigtigong and the Town of Marathon, and act as a beacon for visitors travelling through our territory. A few days later, she called Florinda and Liz, laughing because “Biigtigong was always friends with Marathon, and this partnership wasn’t ‘new’ but simply more official.”
She told a story of how the people of Biigtigong and Marathon would all meet at the harbour to fish. They would fish with stakes that had lights, the lights would attract the fish, and then they would share what was caught. “We always made sure the fish that was caught was shared with our Elders,” Myra told them. The name Gchi-Waaswaganing was therefore given to honour the beautiful relationship with the Town of Marathon that still continues.
Our logo was created by local artisan Erin Shaw. The turtle represents our Creation Story. The four colours (red, white, yellow, and black) represent all nations who walk through our doors. The sun represents the new adventure and relationship between Biigtigong and the Town of Marathon. The mountains represent the landscapes made famous by the Group of Seven paintings.
Our Vision and Mission
Our Vision is to mobilize the work of Artisans for cultural and economic resurgence: to use Biigtigong Nishnaabeg arts, crafts and design to create products that encourage knowledge sharing between Elders and Youth, support our initiatives to get back on the Land, and safeguards our culture for the Seven Generations to come.
Our mission is to create an immersive retail store and community space that invites visitors into Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and shares our beautiful culture.