MARGARET GRACE NELL RAJNOVICH

Died Friday, December 24, 2021 at ARCH (Algoma Residential Community Hospice), age 75. Grace was the daughter of the late Emil and Nan (née Curran) Rajnovich, and granddaughter of the late Jack Rajnovich (Mary, née Simunovich), born in Croatia and the first Rajnovich to emigrate to Canada, and the late James W. Curran (Edith, née Pratt), born in Ireland and founder of the Sault Daily Star.

Grace is survived by her brothers James “Jay” Rajnovich, PhD. (wife Barbara, née Callow) of Sault Ste. Marie and Michael (wife Fabienne, née Bentein) of Leffinge, Belgium; nephew Jacob Rajnovich (wife Nikki, née Baygents) and grandnephew Jack Rajnovich of Kings Beach, California; niece Emily Rajnovich of London, Ontario; and niece Lucy Rajnovich and grandniece Mae Munroe-Rajnovich of Calgary, Alberta.

Grace was predeceased by her partner and fellow Ontario government archaeologist, C. S. “Paddy” Reid with whom she lived and worked for 14 years in Northwest Ontario, based in Kenora. Grace was next predeceased by her partner and fellow archaeologist Dr. Robert J. Salzer, with whom she lived in Beloit, Wisconsin and worked in Wisconsin archaeology for 25 years. Grace brought a lifetime of multidisciplinary scholarship to her archaeological field research. She held a BA (English) from York University, an MA (English) from the University of Toronto, an MA (Anthropology) from the University of Manitoba, and a PhD (Anthropology) from Michigan State University. She published more than 25 research paper in peer-reviewed journals and two books.

Her first book, Reading Rock Art: Interpreting the Indian Rock Paintings of the Canadian Shield, was a pathbreaking work, challenging long held assumptions that Canadian Shield rock art was not an amenable topic for the archaeological research community. Although some thoughtful works had been published, most were based on unsupported speculation. Grace’s book demonstrates that rock art can and must be understood as literature – not primitive graffiti – using techniques long-established in the field of literary critique. Rock art must be interpreted as crafted compositions, visual expressions of poetry, song, and metaphor. The illustrations in the book were done for Grace by Couchiching First Nations artist Wayne Yerxa. The late Willie Wilson, then chief of Rainy River First Nations, described Grace’s book as “innovative and original.” Native drum singers confirmed Grace’s intuitions, showing her how some rock art images match traditional songs still sung today in Ontario First Nations communities. Grace found some of these drum songs captured on audio recordings at the Sault rapids at the end of the 19th century and stored now in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.

Grace’s work has thrown doors open. Her dying wish was that students, especially aboriginal students, especially students who can speak a native language, would bring their unique skills and insights to the archaeological research community, step through those doors and carry the work forward. Grace’s second book – The Gottschall Rockshelter: an Archaeological Mystery, was co-authored with her partner Bob Salzer. The book presents a comprehensive report of Bob and Grace’s findings after 17 years of archaeological investigation and rock art analysis of the site in the Gottschall cave in the Wisconsin River valley, traditional land of the Ho-Chunk (Wennebago) Nation – a sensational and unique site in American archaeology.

At Grace’s request there will be no visitation or funeral service. Interment will be in the Rajnovich family plot at Greenwood Cemetery when pandemic conditions permit a small family gathering. Donations to ARCH or to your community’s Indian Friendship Centre would be deeply appreciated.

Arrangements entrusted to the Arthur Funeral Home – Barton & Kiteley Chapel (492 Wellington Street East 705-759-2522). Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.arthurfuneralhome.com for the Rajnovich family.