The Voyageurs

July 18th, 2007

On Wednesday morning, we arrived early at the Kabetogama Lake visitor center at Voyageurs National Park for a north canoe voyage. Led by two park employees dressed as Voyageurs, we learned about the Voyageurs through drama and storytelling.

We learned that Voyageurs were French-Canadians who paddled birch bark canoes from Montreal through this area of Minnesota and west to Lake Athabasca. They brought goods from Montreal and traded them for furs. The North West and Hudson Bay Companies hired men who could not swim so they would have incentive to help keep the canoe afloat and would not steal the goods or furs. Additionally, they rode in canoes made of birch bark, cedar and spruce roots. Every day they would inspect the boat for wear and tear caused by rapids and portaging, then make any repairs. Each Voyageur wore a red or blue wool hat, a brightly colored shirt, a sash to guard against hernias, trousers, leggings to keep leeches from crawling up the body, stockings, and moccasins.

We were each given a sash to wear and a paddle. We boarded our 26-foot canoe, and started out for open water. We tried to sing as Voyageurs were very good singers, but we were not very good. I think we disappointed our guides! Once in open water, we found it a bit rocky so we headed closer to shore. At one point we took a break among the reeds. As we canoed and took a break, we learned a lot about the Voyageurs in an entertaining way.

The views were great and we even saw the Minnesota state flower, the pink and white lady’s-slipper.


June 20

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