Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society
Founder and President: Dennis Downes

The book based on Downes' thirty year study is now available AS AN E-BOOK
Native American Trail Marker Trees: Marking Paths through the Wilderness
Published by Chicago's Books Press, Neal Samors

Geoffrey Baer interviewing Downes on Chicago Tonight, WTTW

"When I saw that a new book about Native American Trail Trees
had been published, I was instantly curious to learn more."

Janet Davies of ABC Chicago studios interviewing the artist author Dennis Downes for podcast. The artist shown here with his 24" bronze sculpture discussing the concept of the Trail Marker Trees and his book Native American Trail Marker Trees: Marking Paths to The Wilderness.

Dennis is a nationally renowned, award-winning artist, sculptor, and researcher. The main body of Dennis' work has been inspired by research trips to ancient sites and to natural wonders across the Great Lakes Region and Beyond. Dennis' travels began at a young age, taking trips to visit his mother's relatives (Basques and Native Americans) living in the Idaho and Montana Rocky Mountain area. His travels inspired his traditional paintings and sculptures, which have funded his research. Dennis currently works out of Northeastern Illinois as well as the Wilderness Coast of Ontario, Canada.

This exciting e-book is a beautiful combination of history and nature, compiling the author's lifelong journey studying these trees. Early on the author's passion was ignited by his own Native American Aunt, along with local historians and scouting groups. Later, in his early thirties, he would begin to follow in the footsteps of anthropologist and botanist, Dr. Raymond Janssen (graduate of Northwestern and UIC). Janssen had traveled to thirteen states working with Native Americans and documenting the Trail Marker Trees from the late 1920's into the 1940's. The author has traveled to forty states and five Canadian Provinces over a thirty year period, beginning his study in the states that Janssen visited and expanding from there. During his travels he has met with Native Americans, anthropologists, arborists, archeologists, and local historians. He has dedicated much of his life to photographing and documenting the history of the Trail Marker Trees. This is the first publication to focus in such detail on this unique form of land and water navigation used by the Native Americans, and later, by the early settlers.


Stephen B. Presser Raoul Berger, Prof. of Legal History Northwestern University School of Law, Harvard Graduate, University Club of Chicago Member.

"It is a staple of current fiction that a scholar, after years of painstaking work, reveals secrets from an earlier culture that transform our understanding of ourselves, as for example Dan Brown's protagonist did in the Da Vinci Code. Dennis Downes has done something similarly remarkable in real life, as he has devoted three decades to understanding the derivation and meaning of Native American trail marker trees, an elaborate system which North American Indians used, for centuries, to communicate with each other about the most important aspects of coping with their difficult environment. Downes now understands these Native American practices, has even acquired the ability to reproduce them in our time, and is uniquely able to speak about, explain, and re-create them for contemporary audiences with a passion and excitement that makes him one of our most gifted speakers on nature and Indian lore."

Andrew Johnson. Executive Director, American Indian Center of Chicago

"The Native American Trail Marker Trees are historical links to our past and were part of the daily lives of many original inhabitants. Our community is indebted to Dennis Downes for his important and inspiring efforts to discover, properly identify, and preserve these trees throughout the United States. We are honored by his commitment and support his tireless work."

From Dick Bales, attorney and published author (Illinois)

I have just finished reading Dennis Downes' book. Dennis is first and foremost an artist. How appropriate, then, that this book is truly a work of art, filled with hundreds of photographs. But although Dennis is an artist, in writing this book he has created something that is more than just art. This book is unique on at least two levels. One, he has completed a comprehensive study of a heretofore arcane subject. Two, in writing this book, he has combined hundreds of hours of academic library research with hundreds of hours of physical "in the field" investigation. As an author myself, I find the result to be inspiring and, I must confess, more than a bit humbling.

From Lee and Donna Ryan, founding members of the Almond Historical Society (New York)

We have just received our copy of "Native American Trail Marker Trees" written by Dennis Downes, and we are absolutely thrilled with it! Our interest in trail marker trees in our area of Western New York State began several years ago, and we have been fascinated with the study of these trees, our oldest living historical landmarks. I wish we had "found" Dennis Downes several years ago: The knowledge that he has gained from his three decades of studying trail marker trees is shared here in this beautifully illustrated book. We have never seen such a complete, detailed work on this subject. It will be a valuable resource to us in the future. Thank you, Dennis, for all your hard work -- and for sharing your passion and your knowledge with us. We say: Buy this book -- you won't be disappointed!

From C. Cappello, Cougar Creek Ranch (Colorado)

Wonderfully informative, and a must have for anyone who loves Native American history. Mr. Downes has spent his life researching and sharing this project. I am so pleased to own this and to have learned so much from it. Fabulous and fascinating !!!!

From Michael Griem, Career Management Consultant (Lake Forest, IL)

Dennis' book is incredible. He has captured the essence and glory of trail marker trees in a one-of-a-kind resource. The reader immediately senses the unequalled importance of these wonderful, to-date underappreciated, historical landmarks. You can feel the vital role they played in the daily lives of Native Americans.
The author's unparalleled knowledge of and keen personal interest in these glorious resources jumps from the book's pages. He educates us about trail marker trees and then describes their broad geographic presence throughout America.
Thanks to Dennis' unusual professionalism (which I valued highly as a career management consultant), the reader gets a robust exploration of trail marker trees. The book is quite a bargain!

C. Trutter Hauff past Regent of the Fort Dearborn Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution

Dennis Downes has connected the dots in a marvelous discussion of pre-history in North America. He has researched the subject on Indian Trail Marker trees to the smallest detail, yet he keeps his story very readable. This is a rarely explored subject and Dennis has captured it in wonderful detail. A splendid and fun read!

Gary T. Johnson, President, Chicago History Museum

A powerful reminder of a bye-gone era:
"Native American Trail Marker Trees: Marking Paths Through The Wilderness" by Dennis Downes is a powerful reminder of a bye-gone era. As Chicago celebrates its 175th anniversary as a city in 2012, it is too easy to forget that for centuries and centuries before then, that very same land was home to countless generations of inhabitants. They left their marks in the trees, some of which still survive to point out the paths that those people followed. Now, an important local artist tells the story in this beautiful book. This photographic essay will help us to remember the people who lived here first and the paths that they blazed.

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