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Two weeks to go until St. Patrick’s Day….
St. Patrick’s Day is here in two weeks….when everything is green (although I tend to stay away from green beer LOL LOL)….when everybody is Irish. A great time to listen to an Irish tune. Maybe have some Irish stew….cabbage and corned beef….or more traditional Irish fare like colcannon or soda bread….even a pint of Guiness. So here’s to you and yours….have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Or as the Irish would say:
May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.
When Irish eyes are smiling,
‘Tis like a morn in spring.
With a lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing.
May luck be our companion
May friends stand by our side
May history remind us all
Of Ireland’s faith and pride.
May God bless us with happiness
May love and faith abide.
May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light,
May good luck pursue you each morning and night.
Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter
Lullabies, dreams, and love ever after.
Poems and songs with pipes and drums
A thousand welcomes when anyone comes.
An Irishman is never drunk as long as he can hold onto one blade of grass to keep from falling off the earth. ~Irish Saying
So Éirinn go Brách – Ireland Forever – and good cheer & sláinte (health) to you.
By the way, there is canoeing in Ireland….see the following for more info:
Paddles up until later then….and Happy St. Patrick’s Day….a day when all things are green….not just my canoe.
Canoes don’t tip, people just fall out of them. – Omer Stringer
From a previous blog post here is Omer’s story:
Omer Stringer was defintely a legendary figure in canoeing. Here’s some info on him from Carrying Place Canoe Works: Omer Stringer:
1912 – 1988
Omer loved to show that canoeing is not only a method of transportation and a beautiful art form but is fun to do and watch. Some of Omer’s more famous canoeing skills were showstoppers. Without fanfare, Omer would run at full speed down a dock, leap into his canoe and without skipping a beat start paddling away. In the middle of demonstrating paddling methods, with great ease and without stopping, he would deftly move to the front of the canoe where he would do a headstand on the seat without losing balance or tipping over. This required an incredible sense of balance.
The name ‘Omer Stringer’ recalls scenes of a man who was at perfect ease in a canoe. When he paddled it seemed as if he was part of the canoe, paddling gracefully with minimum effort. Although he had fun with his canoe and teaching canoeing, he was ever mindful to respect the water and elements in nature. He always taught safety first and reminded his students that if in danger to stay with your canoe and to use it to keep you afloat.
Omer was born on Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park, in 1912 to an Algonquin Ranger. He was raised in the Park and very quickly learned canoeing and wilderness skills. He was self-taught. The only formal education available in the Park came by train. A teacher was dispatched to teach all the youngsters. The classroom was in a caboose and the supplies were limited. The school year lasted for a short period of time with the train or schoolroom returning for short spells. His real education was learning from the Park guides and his father. At a very young age he learned how to set up a wilderness campsite and cook meals for the visiting campers. By the age of 14, he had learnt how to build canoes and was guiding canoe trips in the Park.
In the 1930′s Omer was teaching canoeing at Camp Tanamakoon, Taylor Statten Camps and Camp Arowhon, all in Algonquin Park. In 1936, he opened his own camp in the Park, Camp Tamakwa. He spent his summers teaching canoeing and developing his own style of canoeing. The era of camping in the ’30′s was very different than today. The conveniences of city life were very far removed and definitely not readily available. The simple needs of the campers became challenges. The ever-inquisitive mind of Omer invented tools to meet the needs. He even invented a very complicated dentist drill with winches, discs and all sorts of rudimentary forms. It is hard to imagine a waiting lineup of campers for this device. According to Omer it worked.
During World War II, Omer served in the RCAF in India, Burma and New Guinea. It was soon discovered that he had incredible knowledge that could be used in intelligence work and he was soon seconded to the U.S. Air Force for the remainder of the war.
After the war, Omer reopened his camp. Soon there was someone to occupy Omer’s heart. He married Edie and started a family. Over the years he had many varied successful careers. At the age of 52, he returned to school and earned a Bachelor of Science degree at University of Toronto. With his love of teaching, it was a natural fit to teach high school science.
He somehow found time to write books and manuals on paddling, water safety and canoe techniques. He was featured in two films. Taught safety courses for the Red Cross and developed an Outdoor Education Program for teachers. To this day, his manuals and courses are used in many recreational and camping programs.
Omer was often the guest on his son’s David’s T.V. program teaching long forgotten skills in a no nonsense way. He could teach and fix anything. Some of the things taught were skills he learned in Algonquin Park such as how to properly sharpen an ax.
Soon his student campers had grown up and were going into business. They asked Omer to join them in a business venture to be called Beaver Canoe Company. Omer joined the business and soon canoes were being built and sold. The company had a retail aspect and clothing and other outdoor items were sold. The most popular item soon became the t-shirts and sweatshirts with the Beaver Canoe logo with Omer’s name. Soon it was the hot fashion item and everyone had to have one even those who did not canoe and had never been north.
Omer’s love of canoes and anyone building them soon caught his eye. He had heard of Joe at Carrying Place Canoe Works and came to visit. Thus developed a strong friendship based on a common love of canoeing. Omer Stringer firmly believed that the traditional wood canvas canoe would always remain the choice of the discriminating paddler. He was always willing to impart his knowledge and to be helpful. With Omer’s assistance, the 15′ Omer Stringer Classic canoe was born. It remains a tribute to a friend, mentor, and fine person. As well, Omer taught Joe how to hand carve a special type of paddle. To this day, Joe will only use the paddle that Omer specially carved for him as a gift. This paddle is still made at Carrying Place Canoe Works to be enjoyed by all.
Omer had many stories filled with history and adventure but the best tales had the added flavour of Omer’s wit and humour. He gleefully recounted this story many times. While browsing through a well-known sports show, he came upon a sales person wielding a large sledgehammer. Omer stopped to watch as the sledgehammer was raised and aimed at a plastic canoe. The plastic canoe was repeatedly hit. Shrugging his shoulders Omer left the scene but several hours later he came upon the same booth with the same salesperson hitting the same plastic canoe. Having seen enough, Omer strolled over to the salesperson and with that look that only Omer could have, said: “You know, in all of my over 60 years of canoeing, I have never had to take a sledge hammer to my canoe.”
Omer Stringer left a lasting legacy. His style of unique paddling and canoeing are loyally followed by thousands and still taught at camps. His former students and friends have kept his love of the north and especially Algonquin Park alive. Omer’s beloved canoe named ‘Omer’ is on display in the canoe museum in Algonquin Park. Omer Stringer’s life, adventures and stories have become Canadian canoeing legends and an integral part of our heritage.
L: Omer Stringer Style Paddles, from Carrying Place Canoes; R: Omer and Joe Ziemba (of Carrying Place Canoes).
Omer Stringer Classic canoe, from Carrying Place Canoes.
(NOTE: All photos are from the Carrying Place website, mostly from the article on Omer Stringer.)
For the record, the canoe that Omer used in most of his demos, solo work (specifically the canoe ballet he became famous for)….and loved paddling was a Chestnut Chum (or actually a narrow ribbed version and therefore technically a Doe)….it had Omer painted on the side of it….he also used a Chestnut Pal for tripping with camps….Omer was also known to “fine tune” his canoes a bit….so these canoes were very much his own.
In 1973, Michael Budman and Don Green created what is today Roots Canada. They also were responsible for the Beaver Canoe Co. (mentioned in the above article on Omer Stringer) that really was more popular for its clothing line than the few canoes produced. In Roots Canada, Michael and Don were inspired by their passion for Ontario’s Algonquin Park and everything it represented for them. It is interesting that the Roots logo also includes a beaver, as it was also used in the time-honoured logo of Camp Tamakwa, a place which strongly influenced the Roots co-founders in their youth. As a final aside, Omer’s son, David (well known as a TV producer) is a director of Tamakwa.
For more on Omer Stringer see Paddle Making (And Other Canoe Stuff) Blog: Omer Stringer Birch, where Murat V. describes making a paddle out of yellow birch based on Omer’s preferred design….he starts off his post with a brief description of Omer:
…..fantastic booklet, The Canoeist’s Manual, written by the one and only Omer Stringer. Any serious solo paddler knows about Omer, born and raised in Algonquin Park, master of the solo paddling technique now known as “omering” in his honour. Bill Mason, another canoeing icon, apparently refered to Omer as the King of Flatwater….
….I first read about Omer’s bio and intriguing technique online – a reprint of the 1999 Canoe Journal article written by Jeff Solway entitled “Omer Stringer – The Father of Modern Canoeing”. …..I also just picked up the 2008 CanoeRoots Magazine Buyer’s Guide edition which has a one page article on Omer written by the prolific paddling author, James Raffan.
Omer’s technique is essentially what modern classic solo is about…heeling the boat so that the gunnel nearly reaches the waterline allowing the solo paddler to control the boat with subtle underwater recoveries and leverage strokes.
The articles by Jeff Solway are no longer available as his website is now closed….however I did download an article on Omer’s paddling technique by Jeff, Solo Paddling In Wind (Omering) from Canoe Journal, which also has an excellent overview of Omer’s favourite solo stroke.
The article on Omer by James Raffan is on pages 26 to 27 of Canoeroots Spring 2008. Well actually page 26 is a photo of Omer in typical canoe position….but instead of his beloved wood canvas canoe, Omer is pictured in an aluminum canoe?!?!?….still James writes a great article on Omer…..or as he’s described a ‘paddling guru’.
Paddles up until later then….
OK it’s still snowing….but maybe the answer is to consider paddling….warmer times….so instead of making snowshoes, maybe I should be looking at making pack baskets.
There is something about pack baskets and canoes. Great to carry loads over a portage. True, out west in Minnesota, there is the Duluth canoe pack….in Ontario the Woods canoe pack. The pack basket is very much an Eastern influence though….from Maine….also known to some as Adirondack pack baskets….traditionally made from ash. Truly beautiful in a canoe….especially a wood canvas canoe:
Black Ash Pack Basket in Canoe
Handmade black ash pack basket made from pounded black ash logs. Handwoven in Maine. From Ash Baskets By Fran.
Here is more about Frannie A. Doonan, basket maker (also from Ash Baskets By Fran):
I am a self-taught black ash basket maker. It has taken much patience and many years to become a master of this craft. My love of basket making started in early childhood. Even from that young age I knew that someday I would make a pack basket. I have been making black ash baskets since 1991 with great love and passion. It’s in my soul.
Along with my husband Dave Mussey I guided canoe trips in northern Maine for 12 years, where my black ash pack baskets were essential to carrying all our trip food. I enjoy passing on the tradition of making pounded black ash baskets by holding classes in my workshop. Dave makes and teaches others to make wood/canvas canoes in our workshop. He also makes and teaches others to make winter travel toboggans. For more information about Dave’s canoes, toboggans and workshops, go to http://mainejourneys.com.
If you get a chance check out Fran’s work….Dave’s canoes are pretty special too.
Some videos from YouTube:
Adirondack Pack Basket (AKA Trappers Basket)
Black Ash Basket Making.
Black Ash Basket Making: Pounding Ash
For more info see http://www.abenakibaskets.com/.
Another really good basket maker from Maine is Mark Young.
The Art Of Ash Basket Making – Mark Young
For more on Mark see: Black Ash Pack Basket – Maine Basket Maker (Made in Maine by Mark Young).
Those are just a few videos on pack baskets and ash basket making….check out these and more available online. There are also a variety of websites dedicated to the art of ash basket making, as well as pack baskets.
The Canadian Canoe Museum does offer pack basket making courses (although not using ash); see Canadian Canoe Museum: Weave a Woodland Pack Basket for more.
Paddles up until later then….and maybe you will pack your own basket on your canoe.
In the 1930s two articles were published in American how-to-do magazines on building a canoe. One was from Home Craft (March 1936) and the other from Popular Mechanics (March 1938). Both were on how to build wood canvas canoes….both models were 16 ft. After writing about canoe building programs for youth….and so much about wood canvas canoes….I thought I would highlight these two great how-to articles.
Kathy Klos posted on the WCHA forum, WCHA Forum: 1936 Homecraft Canoe Plans, about the Home Craft article, Canoe Building At Home. She included copies of the pages from the three issues involved….and I have reproduced them here:
Then there was the Popular Mechanics article, Build Your Own Canoe, Popular Mechanics: Build Your Own Canoe. Check out this article for another perspective on building your own wood canvas canoe.
Paddles up until later then….and maybe you’ll be inspired to build your own canoe….so you can really “paddle your own canoe”.
Sunday morning….not exactly thundering….certainly no thunderstorms….but I thought I would post about Thunderbirds….
To Native Americans, the Thunderbird was usually a friend to humans, a benevolent spirit being seen as the source of wisdom. The Anishinaabe stated that the eyes of the Thunderbird flashed with fire, his glance engendered lightning, and the flapping of his wings produced thunder. The Algonkian tribes (the Ojibwa among them) believed the Thunderbird to be a benign nature spirit. The Kwakiutl said the Thunderbird taught them how to build houses. The Assiniboine claimed the wise old Thunderbird never harmed or killed anyone. The Thunderbird features prominently in Native American art. In the 1970s Canada issued several postage stamps depicting traditional Native American images of the Thunderbird.
Various Thunderbird themed paintings by Norval Morrisseau (appropriate as his name was Copper Thunderbird) , fromhttp://norvalmorrisseaublog.blogspot.ca/2010_04_24_archive.html.
Thunderbird by David Morrisseau, fromhttp://www.geocities.ws/claimtoframe/dmorrisseau.html.
Thunderbird by Christrain Morrisseau,http://www.artworldofsherway.com/Featured%20Artists/ChristianM/Collection/23021ChristianM.htm.
From Nanabozhoo And The Thunderbirds written by Mark Sakry:
Once when the earth was very young, the spirit-child Nanabozhoo was born. His father was the wind. His mother walked the earth among human beings, alone. She had powers she did not know. All the earth spirits were afraid, for they knew the powers of Nanabozhoo. His mother disappeared into the air the instant he was born, so Nanabozhoo lived with the old woman he called Grandmother. They lived alone on the shore of Lake Superior. As he grew older, Nanabozhoo helped his grandmother. He brought her fish and mushrooms and wild roots. One day, when he was a young man, Nanabozhoo asked his grandmother; “What is the greatest fish in the lake?” “Do not ask me that question,” she replied, “for he is a very large fish who could do you much harm!” Nanabozhoo asked, “Can he not be killed and eaten like other fish?” “No,” his grandmother replied, “for he lives deep in the water off the edge of that cliff. No one has ever had the wisdom to reach him. He is very powerful!” Nanabozhoo thought a long time about the great fish. He climbed to the top of the cliff and sat for many days. He stared down into Lake Superior. Then, suddenly, one day the Wind spoke, and he climbed back down from the cliff. Nanabozhoo fashioned a great bow of ash and an arrow of cedar to kill the fish. Then Nanabozhoo went to his grandmother and asked, “Grandmother; do you know of any bird whose feathers will make this arrow fly forcefully?” “You are impertinent,” she scolded. “The only bird is one who lives in the sky beyond that cloud. You would have to go there to get the feathers you want.” Nanabozhoo had to have those feathers. He went again to the top of the cliff to find a way to get them. After a time, the shadow of a great eagle-like bird passed over him. It was Thunderbird. Nanabozhoo, being very artful, changed into a small rabbit. The bird swooped to kill him. “Thunderbird, stop!” cried Nanabozhoo. “Am I not truly an artful little creature? Would I not make a good playmate for your fledglings?” Thunderbird landed next to Nanabozhoo. Truly, he was a clever rabbit. He said, “I will not kill you. Instead I will bring you to my children to be their playmate.” Then Thunderbird swept Nanabozhoo away to his nest in the sky. When he got to the nest, Thunderbird said to his fledglings, “I have brought you a very clever rabbit to play with.” And he gave them the rabbit. His wife said, “Do you not know Nanabozhoo the man-spirit is on the earth? Are you so foolish that you bring him here? Why did you bring this rabbit?” Then Nanabozhoo pretended to sleep and he let the fledglings do what they wanted to him. Thunderbird said, “Is he not truly an artful creature, after all? You mustn’t worry about this rabbit.” Thunderbird and his wife were seldom at their nest, as they were hunting food for their children. Nanabozhoo suddenly said to himself one day, “These brats treat me as though I am just a plaything. Don’t they know I have come to take their feathers?” Nanabozhoo changed back to a human being. The little thunderbirds shrieked. Quickly Nanabozhoo stripped their feathers from them. Nanabozhoo actually took more feathers than he needed to make his arrow fly with force. Now the fledglings would never fly. He tied the feathers in a bundle and jumped away from the nest. Because he was a man-spirit, Nanabozhoo was not hurt when he came to the ground. Then he heard the sky open. It was his father the Wind. Suddenly, there was horrible lightning. It was the flashing eyes of the thunderbirds. Thunder boomed over the earth. It was the thunderbirds’ voices. The thunderbirds sped at Nanabozhoo with their talons. Nanabozhoo clutched the bundle of feathers he had stolen. He would never give it up. He ran this way and that to get away from the thunderbirds. Even though he was a man-spirit, Nanabozhoo feared he would die. The booming and flashing, the blowing and crashing, finally caused Nanabozhoo to tire. He grew perplexed. Then, quickly, Nanabozhoo crawled inside a hollow birch tree that had fallen. The talons of the thunderbirds almost got him. The hollow birch tree saved his life. The thunderbirds boomed, “Our king-child, the birch tree, has offered you its protection! Now we cannot touch you!” And, indeed, Nanabozhoo had fled to the protection of one of their very own children. Now he was safe from the thunderbirds. Their eyes flickered off toward the heavens. Their voices faded. The Wind rolled away the clouds and left Nanabozhoo in a wake of tears that was rain dripping from the leaves. Then Nanabozhoo stepped out of the log. He was changed. Nanabozhoo said, “From now on, human beings will find the protection of this tree useful in many ways. Anyone standing under it will find shelter from lightning and storms. “Its bark will make their lodges. “Their food will not spoil in it. “And it will have many more uses. “But,” Nanabozhoo said, “anyone using the bark of the birch tree will make generous offerings to it.” Thus the birch tree was blessed by Nanabozhoo, and he left all the feathers of his bundle inside the hollow log except for those which he needed to fix to his arrow and kill the great fish. Then the man-spirit went to the shore of Lake Superior and killed the great fish. To this day, human beings will find the marks of Nanabozhoo in the tree’s bark. They are little dashes. They will also find patterns of the little thunderbirds.
Many tales centered on Nanabozhoo, a half-human, half-spirit trickster, who was often entangled in humorous scrapes and brought innovations, such as medicine, to humankind from the spirits (Nanabush went by many other names: Nanabush, Naanabozho, Nanibush, Nenabozho, Manabozho, Minabozho, Waynaboozhoo, Wenabozho, Wenabozhoo, Wenebojo, Winabojo, or Winneboshoo).
The Ojibwa word for a thunderbird that is closely associated with thunder isanimikii, while large thunderous birds are binesi.
From the Canadian Canoe Museum comes the following great article on Freighter Canoes (http://canoemuseum.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/a-northern-icon-the-wood-and-canvas-freighter-canoe/) :
A Northern Icon: The Wood And Canvas Freighter Canoe
Like the rest of this community also involved with The Canadian Canoe Museum, I share a peculiar affection for the little human-powered boats that are so celebrated in our country’s heritage. It is certainly my privilege as the Museum’s Curator to spend quite a bit of time with its collection of over 600 of these little boats.
Canadian Canoe Museum onsite Collections Storage Facility (CCM photo)
If pressed, I do not have a favourite canoe– at least today’s choice would not be the same as yesterday’s favourite. I will however make a small confession: I’ve long had a soft spot for one unusual branch in the canoe’s family tree and it usually has an outboard motor hanging off the end. Now I’m not really a motorboat person, not at all, but there’s something about the shape and workboat finish of the great freighter canoes found across the Canadian north that gives me a thrill.
For a history of these large, square-backed wood and canvas canoes, a meandering link can perhaps be made to the large birchbark canoes paddled by voyageurs of the fur trade. This link is further strengthened by the fact that, in the mid-20th century, a Cree outfit called Rupert House Canoes was making these big freighters in the same community on James Bay (now called Waskaganish) where the Hudson’s Bay Company first set up shop 300 years earlier.
Chestnut Canoe Company 1957 freighter canoes (CCM Collection)
Of the larger Canadian manufacturers, sister companies Peterborough, Chestnut and Canadian Canoe Companies all produced identical versions of the larger volume canoes, which first appeared as double-ended hulls. Later offerings included a Y-stern hybrid format suitable for river use by paddle and motor and the square-back option for open water travel by outboard motor. It is also worth mentioning that these canoes would often carry Johnson or Evinrude motors manufactured by OMC right in the buildings currently occupied by The Canadian Canoe Museum. These canoe offerings ranged up to 22-foot in length and measured 60” wide. Our collection has 26 historic canoe builder’s forms including the 22’ freighter (model name: “Daddy”) from the Chestnut factory. Given its size, it is not surprising that the forward half of this huge form was designed to receive either the Y-stern or the square-back tail section for ease of storage.
Chestnut 22-foot building form (CCM Collection)
There is a much more significant story to be found however in the community of Prévost, Quebec. Almost all of the freighter canoes in use in the north show the familiar circular decal with moose head of the company “Canots Nor-West/ Nor-West Canoes”. With family roots that connect him to the Hudson’s Bay Company in western Canada, Augustin Gariepy began in producing canoes around 1945. What would become an astonishingly durable family business is still manufacturing canvas-covered canoes today and Nor-West continues to produce an impressive range of boats measuring from 12 to 26 feet in length. This is even more impressive when one considers that they are carrying on, now in the hands of Gariepy’s grandsons, many decades after all of the larger wooden canoe manufacturers have disappeared. I wish them all success in the future.
Surprisingly, our collection does not yet have a “Nor-West” canoe in our collection but I have no doubt that we’ll amend that at some point. Given that there are still so many to be found, it would also be our choice to acquire an example of this northern workhorse still associated with its particular history and use.
These are the type of canoes we were working on in Fort Severn….so this type of canoe has a spot in my heart too.
Paddles up until later.
For 24 years I was a light canoeman. I required but little sleep, but sometimes got less than I required. No portage was too long for me; all portages were alike. My end of the canoe never touched the ground ’til I saw the end of it. Fifty songs a day were nothing to me. I could carry, paddle, walk and sing with any man I ever saw… I pushed on – over rapids, over cascades, over chutes; all were the same to me. No water, no weather ever stopped the paddle or the song… There is no life so happy as a voyageur’s life; none so independent; no place where a man enjoys so much variety and freedom as in the Indian country. Huzza, huzza pour le pays sauvage! — anonymous coureur-de-bois quoted by a Hudson’s Bay Co. historian
The canoes rode well, not too high in the bows, but just enough. Peterborough Prospectors were made for the bush and for roaring rapids and waves. They embodies the best features of all canoes in the north. They were wide of beam with sufficient depth to take rough water, and their lines gave them maneuverability and grace. In them was the lore of centuries, of Indian craftsman who had dreamed and perfected the beauty of the birchbark, and of French voyageurs who also loved the feel of the paddle and the smooth glide of the canoe through the water. All this was taken by modern craftsman who – with glues , waterproof fillers and canvas, together with the accuracy of machine tooled ribs and thwarts , planking and gunwales – made a canoe of which Northmen might be well proud. – Sigurd Olson
Such vivid awareness is swiftly lost today, but if it can be held into adulthood it enriches and colors all we do. How often in the wild country of the north I have been aware of the spirits of the voyageurs, the shadowy forms that once roamed the rivers and lakes. Often at night it seemed I could hear ghostly songs coming across the water, the rhythmic dip of paddles and the swish of great canoes as they went by. - Sigurd Olson
Tu es mon compagnon de voyage! Je veux mourir dans mon canot Sur le tombeau, près du rivage, Vous renverserez mon canot
When I must leave the great river O bury me close to its wave And let my canoe and my paddle Be the only mark over my grave – from ‘Mon Canoe d’écorce’ (‘My Bark Canoe’) translated by Frank Oliver Call
From The Canadian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0008396, comes the following definition of the voyageur:
A voyageur was an adventurer who journeyed by canoe from Montréal to the interior to trade with Indians for furs. At the close of the 17th century, the term was applied to selected coureurs de bois, hired by Montréal merchants to arrange and sustain trading alliances with Indian bands. The term later included all fur trade participants: the merchant (bourgeois), his clerk (commis) and contracted servants (engagés). Today, the term “voyageur” suggests the romantic image of men paddling the canoes in the fur brigades which traversed much of the continent, living lives full of perilous adventure, gruelling labour and boisterous cameraderie.
Shooting The Rapids
Shooting the rapids, in a master canoe. Painting by Francis Ann Hopkins (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C2774f).
Voyageurs at Dawn
Painting by Frances Ann Hopkins. The overturned canoes make temporary shelters for the men (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-2773).
Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall
Oil on canvas by Frances Anne Hopkins, 1869 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada 1989-401-1X; C-2771).
From the now deleted website, Festival du Voyageur, http://www.sasked.gov.sk.ca/docs/francais/frcore/elem/progetud/PKK1-3.html:
The term Voyageur, a French word meaning “traveler”, was applied originally in Canadian history to all explorers and fur-traders. It came in time to be restricted to the men who operated the canoes and bateaux or fur-traders.
The French régime was responsible for the rise of this unique group of men. From the days of earliest exploration until 1763, a large part of what is now Canada and much of the rest of the continent west of the Appalachian Mountains was FrenchTerritory. In this vast region lived the several tribes of Indians with whom the French settlers around Québec and Montréal were not slow to barter furs. Castor (beaver), marten, renard (fox), lynx, ours (bear), loutre (otter),loup (wolf), muskrat, and many other furs were in great demand in Europe and Asia.
At first the Indians took their skins and furs down the St. Lawrence River to Québec and Montréal, whither annual fairs attracted them; but in time ambitious traders intercepted the natives and purchased their furs in the interior. TheVoyageurs may said to have been born. Farther and farther up the St. Lawrence, into Lakes Huron and Michigan they ventured. Erie and Ontario were explored, and finally Lake Superior. Trading posts were sprinkled from Montréal to the Rocky Mountains, from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, leaving behind them place names such as Detroit, Traverse City, Eau Claire, Duluth, St. Louis, Grand Portage, Presque Isle, Fort Macleod, Fort Kamloops, and Fort Quesnel.
As time went on, the French government found it necessary to establish rules and regulations for this lucrative business. Congres(licenses) to enter the Indian country were required; certain articles were prohibited in the trade, and only a specified number of traders would be licensed in one year.
Voyageurs formed a class as distinct in dress, customs, and traditions as sailors or lumberjacks. Short chemise (shirt), a red woolen tuque, a pair of deerskin moccasins, and jambières (leggings), held up by a ceinture fléchée (sash), and the azion (breech cloth) of the Indians, complemented by the inevitable pipe and sac-à-feu (beaded pouch) hanging from the sash.
One would expect Voyageurs to be men of heroic proportions, but usually they were not. The average Voyageur was five feet six inches in height. Had they been taller, they would have occupied too much precious space in the canot(canoe) already overloaded with provisions (cargo). But though the Voyageur was short, he was strong. He could paddle fifteen – yes, if necessary – eighteen hours per day for weeks on end and joke beside the campfire at the close of the day. He could carry from 250 to 400 pounds of merchandise on his back over rocky portages at a pace which made unburdened travelers pant for breath in their endeavour not to be left behind.
To aid paddling under conditions of difficulty or monotony, the Voyageurs sang. Songs were chosen whose rhythm was such that the paddles could keep time to the music. Ordinarily the steersman chose the song and gave the pitch. Sometimes he sang the stanza and the others joined in the chorus. In the parlance of his fellows he was a solo. Voyageurs were chosen partly with respect to their vocal abilities, and the effect of six to fourteen of them in full song was quite impressive. Of course, they sang in French – of the canoes, of their country, of their life, of their loves, of their church – sentimental romances, old ballads, humourous jingles, and lofty poems. These songs, many of which were inheritances from French Troubadours of the Medieval Ages, gave to their strokes rhythm and drive, performing in a way the function of the sea shanties for sailors.
To understand the Voyageur completely one must accompany him on one of his trips from Montréal into the pays d’en haut(upstairs country), as he termed the Northwest.
Any year between 1770 and 1840, Montréal Island was the scene of much commotion on the May morning set for the departure of a brigade of canots for the Northwest. As soon as the bourgeouis (agent) and come to terms with hisengage (employees), and engagements (contract) was signed. He agreed not to desert his master, not to give aid or encouragement to his master’s rivals during the period of his engagement. They were printed in French, with spaces left for the Voyageurs name, his home, the wages he was to receive, and any special provisions.
The Voyageur’s equipment consisted of a blanket, shirt, a pair of trousers, two hankerchiefs, several pounds of carrot tobacco (a carrot-shaped twist of tobacco). their goods were packed into pièces each weighing up to ninety pounds. Two of these pièces make an ordinary load for portaging, but stories were told of those who carried up to eight at once.
The route lay along the St. Lawrence to its confluence with the Ottawa and up that stream to the point where the Mattawa River joins it from the West. In this distance on la grand rivière there were eighteen portages. There were also approximately as many décharges: to these numerous falls and rapids were given names such as les chats (the cats), la chaudière (the kettle), les allumettes (the matches) and la calumet (the peace pipe).
On the second evening after the departure from Montréal, when the campement had been made in a pine-sheltered nook on the bank of the river, when souper had been eaten around the blazing fire, and whilst smoke from many pipes lay like a cloud against the dark forest trees, the call for une chanson was issued.
Reproduit sous l’autorisation du Festival du Voyageur inc.
There have been many different renditions of the voyageur songs over the years….some sung by camp groups around a campfire or on a canoe trip. The Canadian folk group, Tanglefoot, recorded two such songs which appeared on Canoesongs Volume I and II, http://www.tanglefootmusic.com/music/index.php:
La V’la M’amie
Traditional Voyaguer Song, on Canoesongs Volume I
Arrangement: Joe Grant, Steve Ritchie, Al Parrish and Bob Wagar
M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle J’ai rencontre trois jolies demoiselles
Chorus La V’la M’amie que j’aime, j’aime, j’aime, La V’la M’amie que j’aime La V’la M’amie que j’aime, j’aime, j’aime, La V’la M’amie que j’aime
J’ai point choisi, mais j’ai pris la plus belle
J’l’y fis monter derriere moi sur ma selle
J’y fis cent lieu sans parler avec elle
Paddle Like Hell!
Traditional; arranged by Steve Ritchie, Sandra Swannell and Terry Young
Originally released as C’est l’aviron/V’là l’bon vent on Canoesongs Volume II,Portage Productions, April 2006
M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles C’est l’aviron qui nous mène qui nous mène C’est l’aviron que nous mène en haut
J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles J’ai point choisi mais j’ai pris la plus belle C’est l’aviron qui nous mène qui nous mène C’est l’aviron que nous mène en haut
J’ai point choisi mais j’ai pris la plus belle J’ai point choisi mais j’ai pris la plus belle J’l’y fis monter derrière moi sur ma selle C’est l’aviron qui nous mène qui nous mène C’est l’aviron que nous mène en haut
V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent V’là l’bon vent m’amie m’appelle V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent V’là l’bon vent m’amie m’attend
Derrière chez nous y’a-t-un étang Derrière chez nous y’a-t-un étang Trois beaux canards s’en vont baignant
Trois beaux canards s’en vont baignant Trois beaux canards s’en vont baignant Le fils du roi s’en va chassant
Le fils du roi s’en va chassant Le fils du roi s’en va chassant Avec son grand fusil d’argent
M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles C’est l’aviron V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent C’est l’aviron V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent C’est l’aviron V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent C’est l’aviron que nous mène en haut
Journey back in time with the Sons of the Voyageur. These engaging “edu-tainers” bring the fur trade era to life through songs of the voyageurs in a multimedia rear-projection slide presentation featuring close to 100 images. In their interactive musical theatre performance you will hear authentic fur trade era songs sung a capella in three and four part harmony, and be led from Montreal to GrandPortage as the lifestlye of the Voyageur is portrayed in authentic period costume. An extensive collection of paddling, working and playing songs form the basis of this exciting historical overview of the life and times of a voyageur.
The group consists of (left to right in the photo) Grant Herman, Tom Yost, Gary Hecimovich, Tom Draughton, and Ron Hobart.
The Sons of the Voyageur, Bien travailler
Sixteen chansons of the voyageurs, plus the Canadian National Anthem. Sung a capella by Les fils du voyageur, The Sons of the Voyageur.
Table of Contents
- Bien travailler
- C’est l’aviron
- J’ai tant dansé
- Charmant Rossignol
- Aux Illinois
- C’est dans la ville de Rouen
- Bonhomme, Bonhomme
- En montant la rivière
- Ma bouteille m’est fidèle
- Monsieur le curé
- Un voyageur errant
- J’ai cueille la belle rose
- Hier sur le pont d’Avignon
- Sur le pont d’Avignon
- Bon soir, mes amis!
- Chanson du voyageur
- O! Canada!
The Sons of the Voyageur, Canot d’Écorce
Twenty chansons including some of the most famous voyageur songs. Sung a capella by Les fils du voyageur, The Sons of the Voyageur.
Table of Contents
- Fringue! Fringue!
- A la claire fontaine
- Mariez moi
- I Went to the Market
- Dans mon canot d’écorce
- Gai lon la
- Luron luré
- Beti batan delum
- Ah! Si mon moine voulait dansé
- A Saint Malo
- En roulant ma boule
- La fille du Roi d’Espagne
- Envoyons d’l’avant
- V’la l’bon vent
- Blanche comme la neige
- Voici l’hiver arrivé
- Dans l’Mississippi
- Youpe! Youpe!
- La grande et la petite
James Raffan wrote in Bark, Skin and Cedar, of another musical group steeped in voyageur songs, describing them performing at a dance with a voyageur theme:
The band for the costumed occasion was called “Rubaboo”, after pemmican soup, and included a line-up of musicians who, in their real lives, were about as close to modern-day voyageurs as one can get. There was Peter Labor, who runs an outfitting and tour firm on Lake Superior; Jeremy Ward, a birchbark-canoe builder; and a third troubadour who, by association with the other two and in his ceinture flechee, was voyageur enough for me.
Rubaboo was a basic stew or porridge consumed by ‘coureurs des bois’ and ‘voyageurs’ (fur traders) and Metis people of North America, traditionally made of peas or corn (or both) with grease (bear or pork) and a thickening agent (bread or flour). Pemmican and maple sugar were also commonly added to the mixture. The musical group Rubaboo has performed at the Canadian Canoe Museum and other such venues. Their music is very much inspired by the voyageurs. As noted one member of this group was Jeremy Ward.
Jeremy Ward is the curator of the Canadian Canoe Museum. Jeremy has been involved with the museum for over a decade as a volunteer and staff member. He developed and carried out a number of significant projects and programs, perhaps the most notable of which was the research and construction of a 36’ birchbark canoe. Working before the public at the museum and leading a team of dedicated volunteers, Jeremy built an authentic, working example of the canot du maitre, the workhorse vehicle of the 18th and early 19th century fur trade in Canada. (This canoe along with Jeremy was featured in Ray Mears’ fine series The Northern Wilderness.) He has also designed and built the Preserving Skills Gallery and the Voyageur Encampment diorama.
The Canadian Canoe Museum (http://www.canoemuseum.ca/) includes exhibits depicting various aspects of the voyageur’s life and times, including much on the fur trade. Two educational programs offered for Grades 4/5/6/7/8 at the Canoe Museum are:
TRAPPERS AND TRADERS
Trappers and Traders takes students of the middle-school age into the heart of the fur trade through the exploration of various peoples and characters who participated in this sweeping element of Canadian history. Then through a series of costumed experiential role playing vignettes at our trading dock and voyageur encampment. Stories, terms, French language, navigation, post locations, trade items, portaging practice, period food and manipulation of various types of furs make this an engaging experience for all.
FUR TRADE GAME
Students take on the role of a trader with the Hudson’s Bay Company and explore the fur trade industry while trading information for furs and then furs for European goods. They experience the emotional and physical challenges of the fur trade while gaining accurate knowledge of what life really was like in that industry. It’s a real game!
Here are some photos of exhibits related to the fur trade and voyageurs from the Canadian Canoe Museum:
North Canoe, laden with trade goods.
Photos from Canadian Canoe Museum, http://www.canoemuseum.ca/index.php?option=com_phocagallery&view=category&id=1&Itemid=107.
Paddles up until later then….and remember each time we dip our paddles into the water that we echo the songs of past paddlers….including the voyageurs.
Some of the canoes from Peterborough area builders in the Canadian Canoe Museum (in Peterborough of course).
Aerial view showing the industries of downtown Peterborough, circa 1918
One of the earliest aerial photos of Peterborough, taken before this Hunter Street bridge was demolished in 1920 to make way for the current structure. Downtown Peterborough before World War I was filled with industry. Of all the industries noted here, only Quaker Oats remains: 1) Quaker Oats Company of Canada, 2) Flour mill of the Peterborough Cereal Company, 3) Peterborough Gas Works, 4) Denne Warehouse (Dewart Mills), 5) First Peterborough Canoe Company factory, 6) Freight terminal, 7) J.J. Turner and Sons, 8) Peter Hamilton Company, 9) Former Peterborough Boating Club boathouse, 10) Ackerman Harness Company, 11) Campbell Flour Mills Company and Maple Leaf Mills, 12) Second Canadian Canoe Company Factory, 13) Central Bridge and Engineering Company, 14) CPR station, 15) Calcutt Brewing and Malting Company, 16) Otonabee grain mill, and 17) Site of the Ontario Canoe Company factory. (Courtesy of the Trent Valley Archives – Stan McBride Collection)
Cover of book by Ken Brown that is very useful.
Some info from various online sources about the history of canoe building in Peterborough….which I thought might be of some interest so I’ve reproduced it here:
The following was originally on the Peterborough Museum and Archives, http://www.peterboroughmuseumandarchives.ca/canoe.htm (but now appears to have been taken offline):
Origins of the Industry
John Stephenson began to build and sell canoes in the late 1850s as a sideline to his main business with the Stephenson and Craigie planing mill (located at the present site of the Quaker Oats tennis courts). Gradually, he began to spend more time constructing canoes in order to meet the growing demand, first with a small factory at the foot of Lake St. on Little Lake, and later another, located on Elizabeth Street (now Hunter St.) in Ashburnham.
Birth of the Peterborough Canoe Company
A fire on May 9,1892 completely destroyed the factory and all the lumber and models of the Ontario Canoe Co. The loss was estimated at $25,000 and there was no insurance. Mr. John Burnham and J. S. Rogers decided to rebuild, and on October 5, 1892 work began on a new factory at the corner of Water and King Streets in Peterborough, on the site of the original Adam Scott mill. It opened on February 15, 1893 under the name of the Peterborough Canoe Company, and employed 50 skilled workers.
Across the street (south side of King Street on the bank of the Otonabee River) was a large boathouse built by the Peterborough Boating Club. In the 1870s and 1880s this club produced several champion rowers. The club became dormant after 1891 when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) built a spur line along the shore of the Otonabee, effectively cutting off the boathouse from the river.
By 1892, the company offered 120 different canoe models. Besides the popular basswood and cedar rib canoes, the company also built cedar rib longitudinal strip canoes, duck boats, smooth-skin and lap-streak skiffs, sailing canoes and 20 to 50 foot steam launches . Peterborough Canoe Company also manufactured camping goods, furniture and office fittings and gradually diversified its product line to include rocking verandah chairs, hand painted decoys, and sun stop shades. (The sun shades became so successful that it eventually developed into the Ventilating Shade Company). In later years, the company also produced water skis and surfboards.
Birth of the Canadian Canoe Company
On April 25, 1893, the Canadian Canoe Company began to manufacture canoes and skiffs at its factory at the corner of Brock and Water Streets. It later moved to George and Dalhousie Streets, and then, in 1911, it moved to a new three story building on Rink Street where the company employed about 30 workers.
By 1902, the three canoe factories in Peterborough employed a total of 60 workers. The growth of the industry during the first decade of the century was reflected by the expansion of the operations so that by 1908, there were 90 people employed in the canoe factories of Peterborough. The workers sought to organize themselves and there was a brief strike at the Canadian Canoe Co. in May 1919, but the union failed to secure higher wages or recognition of the union from management.
The 1920s marked a turning point in the history of canoe building in Peterborough. Declining supplies of suitable wood in the local area, combined with the growing popularity of outboard motors, led to leaner times and considerable restructuring.
A smaller competitor of both the Canadian and Peterborough Canoe companies, the William English Canoe Company, was one of the earliest canoe factories. This picture was taken in front of the factory at 182 Charlotte Street where the company operated from 1861 to 1915. This manufacturer seldom employed more than 10 people, and most were family members. (Courtesy of Jim English)
The English Canoe Co. began operations in 1861 using a design by John Stephenson. Originally established by William English, it was later carried on by his brothers Samuel and James. The factory was located at 182 Charlotte Street, in Peterborough, and it employed six people.
The company was noted for its basswood, cedar and butternut wide board and cedar strip designs, as well as cedar rib canoes. White cedar was later combined and used alternately with butternut and walnut to produce beautiful watercraft.
The English Canoe Co. ceased operations in the early 1920s; their moulds and patterns were bought by the Peterborough Canoe Co.
The Peterborough Canoe Co. bought out the William English Canoe Company. In 1923, both the Peterborough Canoe Co. and the Canadian Canoe Co. joined the Chestnut Canoe Company of New Brunswick to form the Canadian Watercraft Company, a holding company with shares split evenly between Peterborough and Fredericton shareholders. Will and Harry Chestnut had set up the Chestnut Co. in 1897, after they had developed the first canvas-covered canoes in Canada. These canoes were rugged and economical and had become stiff competition for the cheapest and most popular models of the Peterborough Canoe Co.
Under the new arrangement, the Chestnut Co. would concentrate on the canvas canoe market while the Canadian Canoe Co. would build both canvas and wood canoes and specialize in those designed for use with an outboard motor. The Peterborough Canoe Co. continued to offer its wide range of spin-off products.
A fire in 1927 destroyed the Rink St. factory of the Canadian Canoe Co. Rather than rebuild the factory, and continue operations as a separate enterprise, it was decided in 1928 to sell out to the Peterborough Canoe Company.
Meanwhile, to adjust to the new market conditions, the Peterborough Canoe Co. secured the dealership rights to the Johnson Motor Company for all of Canada (excepting British Columbia). They had difficulty getting the spare parts required to service the motors that they sold, however, so they approached the Johnson Motor Co. with the suggestion that a manufacturing facility be opened in Peterborough to provide parts. In 1928, the Johnson Motor Co. opened a 30,000 square foot factory on Monaghan Road that employed 17 people. By 1936, the merger of the Johnson Co. with Outboard Motors led to the creation of the Outboard Marine and Manufacturing Company; they produced Johnson, Evinrude and Elto outboard motors, along with a wide range of other products over the years.
Peterborough: Canada’s Boat Building Capital
By 1930, 25% of all employees in the boat building industry of Canada worked in the Peterborough area. These companies included the Brown Boat Company and the Lakefield Canoe and Boat Company, along with the Peterborough Canoe Co., the Canadian Canoe Co., J.B. O’Dette and Son, the Otonabee Boat Works, and the Canadian Johnson Motor Co. (Boat Division). It was estimated that approximately 12% of the products were exported to markets in the United States and Europe. Although the canoe companies continued to be profitable ventures throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the employees were forced to accept significant wage cuts. According to one former employee, just prior to the World War II, the company had cut single mens’ wages in half and married mens’ wages by a third. Factory workers were now getting paid 12 cents an hour with no time and a half for overtime.
During World War Two, the Peterborough Canoe Co. produced a number of products for the war effort, including pontoons for building bridges, assault boats, RCAF crash boats, naval tenders, bomb loading dinghies and shell boxes. In early 1940, the entire production of new snow skis was shipped via Northern Quebec toFinland to help resist an invasion by the Soviet Union.
Decline of the Industry
As Canada entered the 1950s, the local canoe industry continued to play a prominent role in the local economy. As of 1949, the Peterborough Canoe Co. was employing 150 people and exports accounted for 10% of production. By the mid-1950s, 75 % of all canoes made in Canada were manufactured by four companies, and three of the four were located in and around Peterborough – the Peterborough Canoe Co., the Canadian Canoe Co., and the Lakefield Canoe Co. The Chestnut Canoe Co. was the other main manufacturer of canoes.
The diversification of the product line of the original canoe companies helped them to profit from the economic boom in the early 1950s. In 1953, the Manager of the Peterborough Canoe Co., Jack Richardson, stated that sales were “a way above the total for any recent year” and “the demand for paddles is so great…(we) can’t keep up with production.” As a result, the company began to invest in new facilities. By 1956, the Peterborough Canoe Co. was the largest single boat manufacturer inCanada, selling over 8,000 boats annually with sales of over $1.5 million.
Buoyed by this prosperity, the Peterborough Canoe Co. undertook plans for expansion. In 1947, fourteen acres of land had been purchased on Monaghan Road for the construction of a new finishing mill. The larger facilities were expected to increase production by 25%. The Peterborough Canoe Co. moved into its new facilities in the mid-1950s. Meanwhile, in 1958 the Canadian Canoe Co. moved into the old Peterborough Canoe Co. factory on Water St.
By the late 1950s however, the canoe companies were experiencing serious financial difficulties. The $1 million cost of moving into the new facilities was twice the anticipated cost.
In 1957, it was estimated that approximately 4,000 canoes were sold in Canada. However, compared with the increase in population, there were fewer canoes being sold per capita despite the greater number of people spending their holidays involving some sort of water recreation. There was much greater interest in motorboats and sales began to reflect this change in the market. The 1950s also witnessed the introduction of new aluminum and fiberglass canoe models that began to undermine the market for the wooden canoes. The latter were more expensive, as they required more skill and time to produce, and were made of more costly materials.
The canoe companies of Peterborough tried to accommodate the introduction of other boat building technologies, but met with limited success. The Peterborough Canoe Co. began to produce aluminum canoes in 1957 and fibreglass boats around 1956, but they did not go into full production until 1961. Though the craftsmen were skilled with wood, they had difficulty mastering the new skills necessary for working with resins and producing fiberglass canoes. As a result, they had to learn through trial and error as they went along, and the company began producing a large number of “seconds”, reflecting poorly on the reputation of the company.
The unionization of the employees in 1955 brought increased labour costs along with the elimination of piecework overtime. Overall, the combination of an expensive relocation, higher labour costs, questionable management practices, and the difficulties encountered in trying to adapt to the new canoe technologies, along with a more competitive market place, forced the canoe factories to close in the early 1960s.
In 1960, the Canadian Canoe Co. ceased manufacturing and filed for bankruptcy with debts of over $ 2 million. With the collapse of the Canadian Canoe Co. operations, it was decided to split up the Canadian Watercraft Co. that had acted as a holding company since 1924. As a result, the Peterborough Canoe Co. and the Chestnut Canoe Co. carried on independently of each other.
The Peterborough Canoe Co. lasted another couple of years, but it too, ended up filing for bankruptcy in 1962. The Chestnut Canoe Co. obtained the moulds, patterns and patents of the Peterborough Canoe Co. and continued to build canoes at its factory in Oromocto, New Brunswick until 1978; yet it too had to fold following a major expansion in 1974.
Additional Canoe Companies in the Peterborough Region
The Herald Canoe Company
Thomas Gordon Canoe Company – Strickland Canoe Company – Lakefield Canoe Company
Thomas Gordon was building canoes for sale in Lakefield since the late 1850s under the name of the Thomas Gordon Canoe Co., while in 1860 the Strickland Canoe Co. was established.
In 1892, Robert Strickland founded Strickland and Co. to produce board canoes. The name of the firm was changed to the Lakefield Canoe Works in 1900.
In 1904, Gordon and Strickland combined and reorganized the business as the Lakefield Canoe Co. This firm was eventually absorbed into the Lakefield Canoe and Manufacturing Co., which was established in 1918 by E.R. Tate.
In 1937, it was reorganized again and became the Lakefield Canoe and Boat Co. under the direction of George Cook. It changed to Lakefield Boats Ltd. in 1942, and was then bought out by Rilco Industries in 1962, which continued to operate until 1970.
In 1909, Gilbert Gordon, son of Thomas Gordon, began to build canoes in Bobcaygeon. Some canoes had been built there for a number of years in a boathouse operated by Dr. Thorne. In 1926, Charles Gordon began operating the business under the name of the Gordon Boatworks Co.
James G. Brown started up the Brown Boat Co. of Lakefield in 1887. He had worked with Thomas Gordon for a while before starting up his own business. Brown manufactured canvas freight canoes and cedar strip canoes. The business continued until 1938.
From the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the Curator’s Choice, Canoes: The Shapes Of Success, http://www.sciencetech.technomuses.ca/english/collection/canoes.cfm:
There is perhaps no technology more intimately connected to the Canadian identity than the canoe. This association stems from a variety of factors: historic, geographic and, indeed, aesthetic. Yet, for this connection truly to flourish, for the history, geography and simple beauty of the canoe to excite the collective imagination, direct contact and experience with the technology itself were essential. Commercial canoe production, beginning in the 1860s, was the catalyst for this relationship, for, with commercial production, the canoe become available to a broad and appreciative public. Canoes: The Shape of Success, the exhibit on display at the Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM), explores both the early history of commercial canoe building in Canada and the subsequent evolution of the canoe as a national icon.
Employees of the Herald Bros. Canoe Co. factory, Gore’s Landing (Rice Lake), Ontario, ca 1890. (CSTM 940346)
In the history of recreational boating in Canada, the canoe enjoys a place of special prominence. This is true both within Canada-where the canoe has become a fixture of summer camps, resorts and wilderness expeditions-and beyond our borders, where the distinctive style of watercraft we recognize simply as a “canoe” is in other countries known as a “Canadian.”
The basic form of the commercially built Canadian canoe was derived directly from bark and dugout traditions of First Peoples. Inspired by the innate qualities of the shape and performance of these traditional watercraft, a variety of techniques was developed to construct this superb aboriginal watercraft, first from wood and later from other materials. As production expanded to meet a growing middle-class interest in outdoor recreation, 19th-century sportsmen saw the Canadian canoe as something distinct requiring definition. Thus, one observer writing for Forest and Stream (Dec. 29, 1887, p. 456) under the pen name “Retaw,” offered this account of the salient characteristics of the Canadian canoe form: “sharp lines…broad flat floor…[and] slight tumble home of the topsides.”
Pioneers in the Field
The commercial history of the Canadian canoe began in the second halfthe19th century, notably concentrated in the region around the city of of Peterborough, Ontario. The principal players in the formative years were John Stephenson of Ashburnham, Thomas Gordon of Lakefield, William English of Peterborough and Daniel Herald of Gore’s Landing on Rice Lake. Examples of the canoes built by these men or their companies are still in evidence around the world. Yet, of these pioneers, only the legacy of Daniel Herald’s commercial operations, begun in 1862, has been preserved in any depth.
Daniel Herald, canoe builder, designer, innovator and founder of the Rice Lake Canoe Co., ca 1870. (CSTM 940349)
Canoe mould for construction of the Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe. (CSTM 940387)
This rare material, consisting of photographs, order books, plans, certificates, trade literature, tools, and patterns and moulds, constitutes the Daniel Herald-Rice Lake collection at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. While this collection is a unique record of an important company in the commercial history of the Canadian canoe, it is also one of the finest and fullest material records of 19th-century boat building as a business enterprise in North America. As such, it also provides an important view of the social and economic history of outdoor recreation in Canada.
Explanatory drawing from Herald’s Boat and Canoe Mould patent of 1871
The Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe
Although the canoe company founded by Daniel Herald produced a variety of canoe models, the most celebrated of his product line was the Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe. The patent in the name, dating to 1871, refers specifically to the design of the mould used in the building of this model. Herald developed a technique of double-skin construction, in which the patent mould was key. The resulting canoe was greatly valued for its exceptional strength and smooth, ribless interior. Hunters and fishers found the latter feature was kinder to the knees and made cleaning the canoe much easier. Here it is worth noting that Rice Lake, where Herald developed this canoe, was a place much favoured for both hunting waterfowl and fishing.
Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe, ca 1880.
Among the three moulds in the Daniel Herald-Rice Lake collection is a Herald’s Patent mould (940387*). The actual Herald’s Patent Canoe in the small-craft collection of CSTM is a painted model that dates to 1880 and is marked on the foredeck with Daniel Herald’s builder’s stamp (980007). Acquired from an individual in the United States, the canoe’s provenance suggests a lineage of four previous owners going back to the original buyer who lived in the Moosehead Lake area of Maine.
Detail of the Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe, ca 1880, showing Daniel Herald’s stamp on the foredeck.
Building A Business
While the mould and the canoe itself most obviously embody the physical fact of production, commercial canoe manufacturing required skills and investment in a variety of areas: design (ideas and plans), construction (tools and techniques), promotion (catalogues and exhibitions), and business operations (infrastructure, record keeping). This exhibit offers material insight from the Daniel Herald-Rice Lake collection in all of these areas.
Certificate awarded to Herald Bros. at the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. (CSTM 940332)
For example, the collection includes a fine lines drawing of a canoe (940328). Such drawings were used in developing designs. They served as two-dimensional, scaled-down plans of the intended shape. Notable among the tools in the collection are various patterns, including a set of four very fine basswood plank patterns used to trace out the boards that formed the hull of the canoe (940393). Patterns were also used for a variety of other pieces, including paddles, and a selection of these is on display.
Herald Bros. canoe catalogue, ca 1892. This and other canoe catalogues were illustrated by John David Kelly, a well-known artist and graphic designer who grew up at Gore’s Landing. He was a good friend of the Heralds as well as an avid canoeist. (CSTM L31537)
The all-important promotional component of the canoe-building business is well represented by a series of Rice Lake catalogues, and by two large diplomas from trade fairs, including one from the celebrated Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893 (940332). (Because of the fragile nature of these documents, high-quality photographic facsimiles are used in the exhibit.)
The participation and success of Canadian canoe companies at these events underline their proprietors’ desire to develop a national and international clientele. Evidence of just such a market for this quintessentially Canadian product can be found in a small sample of order books preserved in the Daniel Herald-Rice Lake Collection.
Although the Daniel Herald-Rice Lake collection offers special insight into the operations of early commercial canoe builders, the business founded by Daniel Herald was just one of several pioneer canoe companies. Another noteworthy firm was the Wm. English Canoe Co’y. According to company advertising, William English claimed the honour of having opened the very first canoe “factory” in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1861. English was not remembered for a signature model, such as the “Herald’s Patent” or the fabled “Peterborough Cedar Rib,” but he was a builder whose canoes were greatly admired for their high-quality workmanship. A very good example on display is a William English Cedar Strip canoe dating from about 1896 (960360). Today, cedarstrip construction is among the best known of the early wooden canoe types. Originally developed by J.S. Stephenson in 1883, the hull is made up of long strips of cedar running stem to stern, ship-lap joined one above the other. Near the gunwales, there is an aesthetically delightful accent strip in darker wood. The hull is strengthened internally by elegant half-round ribs fashioned from rock elm and arranged on two-inch (5-cm) centres. On the beautifully fashioned butternut foredeck, the maple-leaf logo of the Wm. English Canoe Co’y is still visible.
Cedarstrip canoe built by Wm. English Canoe Co’y, ca 1896. (CSTM 960360)
There is also interesting information on the Dragonfly Canoes website.http://www.dragonflycanoe.com/id/index.html, regarding wood canoe builders, including those from the Peterborough area.
Better yet visit the Canadian Canoe Museum, right in Peterborough.
Paddles up until later then….and paddle a ‘Peterborough’ canoe if you ever get the chance.
A photo found on Facebook.
The Eagle (Migizi in Ojibway) holds a very special place for Native peoples. The Eagle soared so high in the heavens that Native peoples held it in high esteem since it was so much closer to the Creator. The Eagle became a power of vision, strength and courage. There are many special meanings and special uses for the Eagle.
Many Native teachings explain that Eagle is the Principle Messenger of Creator. Eagle flies the closest to Creator and, therefore, can see the past, present and future at a glance. Eagle sees the flow of change. Eagle alerts us to the changes so that we can respond appropriately. Eagle is the great illuminator and soars above us all, sometimes out of sight to us, but never out of its own sight. Eagle sees and hears all and sits in the east on the Medicine Wheel with the direction of leadership and courage.
In other words, Eagle is connected both to the spirit of Great Mystery and to the Earth and does both with ease. Eagle, therefore, is a powerful symbol of courage; that is why its feathers are such powerful tools for healing, and why there are special ceremonies for Eagle feathers. Eagle teaches us that it is okay to combine wisdom and courage — it is okay to be wise enough to know that a change needs to be made in one’s life and then finding the courage to execute the change.
A gift of an Eagle Feather is a great honor. It is a mark of distinction, one that could indicate that a rite of passage has been earned. The Eagle Feather represents the norms, responsibilities and behaviors that are all a part of the conditioning, learning and commitment to a spirit. It is in this way that life is honored and becomes whole.
The quill of an Eagle Feather represents stability, strength and foundation. In the Cycle of Life or wheel of life, it represents the spirituality of the people. This is where the beginning and ending meet. The quill represents the beginning and ending in the spiritual journey of life. Birth and death are represented here as rites of passage from and to the spiritual world. Conception, the nine month journey and childbirth are sacred and begin here. Traditionally, there were ceremonies or celebrations for the beginning of life.
The plume of an Eagle Feather or fluff is white, billowy and soft. It represents the purity, lightness and gentleness of a child full of the spirit and so new to the cycle of life. The plume is distinctive and usually a token of honor.
The plume in the Cycle of Life is the beginning of the formative years, childhood. It is the age of innocence, pride and dreams – a time for bonding and attachment to relationships, values, attitudes, behaviors, personalities, character and to the environment. It is a time for security and integration.
The vane of an Eagle Feather represents flexibility and adaptability with gentleness and firmness. The vane has a unique design as each feather is unique. Each individual is also unique. This is the expanded part of the feather just as youth are now expanding into the world and each is responsible for themselves.
In the Cycle of Life, the vane is the continuation of the formative years. The children have achieved their rights of passage, a boy becomes a hunter or warrior and a girl has reached womanhood. During this phase, there is learning and guidance. The mind, the mouth, heart and hand (avenues for the spirit) are being nurtured. Example and reinforcement are given in the proper direction to strengthen their spiritual well being and identity. It is a time of enrichment, logic and proof.
The entire feather is straight, strong, firm and gentle. The top portion represents the peak of life. The conduct of adulthood is to bring out the best in beauty and goodness. Men have achieved bravery, skill or character and have been renamed accordingly. Women have achieved a level of knowledge basic to the survival of the people. Self-discipline, survival skills, loyalty, solidarity, and respect within family are above all individual interests. The foundation laid for them is intact. Interdependence, empathy, insight and foresight enables them to be keepers and protectors of the culture. It is at this phase that marriage and child-bearing are foremost.
The opposite vane continues to represent flexibility and adaptability with gentleness and firmness. In the Cycle of Life, a level of seniority is established. Conduct of parenthood has been proven and movement into grand parenthood is inevitable. Relationships, community and nationhood are important. Responsibility for the welfare of others, young and old is the purpose of guidance. To encourage and support others is to give back what was given and to give more of one’s self.
As in the opposite, the plume of the Eagle Feather represents purity, lightness and gentleness. Purity in mind, body and spirit is achieved in old age. Elders become frail and weak like children. It is a very honorable age that speaks no arrogance or greed but the fulfillment of life to the best of one’s ability. They become the keepers of the wisdom with peaceful energy, authority and purpose. Elders are as highly esteemed as the Eagle.
Once again the quill represents the beginning and ending in the spiritual journey of life. Death is at the end of the Cycle of Life and is also a rite of passage into the spiritual world. The spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of loved ones into eternity. One has known his natural space, only once does he pass this way, he has made his journey. To honor death is to honor life as both are important in the spirit world.
One First Nations story is also about the eagle feather:
In the beginning, the Great Spirit above gave to the animals and birds wisdom and knowledge and the power to talk to men. He sent these creatures to tell man that he showed himself through them. They would teach a chosen man sacred songs and dance, as well as much ritual and lore.
The creature most loved by the Great Spirit was the eagle, for he tells the story of life. The Eagle, as you know, has only two eggs, and all living things in the world are divided into two. Here is man and woman, male and female and this is true with animals, birds, trees, flowers and so on. All things have children of two kinds so that life may continue. Man has two eyes, two hands, two feet and he has a body and soul, substance and shadow.
Through his eyes, he sees pleasant and unpleasant scenes, through his nostrils he smells good and bad odors, with his ears he hears joyful news and words that make him sad. His mind is divided between good and evil. His right hand he may often use for evil, such as war or striking a person in anger. But his left hand, which is near his heart, is always full of kindness. His right foot may lead him in the wrong path, but his left foot always leads him the right way, and so it goes; he has daylight and darkness, summer and winter, peace and war, and life and death.
In order to remember this lesson of life, look to the great eagle, the favorite bird of the Great Spirit. The eagle feather is divided into two parts, part light, and part dark. This represents daylight and darkness, summer and winter, peace and war, and life and death. So that you may remember what I have told you, look well on the eagle, for his feathers, too, tell the story of life.
Look at the feathers I wear upon my hand, the one on the right is large and perfect and is decorated; this represents man. The one on my left is small and plain; this represents woman. The eagle feather is divided into two parts, dark and white. This represents daylight and darkness, summer and winter. For the white tells of summer, when all is bright and the dark represents the dark days of winter.
My children, remember what I tell you. For it is YOU who will choose the path in life you will follow — the good way, or the wrong way.
Another First Nations teaching:
When the world was new, the Creator made all the birds. He colored their feathers like a bouquet of flowers. The Creator then gave each a distinct song to sing. The Creator instructed the birds to greet each new day with a chorus of their songs. Of all the birds, our Creator chose the Eagle to be the leader. The Eagle flies the highest and sees the furthest of all creatures. The Eagle is a messenger to the Creator. To wear or to hold the Eagle Feather causes our Creator to take immediate notice. With the Eagle Feather the Creator is honored in the highest.
When one receives an Eagle Feather that person is being acknowledged with gratitude, with love, and with ultimate respect. That feather must have sacred tobacco burnt for it. In this way the Eagle and the Creator are notified of the name of the new Eagle Feather Holder. The holder of the Eagle Feather must ensure that anything that changes the natural state of ones mind (such as alcohol and drugs) must never come in contact with the sacred Eagle Feather. The keeper of the feather will make a little home where the feather will be kept. The Eagle feather must be fed. You feed the Eagle Feather by holding or wearing the feather at sacred ceremonies. By doing this the Eagle Feather is recharged with sacred energy. Never abuse, never disrespect, and never contaminate your Eagle Feather.
Photos by yours truly.
Just some thoughts on the eagle….and eagle feathers….
Nothing feels like a cedar-strip canvas canoe – Omer Stringer, a confirmed traditionalist
Beautiful things made by hand carry within them the seeds of their survival. They generate a spark of affection. For some it’s sentimental, for some it’s the art of the craftsmanship, for some the beauty of the finished boat. People love these things and try hard to ensure they endure.
The survival of the wood-canvas canoe (to paraphrase John McPhee) is certainly a matter of the heart; a romantic affair. The economics are unfavorable. In fact, the wood-canvas canoe’s most conspicuous asset and advantage is that it’s a beautiful piece of art. It’s the Shaker rocking chair of outdoor sport – handcrafted, simple, clean, and functional. There’s nothing in it that doesn’t have to be there, but all of the pieces add up to more than the parts. It works well and looks wonderful doing it.- From Honeymoon With A Prospector by Lawrence Meyer
Going down a river or crossing a lake in anything but wood-canvas is like floating on a linoleum rug. That’s just how it looks when you glance inside one of those types of canoes and watch the bottom flex and shimmer with the water. Whereas, in any wood-canvas canoe you have all these beautiful rich colors of the cedar planking and ribs, hardwood gunwales and decks, and caned seats. Even the smells are nice and directly relate to the environment you are traveling through. - Jack Hurley, canoebuilder
I suppose there would always be an argument for the different types of materials and canoe designs, but the wood-canvas canoe is one generation away from the birchbark canoe and was made for working and transporting people through the wilderness. It was designed and made out of materials that would stand up to miles and miles of flatwater and whitewater and portaging through very rugged and unexplored terrain. As a trip leader with kids and adults, I have safely traveled across many lakes in a wood-canvas canoe in conditions where other experienced paddlers in the new-design boats were either windbound or took on water during the crossings. - Jim Spencer, canoebuilder.
A Recipe For Success:
STEAMED CEDAR WITH CANVAS
An elegant accompaniment to fish.
Make ahead of time for relaxed visit with friends.
51 board feet of peeled and deveined eastern white cedar
10 board feet of combined ash, black cherry, and maple
2600 brass tacks
18 feet of 10 weight canvas
¾ gallon of oil base filler
3 quarts of varnish
2 quarts of paint
Assortment of beer to taste (chilled if possible)
Using a large shop, prepare all ingredients the night before. Early the next day preheat element to high heat. Bring an adequate quantity of water in a large pot to a tumbling boil. Steam ribs until al dente (flexible) and bend immediately while still tender. Let stand at room temperature to blend flavors until cool. Chop cleaned white parts of planking into long thin slices, (smaller pieces will fall to ground). Add bulk of brass tacks and planks at random until ribs disappear (careful not to tenderize planking with pounding of tacks). When ingredients become solid remove from mold and set aside. Prepare gunwales and decks by chopping fresh hardwoods. Snip to length and desired shape, introducing slowly for best results. Wrap with canvas skin; skewer with tacks along edges, leave middle open. Add both caned seats and center thwart until balanced. Inlay decks for garnish.
Use the same basic recipe for fifteen and seventeen footers. Quantities will vary including concentration of beer.
Well before serving time, press filler firmly onto bottom side of prepared carcass to seal in natural juices and let marinate. Heat entire hull at medium to high sun for about three weeks, covering occasionally, until fully baked. From a separate pot, baste inside with all-purpose varnish to glaze ribs, careful not to drip, and let harden. Repeat occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk and and gently combine, until mixed but not runny, an assortment of fresh paint to color, stirring occasionally as you serve, and dressing the outside lightly from end to end. The condiments blend even better if allowed to stand for several hours until sticky topping hardens. (Careful not to undercook, but do not let baking temperature bubble surface.) Repeat spreading of additional layers on outer crust and again set aside and let stand until hard. Cover and store in a safe spot until needed. Present whole at room temperature, arranged attractively on an adequate bed of water. If desired, garnish with cherry paddles as a starter. Bon voyage. Serves 2 to 3. (Note: Depending on degree of festivities, presentation may be turned into a dip.) – Don Standfield, fromStories From The Bow Seat: The Wisdom & Waggery of Canoe Tripping by Don Standfield and Liz Lundell.
My two old canoes are works of art, embodying the feeling of all canoemen for rivers and lakes and the wild country they were meant to traverse. They were made in the old tradition when there was time and the love of the work itself. I have two canvas-covered canoes, both old and beautifully made. They came from the Penobscot River in Maine long ago, and I treasure them for the tradition of craftsmanship in their construction, a pride not only of form and line but of everything that went into their building. When l look at modern canoes, of metal or fiberglass stamped out like so many identical coins. l cherish mine even more …Sixteen feet in length, it has graceful lines with a tumble home or curve from the gunwales inward …No other canoe I’ve ever used paddles as easily … The gunwales and decks are of mahogany, the ribs and planking of carefully selected spruce and cedar… - Sigurd Olson, Tradition
The canoes rode well, not too high in the bows, but just enough. Peterborough Prospectors were made for the bush and for roaring rapids and waves. They embodies the best features of all canoes in the north. They were wide of beam with sufficient depth to take rough water, and their lines gave them maneuverability and grace. In them was the lore of centuries, of Indian craftsman who had dreamed and perfected the beauty of the birchbark, and of French voyageurs who also loved the feel of the paddle and the smooth glide of the canoe through the water. All this was taken by modern craftsman who – with glues , waterproof fillers and canvas, together with the accuracy of machine tooled ribs and thwarts , planking and gunwales – made a canoe of which Northmen might be well proud. - Sigurd Olson
Wood and canvas canoes are strong, seaworthy, exceptionally responsive to the paddle and soothing to the human spirit – Hugh Stewart, master canoe builder, Headwater Canoes
I have no interest in building a plastic canoe – Bill Miller, master canoe builder, Miller Canoes, Nova Scotia
I’ve got 36 more years before I retire. I will gladly build my last canoe on my 100th birthday – Bill Miller, master canoe builder, Miller Canoes, Nova Scotia
My hands are on every stage of production. If you spend two or three months making something, it becomes a chunk of you, like for a painter.- Will Ruch, Ruch Canoes, Bancroft, Ont.
As someone said, canoeing is a fringe activity and wood canoes are the fringest of the fringe - Doug Ingram, Red River Canoes, Lorette, Man.
No one gets rich making canoes - Larry Bowers, West Country Canoes, Eckville, Alta.
I wrote a blog post sometime ago entitled Reflections On the Outdoors Naturally: A Thoreau Tuesday: A Few Quotes….And A Green Wood Canvas Canoe Business. In that article, I wrote about Mike Elliott of Kettle River Canoes:
Mike Elliott of Kettle River Canoes, in his Canoeguy’s Blog, wrote a great postCanoe Guy’s Blog: Wood-Canvas Canoes In A Green Economy, which describes the basis behind Mike’s canoe restoration business. I love Mike’s opening statement:
An environmentally friendly approach to the world is based on the “Three R’s”: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. However, there are more: Repair, Restore and Reclaim.
Mike developed a Green business model from the start….and his success comes by reducing, reusing, recycling, repairing, restoring and reclaiming. He provides an example of this in his use of planking from an old salvaged telephone pole or use of hardwood paneling recycled from a house demolition. Mike’s canoe business focuses exclusively on restoration instead of building. Mike realized that he couldn’t make enough from building new canoes, but he could from restoring older still usable canoes. I also like his “adoption” approach where an old canoe is “adopted” by a new owner who pays for the restoration.
I like Mike’s idea of restoring older still usable canoes….however I might disagree with him about new canoes….I think that in this day and age the wood canvas canoe, new or old (and restored) is more than just a viable alternative….on the website for Timberline Canoes, the home page has the following:
Wood Canvas Canoes: Eco-friendly watercraft constructed of renewable, natural resources
Benefits of Ownership
- Gentle on the environment
- No fossil fuels required
- No water pollution
- Quiet – no noise pollution
- Easy to maneuver
- Easy to transport
- Renewable construction
- Good for your body
- Great for your soul
Now I have expounded on this blog at great length on wood canvas canoes….on why wood canvas canoes should be used….why folks trip with them….why wood canvas canoes are not just “museum pieces”….even about youth canoe building programs involving wood canvas canoes….obviously I love wood canvas canoes….but not just their history or tradition….I even think there’s a future for wood canvas canoes….and maybe even a real need.
I have mentioned the Wooden Canoe Builders Guild (WCBG), Home Page, here before as well….but what exactly is the Guild???….here is how the WCBG describes themselves from their Who We Are page, Who We Are:
The Wooden Canoe Builders’ Guild was formed in 1997 to serve the collective needs and interests of builders and restorers of cedar canvas and woodstrip epoxy watercraft and to foster public interest in and knowledge of such watercraft. The Guild provides a forum for co-operation and communication among wooden canoe and kayak builders and facilitates the co-operative bulk purchasing of the specialised products and materials used in the construction of these vessels.
Guild members are producing, today, those canoes and kayaks which will become the heritage watercraft of future decades. It is the goal of the Guild to preserve and pass on the skills required to build and reconstruct these watercraft, which are so connected with the history and traditions of North America.
Every member of the Guild is indebted to people whom we have never met, but who led the way in developing the techniques which most of us follow today. The names of the old companies such as Henry Rushton, Chestnut, Old Town and Peterborough, to name a few, represent the heritage which we strive to preserve and continue through our work.
Today’s wooden canoe builders operate, predominantly, in small scale enterprises in widely scattered areas of North America. Few workshops have more than two or three employees which is why these builders are truly individual entrepreneurs with a strong sense of responsibility to produce quality watercraft for truly discriminating owners.
The Wooden Canoe Builders’ Guild seeks to have its members maintain high standards as they produce watercraft for those customers who will appreciate the time and care invested in the canoes and kayaks coming from their shops. They also strive to return to active use those craft that have suffered the ravages of time so that they may, once again, connect mankind with the natural elements. For those members who build wood & canvas canoes, one of the conditions of membership in the Guild is agreement to a set of construction standards set down by the Guild. The onus is on each builder to meet or exceed these standards without any formal policing by the Guild.
Further according to WCBG website, the Missions Of The Wooden Canoe Builders Guild are:
- to preserve the art and craft of wooden canoe building
- to promote high quality workmanship by its members
- to pass on the skills of wooden canoe building through workshops, courses and apprenticeship programs
- to preserve the heritage and history of wooden canoes through education and restoration
- to support and serve its members by providing forums for mutual assistance and collective action
The cedar canvas canoe represents the European adaptation of the bark canoe built and used by the native people. As suitable bark became more difficult to obtain and to facilitate industrial production, canvas was substituted for the bark and rendered waterproof by the application of oil, tar or paint.
Cedar canvas canoes have a long and romantic history in Canada and the north-eastern United States where they have been built in small shops and large factories for about 125 years. Many people think of them as ‘old fashioned’ canoes and are surprised to learn that they are still being built today. In fact the methods of manufacture have changed little in the past 125 years, ensuring the same high aesthetic qualities and superior handling characteristics of the classic canvas covered canoes.
Before a cedar canvas canoe can be built, a form has to be constructed. The canoes are built directly onto this form so that it determines the shape of the canoe hull. Building the form is an exacting and lengthy process that can take 200 – 300 hours. However, once the form is complete, a large number of canoes can be built on it, one at a time.
The first step in the construction of a new canoe is to clamp the inwales and the stem pieces to the form. Next the cedar ribs are steamed and bent, one at a time, over the form and nailed to the inwales. This forms the skeletal shape of the canoe. The red or white cedar planking is then applied over the ribs and secured to each rib with 3 or 4 brass tacks. Metal bands on the form clinch each tack into the inside surface of the ribs to create a secure connection between the planks and the ribs. Approximately 2000 tacks are used in a typical 16 foot canoe.
When the planking is substantially complete, the canoe is removed from the form. The shear planking is then completed and the ends of the canoe are closed up.The canoe is then sanded and cleaned inside and given at least 4 coats of marine spar varnish. Decks, seats and thwarts are added and the canoe is ready for canvassing.
The canvas is folded lengthwise to form a trough and then stretched until taut. The canoe is placed into the trough and the canvas is attached at the top of each rib with brass tacks or stainless steel staples. At the ends of the canoe the canvas is carefully slit and pulled, one side at a time, around the stem and fastened. The canvas is then ‘filled’ with a product that fills the weave and makes a smooth, solid base for the finishing paint.
After the filler has cured, the outwales are added and the canoe is then given at least three coats of marine enamel. Finally, the ends of the canoe are finished off with the installation of brass stem bands. The time required to build a canoe varies with the size and the degree of finish and can range from about 80 to 200 hours.
Also these drawings from the old WCBG site:
*Drawings by Sam Manning for the Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y., U.S.A.
Also this from McCurdy and Reed Canoes: Construction:
I really liked the FAQ section of the WCBG, FAQ:
Q:What are the advantages of a wooden canoe?
A: The primary advantages of a wooden canoe are its appearance and its handling characteristics. Quite simply, no other material can match wood in these two respects. From an appearance perspective, the beauty of wood can’t be matched by any other material. As for handling, a wooden canoe is quieter, warmer and more responsive to the water than any other material. The flexing of a wooden canoe, which is made of many pieces, allows it to respond to the water it floats in as well as the paddler it carries as no moulded material can.
An additional feature of cedar canvas canoes, which is not shared by canoes of other materials, is that, if required, any part of the canoe can be repaired or replaced – no matter how old the canoe – thus restoring the canoe to as-new condition.
Q: Does a wooden canoe require a lot of maintenance?
A: Being made of natural materials it is true that, on average, a wooden canoe will require more care than some other materials such as fibreglass, aluminum and plastic. To put it another way, wood will suffer more from neglect than these materials. However, the actual upkeep required by a wooden canoe depends on how it is used and stored and can be surprisingly low if a bit of common sense care is taken. For example, the paint and varnish on a wooden canoe, which represent the first line of defence for the wood, can provide many years of service before requiring attention if care is taken in the use and storage of the canoe.
Q: Can I use a wooden canoe for whitewater?
A: The short answer is yes. Until the advent of synthetic canoe materials, wooden canoes (specifically cedar canvas canoes) were used for all purposes including whitewater. However, today some other materials are more appropriate for this use in the sense that they are more impact resistant and suffer fewer consequences from striking a rock.
Q: How long does it take to build a cedar canvas canoe?
A: The length of time a builder spends to build a cedar canvas canoe will vary primarily with the emphasis placed on fit and finish details and can be anywhere between approximately 80 and 200 hours.
Q: What do you do if you get a tear in the canvas?
A: A small tear in the canvas can be patched and, when repainted, rendered almost invisible. A tear which is too large to patch will require replacement of the canvas. However, the canvas on a canoe is really quite rugged and would require impact with a fairly sharp object to cause even a small tear.
Q: Why not use fibreglass instead of canvas on a canoe?
A: As previously mentioned, one of the advantages of a cedar canvas canoe is the ability to repair or replace any component. Because fibreglass is not readily removable, this advantage would be lost if it was used in place of canvas.
The Wooden Canoe Heritage Association is a non-profit membership organization devoted to preserving, studying, building, restoring, and using wooden and bark canoes, and to disseminating information about canoeing heritage throughout the world. This is a great group of wood canoe fanatics….the WCHA has a great online forum, on all things dealing with wooden canoes.
Filler was mentioned in the section on wood canvas canoe construction above from the WCBG. Fillers are used in to treat the canvas….as the WCBG section describes the canvas is ‘filled’ with a product that fills the weave and makes a smooth, solid base for the finishing paint. Many canoe builders have their own “secret” fomulas for this filler. The WCHA has a great deal of info on past and present filler formulas, Canvas Filler Formulas:
Canvas filler formulas have been guarded for decades by wood canvas canoe builders all over the world. The formulas below have been published or made available in a legal manner and not “stolen” or otherwise “borrowed” without permission….
One note about filler formulas. The materials that were used in the early 1900′s may not be the same as materials with the same names today. In addition, canvas is certainly different today than it was in 1900, so some of these formulas may not provide the best coverage for your money.
Reprinted from Wooden Canoe #16 (no lead)
- 43 ounces boiled linseed oil
- 21 ounces mineral spirits
- 34 ounces enamel paint
- 2 ounces Japan drier
- 6 1/4 pounds 300 grit silica
- 2 ounces spar varnish
“Rushton’s Filler” – Reprinted from Wooden Canoe #20
- 5 pounds silica
- 1 1/2 quarts turpentine
- 1 quart boiled linseed oil
- 1 pint Japan drier
- 2 pounds white lead
Reprinted from Wooden Canoe #31
- 1 quart boiled linseed oil
- 4 pounds silica
- 7 ounces Japan drier
- 3 quarts turpentine
- 4 pounds white lead
From Scott E. Marks, picked off the USENET group rec.boats.building by Phil Gingrow.
I can suggest a recipe, the best I remember it from 20 years ago. It was based on glaziers putty and floor varnish – we used Hippo Oil brand at the time. Glaziers putty is basically clay and linseed oil. We warmed the varnish and mixed (kneaded) the putty into it by hand. I honestly don’t remember the proportions, but we ended up with something like a thick pancake batter. To this we would add some japan drier to accelerate drying. This mixture was worked into the nap of the canvas by hand, in thin coats. If allowed to dry between coats, it wouldn’t build up into a single soft thick layer. It would remain flexible, and as many layers were applied as were required to fill the canvas. Two coats of orange shellac with light sanding between were applied over it prior to painting with enamel paint. This recipe originated from someone in the Dwight, Ontario area, who was generous enough to teach a few of us to repair and re-canvas the fleet of Chestnut canoes we battered on the rocks of Algonquin park.
More from Dom Williams: I used your site to prepare a filler based on the floor varnish/glaziers putty/indian dryers mixture listed in the site; the author could not remember proportions. 0thers using this formulation may be surprised to find how much putty is required versus varnish. I wound up with a mix of 1cup varnish/ 2 1/2 lb putty and 1 tablespoon of dryers and probably would have been better to increase the putty to 3lb. To refinish a 16 ft canoe with the existing filler largely worn away by use and/or paintstripping I used 4 batches ie 1 quart of varnish and 10lb of putty; the final batch was not all used. I found it applied best using a cheap 8 inch plastic drywall knife (the more flexible the better) and applied it from the gunwales up and then from the centerline to meet the “upstroke”. I “spot-primed ” the areas where the old filler had largely washed out of the canvas by hand rubbing glops into the weave before doing the overall trowelling.
- Silica can be purchased at pottery supplies under the brand name Silex. Silex dust can cause breathing problems, so please always use a respirator when sanding filler.
- Lead is known to cause brain damage when absorbed through the skin or inhaled as dust. Be very cautious using and disposing of white lead in your filler.
Wood canvas canoes, to reiterate the Timberline Canoe home page, are eco-friendly watercraft constructed of renewable, natural resources….despite the fact that certain chemicals might be used in their construction….such as in the filler, paint, or even varnish….but personally I believe that the “carbon footprint” involved in the construction of wood canvas canoes is much less than that involved in building fiberglas or Kevlar canoes. So I think it’s safe to say that are more “eco-friendly” than other types of canoes on the market….not only are they constructed from renewable and natural resources….but they instill a closeness to the natural environment….especially in a spiritual sense….just check out the quotes from various folks at the outset of this post, especially from the canoe builders.
Almost everyone interested in a wood canoe at some point asks me “Why wood?” “Why paddle something so beautiful?” “It should be on a wall somewhere.” “They’re so heavy… they require so much upkeep and work…”
The camp where I learned to travel by canoe uses wood canoes because they believe that by learning to respect and care for one’s equipment, we learn to take care of the environment, and we learn to take care of and respect each other. The material, the care required, the natural beauty of a wood canoe all fit into the experience of wilderness travel. A wood canoe is more of a friend (or a pet) than a piece of recreational equipment (most people name their canoes), and the purchase of a wood canoe should be approached the same way. “Am I willing to take the extra care loading and unloading?” “Will I want to get my feet wet?” “Where am I going to store my canoe?” “Will I enjoy the cleaning and sanding and touchups required each fall?”
Asked why we use wood/canvas canoes, those of us who have paddled them for years can mostly only shrug and smile. Maybe its love… cupid’s arrow… pure foolishness. Maybe its all appearance… maybe its how quiet they are on the water… maybe its how you can forget the mosquitoes as you admire for the 10,000 time the graceful curve of rib and plank disappear into the bow. Or, maybe its the history and memories we see reflected in each dent and scratch – while imagining our children and grandchildren off on some adventure of their own in the same canoe. For most people the love for wooden canoes starts the first time they actually get in one and paddle. They are beautiful to look at – but they are much more beautiful on the water – clear skies and Fall leaves, or grey skies and pouring rain, another friend to share it all with.
As John Hupfield states on his Lost In The Woods Boatworks website:
Why wood? Besides being beautiful, wood is a renewable resource that we think is more in keeping with our enjoyment of the environment, and is a non-toxic alternative to the increasing use of toxic chemicals in recreational watercraft. It’s warmer and stiffer than synthetics, smells nice, is pleasant to work with, and is quieter on the water too. And by using modern building methods, hulls are extremely light, durable and easy to care for. It’s a myth that wooden boats are high maintenance!
Or as Paul Roddick states on his website for Roddick Canoes:
Canadian adventure canoes and rowboats, built the traditional way with wood and canvas, and a whole lot of Canadian know how. Our great country of lakes, rivers and ancient waterways is the birthplace of the canoe. Long before the white man ever set foot on this land the great native people built the canoe to travel and explore the wilderness. Today we build these great canoes in the same way,ready to take you on a wilderness adventure, or an eary morning paddle on your favourite lake, with the mist rising off the water as your quiet wooden canoe glides effortlessly with hardly a ripple, as they have done for thousands of years and will continue to, as long as individual craftsmen, dedicated to preseving this great Canadian tradition, culture and life style, persevere.
I am not defending the wood canvas canoe, because they need no defense, they speak for themselves, they whisper “Canada, wilderness,water, adventure, lakes , streams, rivers, sun on the rocks, wind on the water, trout in the clear crystal pools, an early morning moose feeding at the the waters edge, or you and your companion, pushing off your loaded canoe, into another day of being one with with nature.
Our models never change from year to year, they are the same today as they were a hundred years ago. It’s hard to improve on perfection, we don’t worry about the newest tecnology, or the competition. Why?, because we don’t have any, all we have is our timeless wooden canoes and boats, each one hand built, one at a time, slowly, carefully, soulfully, each one a bit of Canada, each one cherished for what they are, a thing of timeless beauty, function and grace, the wood canvas canoe. forever.
Maine Canoe Journeys adds:
Wood/Canvas canoes have enjoyed a remarkable revival since the early 1980s for more than nostalgic reasons. A fine wood/canvas canoe offers not just aesthetic beauty, but also superior handling in the water, craftsmanlike construction of largely organic materials, and infinite repairability.
Finally as Pam Wedd says on the Bearwood Canoes website:
The experience of paddling a traditional wood and canvas canoe is like no other in this high-tech world of ours. Being a part of our surroundings in a watercraft built from natural materials returns us to our roots. It is a link to our past and our soul.
I don’t think I can add much more to any of that….certainly nothing I haven’t added before here….so next time you’re thinking of buying a new canoe (or even an “old” new canoe), think of a wood canvas canoe….and if you are worried about the weight then remember it’s really not too heavy….and even if it is more than that featherweight Kevlar, it will let you know you’re still alive….as for maintenance that’s part of the charm too. And nothing like taking a wood canvas canoe on a northern lake, especially in traditional canoe country like Algonquin, Killarney or Temagami.
Paddles up until later then….and may you have a green canoe (if you don’t already have one)….a green wood canvas canoe….truly “green”.
Revisting the wolf as a teacher….for my favourite Ma’iingan (wolf) kwe who has taught me much already….and has more yet to teach….
“Perhaps it was the eyes of the wolf, measured, calm, knowing. Perhaps it was the intense sense of family. After all, wolves mate for life, are loyal partners, create hunting communities and demonstrate affectionate patience in pup rearing. Perhaps it was the rigid heirarchy of the packs. Each wolf had a place in the whole and yet retained his individual personality. Perhaps it was their great, romping, ridiculous sense of fun. Perhaps it was some celestial link with thw winter night skies that prompted the wolf to lay his song on the icy air. For the Native people who lived with the wolves, and the wolves once ranged from the Arctic to the sub-tropics, there was much to learn from them. Is it any wonder that the myths of many tribes characterise the wolves not as killers but as teachers?” - Unknown
“To look into the eyes of a wolf is to see your own soul” – Native proverb.
This is the description of David Beaucage Johnson‘s painting ‘Song For The Night Sun’:
“People often wonder why wolves howl at the moon. In this painting, the wolves are shown embracing the moon and offering song to it. The songs are in gratitude for providing light for their night hunts. The white at the bottom is the Teaching Rock, a sacred place north of Stoney Lake in the Kawartha Lakes region of central Ontario. At this sacred place, there are images carved onto a gleaming white rock. Contained in the symbols on the rock are the teachings of the Medicine Wheel and the Spirit World. Night Sun is the English translation for the Ojibwe word for moon. To the Ojibway, the wolf is known as the teacher and it is said that we can learn much by watching the wolf.” (From Whetung Ojibwa Crafts and Art Gallery: David Beaucage Johnson)
(NOTE: The Teaching Rock is found in the Petroglyphs Provincial Park just north of Curve Lake First Nations.)
On Facebook once there was a photo with a Native teaching on Two Wolves….and life….it is imprinted on a photo of two wolves with a man in the foreground….in this version it is a Cherokee grandfather teaching his grandson about life….but I had heard it before as a Native elder talking to a young man….and I thought of a picture done by Norman Knott entitled Howling Wolf….so I decided to redo the story as I knew it….here is my version of TWO WOLVES:
Adapted from photo of Howling Wolf, limited print by Norman Knott; fromhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/pierres_art/471249524/.
In case you have trouble reading the story above:
An Native elder is asked by a young man about life.
“A fight is going on inside of me,” the elder said, “A terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued: “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside of you – and inside of each other person, too.”
The young man then asked the elder: “Which wolf will win?”
The elder simply replied: “The one you feed.”
I have had the opportunity to take solo canoe trips….to get away from the crowds….or to escape from the daily grind that I might have found myself trapped into….to re-energize my batteries so to speak….but more than anything just to be on my own….to be quiet and listen to all the natural world around me has to offer.
I must admit though that lying alone in my sleeping bag and hearing for the first time the wail of a wolf howling through the otherwise still night did send shivers up and down my spine….and caused me to pull the sleeping bag up tighter around myself….until I realized that I was not only fairly safe where I was….but that I was also the “intruder” in this wild place. I ended up getting up and sitting next to a low campfire….partly I guess because it further added to my own personal sense of “safety”….but also so I could hope to better hear the chorus of the wolves calling. After a while I found myself throwing back by own head to “howl” in my own best attempt at immitating a wolf….and was more than pleased that I was eventually able to elicit a response from the nearby wolf pack. Of course I was never really sure what they were actually saying at the time….perhaps the wolves were wondering what stupid human being could be trying to mimic their calls.
Wolves played a big part in the ecosystem and delicate balance of the land and the First Nations recognized that role. The Wolf also represents the traditional importance of family to First Nations. Many First Nations credit the wolves in teaching them about the importance of family and how to hunt and forage for food. In other words, they were credited with the livelihood of the tribe. Many tribes also believed that wolves were spiritual beings that could impart magical powers.
Natives have often held the Wolf in high esteem in their culture and traditions. They are seen as a sacred animal and often featured significantly in ancient songs, dances and stories of many First Nations. The Wolf is given a revered and welcomed role in many First Nations.
The Wolf represents loyalty, strong family ties, good communication, education, understanding and intelligence. Of all land animals the Wolf has the strongest supernatural powers and is the most accomplished hunter. The Wolf is a very social and communicative creature, he uses body movement, touch and sound. The First Nations had great respect for Wolves because of their alikeness. Both Natives and Wolves hunt, gather, defend and even educate their tribe or pack. The Wolf has always been respected as a very family oriented animal because he mates for life, watches and protects his young until they are old enough to be independent and protects the elders.
If direction and purpose are lacking in life, when clarity and persistence are needed, the steadfast determination of the Wolf can overcome fear, indecision and confusion. Wolves are fierce, loyal, independent and well able to offer support on the most challenging healing journey.
The Wolf fulfilled several roles for the Native: the Wolf was a powerful and mysterious animal, and was so perceived by many First Nations; and the Wolf was a medicine animal, identified often with a particular individual or clan.
At a band level, the attraction to the Wolf was strong, because the Wolf lived in a way that also made the band strong. He provided food for all, including the old and sick members of the pack. He saw to the education of his children. He defended his territory against other wolves.
At a personal level, those for whom the Wolf was a medicine animal or personal totem understood the qualities that made the wolf stand out as an individual. For example, his stamina, ability to track well and go without food for long periods.
The definition and defense of home range was as important to the First Nations as it was to the wolf. The boundaries of most First Nations’ territories, like those of wolves, changed with the movement of game herds, the size of the band and the time of year. The band, like the pack, broke up at certain times of the year and joined together later to hunt more efficiently. Both the wolf and the Native hunted the same type of game and moved their families to follow specific herds. Deer sought security from Native hunters by moving into the border area between warring tribes, where hunters were least likely to show up, just as they did between wolf territories, where wolves spent the least time hunting.
It’s not surprising that the Native saw the wolf as a significant animal. Both were hunters upon which the survival of their families depended. The Native was very aware of the many ways in which his own life resembled those of the wolf. The wolf hunted for himself and for his family. The wolf defended his pack against enemy attack, as the Indian defended his tribe. He had to be strong as an individual and for the good of the pack. It was an efficient system of survival and in the eyes of the Indian, no animal did this as well as the wolf. The Native worked to be as well integrated in his own environment as was the wolf in his.
The hunter did not see the wolf as an enemy or competitor, or as something less than himself. His perception of the wolf was a realistic assessment of the wolf’s ability to survive and thrive, to be in balance with the world they shared. He respected the wolf’s patience and perseverance, which were his most effective hunting weapons. To say he hunted like a wolf was the highest compliment, just as to say a warrior fought like the wolf was high praise.
Chief Dan George belonged to the Wolf Clan and his lament to the wolf as a symbol of the vanishing wilderness and traditions of his people has become famous:
“All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.”
The wolf is a wilderness species that cannot survive the encroachment of its habitat by development and urban sprawl.
“Wolf is the Grand Teacher. Wolf is the sage, who after many winters upon the sacred path and seeking the ways of wisdom, returns to share new knowledge with the tribe. Wolf is both the radical and the traditional in the same breath. When the Wolf walks by you-you will remember.” - Robert Ghost Wolf
“The caribou feeds the wolf, but it is the wolf who keeps the caribou strong.” – Keewation (Inuit) Proverb
This was the basis for a painting I did recently entitled“Interdependence“….the moose cannot survive without the wolf and the wolf cannot survive without the moose….not enough wolves and the moose population can explode, causing lack of food leading to sick and dying moose….not enough moose the wolf has little to eat….so as in life there is balance:
“You ought to follow the example of the wolf. Even when he is surprised and runs for his life, he will pause and take one more look at you before he enters his final retreat. So you must take a second look at everything you see.” - Ohiyesa (Dr. Charles A. Eastman, Sioux)
So wolves have been long regarded by First Nations as teachers or pathfinders. Wolves are fiercely loyal to their mates, and have a strong sense of family while maintaining individualism.
Wolves are probably the most misunderstood of the wild animals. Tales of cold bloodedness abound, in spite of the their friendly, social and intelligent traits. They are truly free spirits even though their packs are highly organized. They seem to go out of their way to avoid a fight. One is rarely necessary when a shift in posture, a growl, or a glance gets the point across quite readily.
I do believe the wolf is a teacher….and I look forward to learning much from a certain wolf I know….
Wolf Credo: Respect the elders….Teach the young…Cooperate with the pack Play when you can…Hunt when you must…Rest in between Share your affections…Voice your feelings…Leave your mark.
It is said that the First Nations and the wolf have come to be alike….both mate for life….both have a clan system and a tribe….both had their land taken from them….both were hunted for their hair…..and both were pushed close to destruction….perhaps Native people can look to the wolf for their future as a people….the wolf is beginning to return to this land….perhaps First Nations will also cease to be seen as a “Vanishing Peoples”….and maybe emerge to lead the way back to natural living and respect for our Mother Earth….
A few years ago, CBC TV showed The Return Of The Jets about the Winnipeg Jets and the second coming of the NHL to Winnipeg. When they were discussing the Jets’ new logo, it was mentioned that the idea for the logo came from Winnipeg’s close ties to the Royal Canadian Air Force….in particular the 17 Wing Squadron….in fact the new team sweaters were premiered at the 17 Wing Winnipeg base. But something caught my eye other than just the story of Winnipeg’s new NHL team….it was the 17 Wing Badge:
Yes, of course I would have to notice the canoe….but why a canoe on a Royal Canadian Air Force Wing Badge????? Well I did an online survey of various resources….but could find nothing definitive….
Since 17 Wing is based in Winnipeg, could it be something to do with Winnipeg’s ties to the fur trade????
I would love to find out if anyone reading this might know….
The RCAF and canoes???? Canoes and aircraft???? Flying canoes?!?!?
Of course there is the story of the La Chasse-galerie also known as “The Bewitched Canoe” or “The Flying Canoe”….this is a popular French- Canadian tale of voyageurs who make a deal with the devil (as described in Wikipedia: Chasse-galerie).
La Chasse-galerie de Henri Julien (1852-1908), from Wikipedia: Chasse-galerie.
There are several versions of this tale….as Wikipedia: Chasse-galerie adds:
After a night of heavy drinking on New Year’s Eve, a group of voyageurs working at a remote timber camp want to visit their sweethearts some 100 leagues away (300 miles). The only way to make such a long journey and be back in time for work the next morning is to run the chasse-galerie. Running the chasse-galerie means making a pact with the devil so that their canoe can fly through the air to their destination with great speed. However, the travellers must not mention God’s name or touch the cross of any church steeple as they whisk by in the flying canoe. If either of these rules are broken during the voyage, then the devil will have their souls. To be safe, the men promise not to touch another drop of rum to keep their heads clear. The crew take their places in the canoe which then rises off the ground, and they start to paddle. Far below they see the frozen Gatineau River, many villages, shiny church steeples and then the lights of Montreal. The bewitched canoe eventually touches down near a house where New Year’s Eve festivities are in full swing. No one wonders at the trappers’/loggers’ sudden arrival. They are embraced with open arms and soon are dancing and celebrating as merrily as everyone else. Soon it is late and the men must leave if they are to get back to camp in time for work. As they fly through the moonless night, it becomes apparent that their navigator had been drinking as he steers the canoe on a dangerously unsteady course. While passing over Montreal they just miss running into a church steeple, and soon after the canoe end up stuck in a deep snowdrift. At this point the drunken navigator begins swearing and taking the Lord’s name in vain. Terrified the devil will take their souls, the men bind and gag their friend and elect another to steer. The navigator soon breaks his bonds and begins swearing again. The crew become more and more shaken at the possibility of losing their souls, and they eventually steer the bewitched canoe right into a tall pine. The men spill out and are knocked unconscious (or pass out). Notably the ending of the story changes from version to version. Sometimes the men are condemned to fly the canoe through hell and appear in the sky every New Year’s Eve, but in other versions all, or all but one, escape the terms the devil made.
One variation has the devil himself steering and deliberately trying to break the rules on the return journey, at which point they threw him out of the canoe to save themselves.
Here are a few videos from YouTube about the ‘Flying Canoe’:
On Daily Motion, check out this telling of the tale: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2zjwf_felix-leclerc-la-chasse-galerie_music.
So several versions of the tale have been told….through songs sung….even animation. The ‘Flying Canoe’ has been depicted on amazing art work….on postage stamps….even on beer labels….even through amusement rides….and all based on this legend.
During the Opening Ceremony for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, a canoe containing a fiddler was lowered from the ceiling in an allusion to the legend.
Of course, some folks have taken the idea of the ‘flying canoe’ to extremes….well maybe even past extreme….check out this YouTube video at your discretion (please be advised that the humour attempted….or even the rap music played…. may not be everyone’s taste….personally I found the idea of the TV ad for a flying canoe ‘for only 27 payments of $19.95′ amusing at least….but I think these guys need to take paddling instruction so they don’t have to keep switching sides just to keep from ‘popping a donut’ LOL LOL):
Paddles up until later then….even if you’re up flying in the air….just watch out for the Devil….
Much has been written about Chief Joseph….from PBS, http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/people/a_c/chiefjoseph.htm:
The man who became a national celebrity with the name “Chief Joseph” was born in the Wallowa Valley in what is now northeastern Oregon in 1840. He was given the name Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, or Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain, but was widely known as Joseph, or Joseph the Younger, because his father had taken the Christian name Joseph when he was baptized at the Lapwai mission by Henry Spalding in 1838.
Joseph the Elder was one of the first Nez Percé converts to Christianity and an active supporter of the tribe’s longstanding peace with whites. In 1855 he even helped Washington’s territorial governor set up a Nez Percé reservation that stretched from Oregon into Idaho. But in 1863, following a gold rush into Nez Percé territory, the federal government took back almost six million acres of this land, restricting the Nez Percé to a reservation in Idaho that was only one tenth its prior size. Feeling himself betrayed, Joseph the Elder denounced the United States, destroyed his American flag and his Bible, and refused to move his band from the Wallowa Valley or sign the treaty that would make the new reservation boundaries official.
When his father died in 1871, Joseph was elected to succeed him. (NOTE: Joseph the Younger succeeded his father as leader of the Wallowa band in 1871. Before his death, the latter counseled his son: “My son, my body is returning to my mother earth, and my spirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gone, think of your country. You are the chief of these people. They look to you to guide them. Always remember that your father never sold his country. You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few years more and white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. My son, never forget my dying words. This country holds your father’s body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother.”Joseph commented “I clasped my father’s hand and promised to do as he asked. A man who would not defend his father’s grave is worse than a wild beast.”) He inherited not only a name but a situation made increasingly volatile as white settlers continued to arrive in the Wallowa Valley. Joseph staunchly resisted all efforts to force his band onto the small Idaho reservation, and in 1873 a federal order to remove white settlers and let his people remain in the Wallowa Valley made it appear that he might be successful. But the federal government soon reversed itself, and in 1877 General Oliver Otis Howard threatened a cavalry attack to force Joseph’s band and other hold-outs onto the reservation. Believing military resistance futile, Joseph reluctantly led his people toward Idaho.
Unfortunately, they never got there. About twenty young Nez Percé warriors, enraged at the loss of their homeland, staged a raid on nearby settlements and killed several whites. Immediately, the army began to pursue Joseph’s band and the others who had not moved onto the reservation. Although he had opposed war, Joseph cast his lot with the war leaders.
What followed was one of the most brilliant military retreats in American history. Even the unsympathetic General William Tecumseh Sherman could not help but be impressed with the 1,400 mile march, stating that “the Indians throughout displayed a courage and skill that elicited universal praise… [they] fought with almost scientific skill, using advance and rear guards, skirmish lines, and field fortifications.” In over three months, the band of about 700, fewer than 200 of whom were warriors, fought 2,000 U.S. soldiers and Indian auxiliaries in four major battles and numerous skirmishes.
By the time he formally surrendered on October 5, 1877, Joseph was widely referred to in the American press as “the Red Napoleon.” It is unlikely, however, that he played as critical a role in the Nez Percé’s military feat as his legend suggests. He was never considered a war chief by his people, and even within the Wallowa band, it was Joseph’s younger brother, Olikut, who led the warriors, while Joseph was responsible for guarding the camp. It appears, in fact, that Joseph opposed the decision to flee into Montana and seek aid from the Crows and that other chiefs — Looking Glass and some who had been killed before the surrender — were the true strategists of the campaign. Nevertheless, Joseph’s widely reprinted surrender speech has immortalized him as a military leader in American popular culture:
“I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, “Yes” or “No.” He who led the young men [Olikut] is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are — perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”
Joseph’s fame did him little good. Although he had surrendered with the understanding that he would be allowed to return home, Joseph and his people were instead taken first to eastern Kansas and then to a reservation in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) where many of them died of epidemic diseases. Although he was allowed to visit Washington, D.C., in 1879 to plead his case to U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, it was not until 1885 that Joseph and the other refugees were returned to the Pacific Northwest. Even then, half, including Joseph, were taken to a non-Nez Percé reservation in northern Washington, separated from the rest of their people in Idaho and their homeland in the Wallowa Valley.
In his last years, Joseph spoke eloquently against the injustice of United States policy toward his people and held out the hope that America’s promise of freedom and equality might one day be fulfilled for Native Americans as well. An indomitable voice of conscience for the West, he died in 1904, still in exile from his homeland, according to his doctor “of a broken heart.”
I found this quote from Chief Joseph online and thought I would share it:
You might as well expect the rivers to run backward as that any man who was born free should be contented to be penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases. We were taught to believe that the Great Spirit sees and hears everything…and that he never forgets, that hereafter he will give every man a spirit home according to his deserts; If he has been a good man, he will have a good home; if he has been a bad man, he will have a bad home. This I believe, and all my people believe the same. I am tired of talk that comes to nothing It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who had no right to talk. It does not require many words to speak the truth. If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian, he can live in peace. Treat all men alike.Give them all the same law.Give them all an even chance to live and grow.All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers. The Earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. Let me be a free man,free to travel, free to stop,free to work,free to trade where I choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers,free to think and talk and act for myself, and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty.” ~ Chief Joseph, Nez Perce
“Remember, you belong to Nature, not it to you.” – Archibald Belaney, aka Grey Owl
“Give me a good canoe, a pair of Jibway snowshoes, my beaver, my family and 10,000 square miles of wilderness and I am happy” – Archibald Belaney, aka Grey Owl
I thought it was appropriate to post information on Archie Belaney, the Englishman better known as Grey Owl, and a bit about his canoes and canoeing. Grey Owl wrote several books including Men of the Last Frontier,Pilgrims of the Wild, and Tales of an Empty Cabin, and gave a series of public lectures, all expounding the need for wilderness.
Despite Archie’s fraudulent persona as a Native, he was at least responsible for bringing attention to the need to conserve the Canadian wilderness, first through his writing and then in public appearances. While Archie Belaney has been ridiculed as “a fraud, a bigamist, a drunk, a scoundrel and a liar” (as Dave Yanko starts out his article, Grey Owl’s Cabin on Virtual Saskatchewan, http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl.html), other writers see him as a champion of conservation, to the point that “some believe he should rank with John Muir and Rachel Carson in the environmentalists’ pantheon” (as described by Kenneth Brower in his article Grey Owl in The Atlantic Online, January 1990, http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/90jan/greyowl.htm).
For those of you who may not be aware of him, I’ll post this brief overview of Grey Owl from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_Owl:
Grey Owl (or Wa-sha-quon-asin, from the Ojibway wenjiganoozhiinh, meaning “great horned owl” or “great grey owl”) was the name Archibald Belaney (September 18, 1888 – April 13, 1938) adopted when he took on a First Nations identity as an adult. A British native, he became a writer and one of Canada’s first conservationists. Revelation of his origins after his death adversely affected his reputation for some time. Since the 1970s and at the centennial of his birth, there has been renewed public appreciation for his conservation efforts. Recognition has included biographies, a historic plaque at his birthplace, a 1999 film by Richard Attenborough (starring Pierce Brosnan), and a 2005 TV special about him.
This website gives a more in-depth biography of Grey Owl.
As well as the previous links noted, for more information on Grey Owl or Archie Belaney see the following links:
http://archives.cbc.ca/environment/environmental_protection/clips/12551/(Note: Contains video of Grey Owl and a CBC report on him…..including the recollections of John Diefenbaker.)
Some photos related to Grey Owl:
Portrait of Grey Owl (1936), by Yousif Karsh, from Wikipedia,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_Owl.
Photos and signature of Grey Owl from http://www.waskesiu.org/things_to_do/grey_owls_wake.shtml.
Grey Owl, courtesy of Parks Canada, from Virtual Saskatchewan, http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl.html.
Archie Belaney a.k.a. Grey Owl, courtesy of Parks Canada, from Virtual Saskatchewan, http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl_bio.html
The affection was real. But the images were carefully constructed to elicit a sympathetic reaction. Image courtesy of Parks Canada, from Virtual Saskatchewan, http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl.html.
Grey Owl at the time he visited Hastings in 1935, from http://www.1066.net/greyowl/.
Grey Owl courtesy of Tourism Saskatchewan, from http://esask.uregina.ca/entry/grey_owl_archibald_stansfield_belaney.html.
Image of Grey Owl from http://www.historycomesalive.ca/canadians/images/belaney.jpg
Grey Owl is shown here with a beaver pup in Riding Mountain Park (courtesy Archives of Ontario/P-150), from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=ArchivedFeatures&Params=A2132.
Image of Grey Owl from http://www.historycomesalive.ca/canadians/images/greyowl.jpg.
Picture of what is reported to be Archie Belaney’s cabin, from Mr. Canoehead,http://www.mistercanoehead.com/mississagi07.html, from the trip report on a July 2007 Mississagi River trip.
Picture of one of the walls on what is reported to be Archie Belaney’s cabin, from Mr. Canoehead, http://www.mistercanoehead.com/mississagi07.html, from the trip report on a July 2007 Mississagi River trip.
This report from Mr. Canoehead states the following on this cabin that Archie Belaney puportedly lived in at one time:
The legendary Grey Owl (Archie Belaney) lived in this cabin. Although he was not a native, he lived as one and wrote about his wilderness life. It is unfortunate that his dwelling has been defaced by hundreds of people over the years….The current owner could do more than put up ‘private property’ signs. A carving board, for those who must, could be erected away from the cabin. As well, Grey Owl is an icon of our wilderness heritage and as such should be better honoured….
The clean-cut fellow on the right is Archie Belaney, who would later become known as Grey Owl. Archives of Ontario, Duvall photo. (C273-1-0-46-23), from http://pastforward.ca/perspectives/sep_2002.htm.
From the Chapleau Library’s Vince Crichton Collection, http://www.canadianfishing.com/crichton/vc/vc1.htm, Grey Owl (Archie Belaney) and Anahero, 1920s.
Archie Belaney (Grey Owl) & Gertrude Bernard (Anahareo)’s cabin in Quebec, from http://www.pastforward.ca/perspectives/December_232005.htm.
Grey Owl’s cabin on Ajawaan Lake, from Virtual Saskatchewan, http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl.html.
An empty cabin a long way from Sussex. But in the wilderness – still, Grey Owl’s cabin on Ajawaan Lake, from Virtual Saskatchewan, http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl.html.
Ajawaan lake, Saskatchewan, Canada, Grey Owl’s cabin “Beaverlodge”, from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Greyowls_cabin_ajawaan_lake.jpg.
Displayed at Beaver Lodge:
I hope you understand me. I am not particularly anxoius to be known at all, but my place is back in the woods, there is my home and there I stay.
But is this country of Canada, to which i am intensely loyal, and and whose natural heritage I am trying to interpret so that it mabe better understod and appreciated here, at least , i want to be known for what I am
Graves of Grey Owl, Anahareo, Shirley Dawn (daughter), Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Graves_go_an_sd.jpg.
Grey Owl or Archie Belaney have been viewed by many as an icon of the Canadian wilderness, even perhaps of the canoe and canoeing.
In the article Grey Owl: Voice for Canada’s Wilderness by Matthew Jackson, from Paddler Magazine Online, http://www.paddlermagazine.com/issues/2000_3/article_45.shtml, comes this:
An excellent canoeist, Archie’s skills as a paddler are what likely saved him from self-destruction as a bingeing alcoholic, helping him to find work as a ranger in anOntario forest reserve. Paddling a canoe, Archie was at his best, and he spent two summers traveling between ranger stations throughout the remote park. On his canoe outings he began to notice the effects timber barons were having on the northern forests, and angrily composed on birch bark his first statements as a conservationist: “God made this country for the trees—Don’t burn it up and make it look like hell!”
In The Canoe In Canadian Cultures, edited by John Jennings, Bruce W. Hodgins, and Doreen Small, in the chapter Being There: Bill Mason And The Canadian Canoeing Tradition, James Raffan compares Bill Mason to previous personalities (starting with Tom Thomson) associated with canoeing:
….though there are other people since Thomson who have come to be identified with the canoe – Grey Owl, Sigurd Olson, Eric Morse, Omer Stringer, Kirk Wipper, Dan Gibson, and a host of Liberal politicians – none have captured the essence of canoeing in the Canadian imagination like Bill Mason. (p. 24)
So maybe Grey Owl wasn’t quite in Bill’s league but he’s up there LOL LOL.
In Bark, Skin and Cedar: Exploring the Canoe in Canadian Experience, James Raffan states:
…in the more southerly reaches of the country, the great imposter Archie (Grey Owl) Belaney’s conservation efforts on behalf of the beleagured Canadian beaver were similarly secured and authenticated by the canoe-tripping experience. (p.184)
As to how he viewed the wilderness and various means of travel through it, including the canoe, Grey Owl (Archie Belaney) said it best when he wrote:
The trail, then is not merely a connecting link between widely distant points, it becomes an idea, a symbol of self-sacrifice, and deathless determination, an ideal to be lived up to, a creed from which none may falter…. Stars paling in the East, breath that whistles through the nostrils like steam. Tug of the tump line, swing of the snowshoes; tracks in the snow, every one a story; hissing, slanting sheets of snow; swift rattle of snowshoes over an unseen trail in the dark. A strip of canvas, a long fire, and a roof of smoke. Silence.
Canoes gliding between palisades of rock. Teepees, smoke-dyed, on a smooth point amongst the red pines; inscrutable faces peering out. Two wooden crosses at a rapids. Dim trails. Tug of the tump line again; always. Old tea pails, worn snowshoes, hanging on limbs, their work well done; throw them not down on the ground. Little fires by darkling streams. Slow wind of evening hovering in the tree tops, passing on to nowhere. Gay, caparisoned clouds moving in review, under the setting sun. Fading day. Pictures forming and fading in glowing embers. Voices in the running waters, calling, calling. The lone cry of a loon from an unseen lake. Peace, contentment. This is the trail.
(From Men of the Last Frontier, pp. 78-79….also quoted in Bark, Skin and Cedar: Exploring the Canoe in Canadian Experience by James Raffan, p.15.)
From Grey Owl: The Curious Life of Archie Belaney by Irene Ternier Gordon, it is in Grey Owls’ own words that a better side of his character emerges as in his description of canoeing with his fellow rangers:
The canoes seem to leap suddenly ahead, and one after another, with a wild howling hurrah, we are into the thick of it. Huge combers [waves], any one of which would swamp a canoe, stand terrifically beside us there is a thunderous roar which envelopes us like a tunnel, a last flying leap and we are in the still pool below thrilled to the bone. (pp. 35-6)
So what about Grey Owl’s canoe. On the Grey Owl’s Hastings message board, http://www.1066.net/greyowl/visitors.htm, comes this:
27 Jun 2000
Hi there! Great Bio on Grey Owl! I am actually looking fo some information about Grey Owl’s Peterborough Canoe. Does anyone know what colour it was? Most photographs of him in it are black and white. Thanks for the help,
Sarah Ferguson, Interpretive staff
Assuming this must be someone from the Canadian Canoe Museum (the email address shown on the message indicated as coming from the Canadian Canoe Museum), I contacted John Summers (General Manager of the Museum….who happens to be a great fan of Archie Belaney/Grey Owl….he even had a sailing canoe named Jelly Roll in honour of one of Grey Owl’s beavers) who has passed it on to Jeremy Ward (the Museum’s Curator). I’ll update this entry when I hear back from Jeremy with more info on this.
On researching the WCHA forum on the Peterborough Minetta wood canvas canoe (I have a “new” old 1950s Minetta so I was looking for info on that model), I found the following, http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?t=1326&highlight=Archie+Belaney+Grey+Owl, which was a post sometime back about a Peterborough Minetta that was supposedly used by Archie Belaney or Grey Owl ….of course as was pointed out in the posts to the WCHA forum this canoe couldn’t have been a Peterborough Minetta as Archie Belaney died in the 1930s and the Minetta wasn’t out as a model until the 1950s. But this thread did contain some interesting comments from various WCHA members (as always quite knowledgeable).
Starting the thread, Dave Lanthier (from Kamloops, BC) wrote enquiring about a Peterborough Minetta Model #1815, S # G4628:
I have it from a good source that this canoe was originally used by the park wardens of Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan. The story has it that to prevent adverse publicity it was not unusual for a park warden to assist the famous yet very inebriated “Grey Owl” [Archie Belaney] back to his ” Beaver Lodge” cabin. What I would like to do is try too prove or disprove that this canoe was used by these park wardens and that Archie Belaney might have spent time in it. Firstly, what years was the 15′ Peterborough Minetta produced? Second, does any one have pictures or any history of Prince Albert wardens and their canoes? Thirdly, what other information might help solve this puzzle? Thanks.
It was pointed out by several others that the canoe couldn’t be a Minetta because it was not introduced until the 1950s. Dick Persson (also of Headwater Boat Restorations) replied with the following:
Below attached picture is one of many of Archie Belaney in Prince Albert National Park. That canoe looks more like a Chestnut “Bob’s” than a Peterborough Minetta.
Picture from WCHA forum, http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?t=1326&highlight=Archie+Belaney+Grey+Owl.
So while there seems some question as to whether Archie (Grey Owl) Belaney’s canoe was a Peterborough or a Chestnut, since this was after the merger of the two companies under the auspices of Canadian Watercraft Limited in 1923, it was very likely a wood-canvas canoe made in New Brunswick’s Chestnut Co. plant regardless of what name was on the decal on the deck….as most of the wood-canvas canoes of both companies were made at the Chestnut factory.
The Beaver People, http://www.nfb.ca/film/Beaver_People/, a short silent film that was made about the famous conservationist, Grey Owl (born Archibald Belaney), and his wife, Angele Egwuna, who had a special talent for interacting with beavers, was made in 1928. Note: The beavers in the film may be Grey Owl’s pets, Jellyroll and Rawhide. If you watch closely, there are several scenes of Grey Owl paddling a wood-canvas canoe….first appearing alone paddling along a stream or beaver “canal” at approximately 2:18….then slapping the paddle on the water to get the beavers’ attention before he is seen to be calling the beavers (roughly2:28 to 2:38)….later he seen getting one of the beavers to come into the canoe (at 2:47 to 3:05). The canoe used seems to be an earlier Chestnut model with similar “closed” gunwales as the Morris canoes. It also looks like the beavers might have been snacking on the canoe based on the damage just below one gunwale at the centre thwart LOL LOL. Grey Owl is seen from 3:43 to 3:58 again “playing” with the beavers in the canoe….which does seem to have the lines of an early Chestnut (very similar to a Morris)….these had more recurve and higher ends than later Chestnuts.
In 1929, The Beaver Family was made, http://www.nfb.ca/film/Beaver_Family/. This was a short silent film portraying Grey Owl and a family of beavers who would come when he called and take food from his hand without the slightest fear. The film is set in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. The first few minutes of this film show Grey Owl again with a wood-canvas canoe. At approximately 1:20, he is seen portaging a canoe….this canoe appears to be a Chestnut, possibly a Bob’s Special with a wider beam….and appears to be the same as the canoe in the picture Dick Persson posted on the WCHA forum. At about 2:25, Grey Owl is seen paddling the canoe from a standing position; then at approximately 2:40, he is seen paddling, very much in what we know as the Canadian style today.
Here are some other picures of Archie Belaney (Grey Owl) in a canoe:
Grey Owl on one of his canoeing excursions. From a copy of an old postcard, http://www.pastforward.ca/perspectives/august_112000.htm.
Photo of Grey Owl from http://www.econet.sk.ca/sk_enviro_champions/grey_owl.html.
Grey Owl at Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, circa. 1931, photographer: Oliver, W.J., Calgary, Alberta, also from http://paddlemaking.blogspot.com/2010/01/grey-owls-canoe-paddles.html.
For more on Grey Owl and stories related to him and paddling….including canoe trips see the following (I have repeated some previous links):
As an aside, the Paddle Making blog has a post on Grey Owl’s canoe paddles, http://paddlemaking.blogspot.com/2010/01/grey-owls-canoe-paddles.html, that was also posted today….great info….and I really do think that great minds must think alike LOL LOL (I had no idea that this info on Grey Owl’s paddles had been posted until I checked the Paddle Making blog….after I’d posted this blog entry originally)….I have to admit that there were some great additional pictures from Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan, from a link to Tom Buttle’s travel blog, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html, on the post on Paddle Making blog….I’ve included some of them here:
Grey Owl’s cabin, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html#_.
Grey Owl plaque, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html#_.
Grey Owl tribute, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html#_.
Grey Owl signed paddle, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html#_.
Of course there is also Grey Owl Paddles, http://www.greyowlpaddles.com/, a world renowned Canadian paddle company.
Check out this interesting video from YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhRuWMDR4Bw&feature=related, entitled Wa-Sha-Quon-Asin Grey Owl.
One final sidebar: In Kevin Callan’s book A Paddler’s Guide To Algonquin Park, there is an interesting tale involving Archie Belaney. Kevin writes:
Many historical figures have made use of the Smoke Lake/Ragged Lake portage….rangers continuously used the trail while out on patrol in search of poachers.
One of the most noteworthy poachers in Algonquin was Archie Belaney (Grey Owl). In the winter of 1909, Belaney boasted to another trapper that he could head clear across Algonquin Park undetected by park rangers. It didn’t take long for the rangers to get wind of the bet, and they quickly set out in search of the skilled woodsman, with Mark Robinson and Zeph Naden patrolling from McCraney Lake to the Oxtongue River and Bud Callighen and Albert Ranger patrolling from Cache Lake through Bonnechere Lake to Big Porcupine.
There are several reports of Belaney’s capture, but the one that seems to ring most true is that of Bud Callighen. In his diary, Callighen writes that long after dark Belaney stumbled into his and Albert’s camp. His feet nearly lost to frostbite after falling through thin ice earlier in the night, he asked the rangers for help. Belaney was escorted by all four rangers to park headquarters and was then taken to have his feet treated at Mark Robinson’s Canoe Lake shelter hut. (pp.31-32)
“There is magic in the feel of a paddle and the movement of a canoe, a magic compounded of distance, adventure, solitude, and peace. The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness and of a freedom almost forgotten. It is an antidote to insecurity, the open door to waterways of ages past and a way of life with profound and abiding satisfactions. When a man is part of his canoe, he is part of all that canoes have ever known.”
Sigurd F. Olson
The Singing Wilderness
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.
and never brought to mind?
Should old paddling pals be forgot,
and memories of the past year’s canoe trips left behind?
For canoes of wood and places still wild,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll raise our paddles yet,
for auld lang syne.
and surely at the very least I’ll recanvas mine!
And soon we’ll take to the waters again, not much longer yet,
for auld lang syne.
and watched the skies for weather’s sign;
And we’ve paddled many a weary mile,
since auld lang syne.
from morning sun till it’s time to dine;
With nothing between us but smooth waters, no waves or wind
since auld lang syne.
And with paddle in hand, I’ve dipped the blade below the waterline!
Next year we’ll take another good long trip, venturing again into wilderness
as we have since auld lang syne.
And wish all nothing but good cheer
May your canoeing be great in 2014
Of course New Year’s Day is today….and I hope to spend a few hours walking around (mainly to get some fresh air….and escape this computer for a while….or endless marathons of TV shows or college football bowls). I would love to venture out into the woods and fields of my youth (what are left of them any way….there has been a fair bit of development….especially the building of subdivisions….new homes for the lucky few who can afford an escape to the country….even one within an hour of a major city). My home town hasn’t changed that much….yet it is very different from what it was when my family first moved up here over 40 years ago. The tobogganing hill is gone….most of the fields are gone….many being bulldozed to create building lots for houses that literally seem to be stacked side by side.
Even the access to the woods that I roamed as a kid is restricted….there are signs posted indicating ‘No Trespassing’ or ‘No Admittance’ or ‘Private Property’. Maybe there was a similar situation when I wandered through the same bushlot as a youngster….it was ‘private property’ after all….but never posted. Then again it was ‘private property’….the private refuge for myself and a few other neighbourhood kids….our personal ‘private’ place….a place where dreams could be made….where we could be explorers or fur traders braving the harsh winter of a vast land….where we could search out the wildlife….looking for tracks in the snow….or other animal signs….especially those easily seen in the winter such as bird nests on the bare limbs of trees.
The winter months were very much the time of being in the bush. There was no problem with pesty mosquitoes. We could hike across the snowy fields….even snowshoe or ski (especially on old wood skis with a bearpaw binding….that attached our rubber boots to the ski) at times. The swampy areas were frozen over….and venturing through that part of the woods was a real adventure. There were a few trees that had fallen over in the swamp….lying a cross the frozen ground with exposed roots. Some such trees became hollowed out logs with time….but even the dirt covered masses of roots, twice the height of any child….some with intricate ‘caves’….any of these creating what we were sure were perfect dens for all sorts of creatures (even bears or wolves in our earlier childhood imaginations….as we became older….and ‘wiser’ we realized they might house the odd raccoon family). There was the bramble patches that housed small animals such as rabbits….which we caught glimpses of now and then….but more often saw the distinct tracks of a rabbit in the snow:
Sometimes these tracks told a story in themselves:
A photo from http://alistairpott.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/rabbit-owl.jpg, that as it describes: “….shows the tracks of a rabbit moving across some snow when BAM an owl nails it. You can see the wings of the attacking bird imprinted in the snow – and no more rabbit tracks…’”.
There were a number of birds seen….flocks of crows….woodpeckers tapping on dead trees, looking for a morsel of food (their location given up by the drumming of their beaks on the tree)….common winter birds such as chickadees, blue jays or even grosbeaks….even the odd ring-necked pheasant or ruffed grouse flushed out….and of course an owl or a hawk now and then seen perched in a tree or on a fence post bordering one of the many fields, just waiting for a small rodent to scurry out. One winter we even had a visitor from the Far North….a snowy owl perched on the hydro pole in our backyard….and later I found out that snowy owls came south in years when their usual food source, the lemming, had a crash in numbers.
There was also the tracks of small animals such as mice or red squirrels….even larger ones such as a fox or a deer….or what we were sure was a larger canine such as a wolf….but was more likely a neighbourhood dog….or even possibly a coyote (since they frequent the area around here….and I can hear them howl sometimes at night).
I remember seeing several animals….not just their tracks….raccoons sunning themselves in the winter daylight, high up in a tree….digging under the snow and finding the nest of dead grass that housed mice (that would live warm and snug buried under the snow)….and of course red squirrels scolding from a pine tree.
But because I was limited in time….just out for a short walk before dinner….and any way to that woodlot and fields was blocked by the restrictive signage….and chain link fences….I didn’t head out onto once familiar trails or paths. Maybe that was a good thing….because my memories of those places might not live up to what I could find. If nothing more though, just thinking of what was once ‘our place’, I remembered how fortunate I was growing up where I did. How fortunate were others who had their secret places….a local creek….a ravine….an old orchard….a pond….or woodlot. And why maybe some of today’s kids don’t have it as ‘good’ as we did at the same age.
I have often quoted Sigurd Olson here…..I find much in his thoughts and reflections that just ‘fit’ with my own. Here is Sigurd’s observations of New Year’s,http://www4.uwm.edu/letsci/research/sigurd_olson/articles/columns/new_years_and_the_river–jan02.htm:
New Year’s and the River
It was ten below on New Year’s Day and I had gone to the country of my boyhood to get acquainted and to renew old associations. One of the things I knew I must see at once was the river, and though I knew it was frozen throughout most of its course, I also knew that where it ran beneath the old iron bridge, it was free. More than anything else, I wanted to see its n, the bottom with its familiar stones, to listen to the gurgle as it rippled its way over them. Even though it would be sheathed in ice and the open water shrouded with mist, though there were no birds, no humming hatch of flies, no chance of sky reflections, I still wanted to see it, for the little river meant many things to me.
I hurried along the winter road and the road was beautiful with new snow and the pines along the borders of the fields were laden with it. Even the jack pines looked strange that morning beneath their heavy load, more like spruce trees than pines, but the grandest of all were the white pines with their branches drooping close to the snow, near to breaking with the weight of it.
In a few minutes I was at the bridge, and to my joy for a hundred yards the river was open, though crowded by ice above and below. Underneath me, the water was clear and transparent, more crystalline it seemed than ever. Bronze golden nuggets of gravel moved slowly in the sunlight and in between them danced tiny irridescent bits of shell, whirling in the swift undertow, settling for a moment, only to dance again. To one side was a large unbroken clam shell, the polished mother-of-pearl flashing as it also weaved in the current. The larger rocks held their position though the sands eddied impatiently around them. I could hear the soft rippling clearly now, but as an undertone was the constant swish of ice and slush drifting continually from the solid mass above to that below trying, it seemed, to close completely what open water remained.
How alive the river was in this last open space beneath the bridge. Elsewhere it was dead, but here it was as alive as an open wound, alive and full of sound and movement, and I thought as I stood there and watched it that someday I would fulfill my dream and build a house where I could always be near it, close enough so that I could make that perennial aliveness a part of myself, so that when my mind was weary with thinking and my body of work, I could come down to the rapids and watch it and absorb some of its virility and joy.
As I walked away from the river and the swishing of the ice blended at last with the sound of the drifting snow beside the road, I was glad I came, for it did me good to know that it was free beneath the bridge. Somehow, it made me feel that the year was getting off to a good start, that there was much to look forward to, that simple things which had given happiness in the past were unchangeable and true. I went back to the farm house, back to the snow laden pines and the windswept fields I had left.
Just a few thoughts for New Year’s Day….
This bright new year is given me…
To live each day with zest eloped in winter; the fleshy, in summer. I should say winter had given the bone and sinew to literature, summer the tissues and the blood. - John Burroughs
Life is like a flowing river of opportunities..
It’s up to you to stand up with a bucket or with a spoon. – Unknown
Go find yourself, by yourself.
Do not let others make your path for you. Is your path, and yours alone.
Others may walk with you, but nobody can make your way. - Unknown
The first morning of a new year….I think these speak to much we seek: the zest in winter, more of the fleshy part in summer….as the Burroughs says: “winter had given the bone and sinew to literature, summer the tissues and the blood”….plus the opportunities a new year bring….as well as finding ourselves.
Just something to think over on the first morning of 2014….paddles up until later then.
Here are some thoughts for a New Year….using Native quotes….just some things to think of as we begin the New Year 2014….whether it is thinking about First Nations issues….or Native thoughts on the environment:
Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money. – Cree Indian Proverb
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. – Native American Proverb
Is not the sky a father and the earth a mother, and are not all living things with feet or wings or roots their children? – Black Elk (Medicine man of the Lakota (Sioux)
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is! – Black Elk (Medicine man of the Lakota (Sioux)
Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy… – Black Elk (Medicine man of the Lakota (Sioux)
The Circle of Life
You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days, when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished.
The flowering tree was the living centre of the hoop and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The East gave peace and light, the South gave warmth, The West gave rain and the North, with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance. This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion. Everything the Power of the World does, is done in a circle. The sky is round and I have heard the earth is round like a ball and so are the stars. The Wind, in its greatest power whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood and so it is in everything where power moves. Our Teepees were round like the nests of birds and these were always set in a circle, the nation ‘s hoop, a nest of many nests where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children. ” – (Black Elk Speaks, pp. 198-200) Spiritual Advisor to the Oglala Sioux in 1930.
What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the Sunset. – Crowfoot
You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our childresn–that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.
This we know. The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself… — Chief Seattle
The old Lakota was wise, He knew that man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. — Luther Standing Bear (Native American author)
The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the earth and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred Earth. Their tipis were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The birds that flew into the air came to rest upon the earth and it was the final abiding place of all things that lived and grew. The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing. – Luther Standing Bear (Native American author), from Land of the Spotted Eagle
We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and winding streams with tangled growth, as “wild.” Only to the white man was nature a “wilderness” and only to him was the land “infested” with “wild” animals and “savage” people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery. Not until the hairy man from the east came and with brutal frenzy heaped injustices upon us and the families we loved was it “wild” for us. When the very animals of the forest began fleeing from his approach, then it was that for us the “Wild West” began. — Luther Standing Bear (Native American author)
We have to have one mind for the Four Directions. Until we reach that one mind, we cannot be filled with understanding…. The Creator will not answer until you have just one mind, just like if you have one person. – Grandfather William Commanda, Algonquin Elder
It’s all spirit and it’s all connected. – Grandfather William Commanda, Algonquin Elder
And there are Four Corners of the Earth that we talk about, the Four Colors of people, and the Four Winds. You see the winds-they are spirits. – Grandfather William Commanda, Algonquin Elder
Traditional people of Indian nations have interpreted the two roads that face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the road to spirituality. We feel that the road to technology…. has led modern society to a damaged and seared earth. Could it be that the road to technology represents a rush to destruction, and that the road to spirituality represents the slower path that the traditional native people have traveled and are now seeking again? The earth is not scorched on this trail. The grass is still growing there. – William Commanda, Mamiwinini, Canada, 1991
Central to all of Elder Commanda’s teachings are the fundamental concepts of equality, as well as respect for Mother Earth, for all life and for people of all racial and cultural backgrounds…Chief Commanda is convinced that the future of life on the planet depends on our learning to live together in harmony with nature upon the land… – Remarks of Robert Chiarelli, Mayor of Ottawa upon presenting Grandfather Commanda with the Key to the City in 2006.
As William Commanda, Elder from the Algonquian Nation and keeper of the sacred wampum belts, said in the opening of his June 10, 2010 message to the Algonquins of the Ottawa River Watershed:
I have been blessed by the guidance and strength of the Sacred Wampum Belts of our Anisninabe ancestors to assert their presence over the past forty years, and many, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, have been awakened to our history, wisdom and relevance in these times of unprecedented global uncertainty and chaos. But in our traditional way of thinking, the individual is only a cornerstone of a community, and we must bring our individual strengths together to recreate the strong communities we developed in the past. I have often said that Indigenous Peoples are the only ones who have never gone elsewhere to make new homes, we are at home here; we maintain the sacred unbreakable connections with Mother Earth, and we have to assert this reality with even greater vigour and perseverance in these times of war and strife, climate change and environmental crisis. Without doubt, Mother Earth’s voice is loud now, and she is calling urgently to draw us back to her. We have a crucial role to play in restoring balance on Earth, and our Earth based and cyclical ways of thinking have a vitally important role to play in human evolution and growth. We can all see the huge deficit and spiritually bankrupt legacy looming in the global landscape.
Or these words of William Commanda: “we need this old knowledge in our teachings to get through this new age”.
When Christ said that man does not live by bread alone, he spoke of a hunger. This hunger was not the hunger of the body. It was not the hunger for bread. He spoke of a hunger that begins deep down in the very depths of our being. He spoke of a need as vital as breath. He spoke of our hunger for love.
Love is something you and I must have. We must have it because our spirit feeds upon it. We must have it because without it we become weak and faint. Without love our self-esteem weakens. Without it our courage fails. Without love we can no longer look out confidently at the world…
But with love, we are creative. With it, we march tirelessly. With it, and with it alone, we are able to sacrifice for others. – Chief Dan George
The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass, speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me.
The strength of the fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun, and the life that never goes away, they speak to me. And my heart soars. – Chief Dan George
May the stars carry your sadness away, May the flowers fill your heart with beauty, May hope forever wipe away your tears, And, above all, may silence make you strong. – Chief Dan George
Look at our brokenness.
We know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way.
We know that we are the ones
Who are divided
And we are the ones
Who must come back together
To walk in the Sacred Way.
Teach us love, compassion, and honor
That we may heal the earth
And heal each other. – Native Prayer
Oh Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds
And whose breath gives life to everyone,
I come to you as one of your many children;
I am weak …. I am small … I need your wisdom
and your strength.
Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever
behold the red and purple sunsets
Make my hands respect the things you have made.
And make my ears sharp so I may hear your voice.
Make me wise, so that I may understand what you
have taught my people and
The lessons you have hidden in each leaf
and each rock.
I ask for wisdom and strength
Not to be superior to my brothers, but to be able
to fight my greatest enemy, myself.
Make me ever ready to come before you with
clean hands and a straight eye.
So as life fades away as a fading sunset.
My spirit may come to you without shame
“The traditional way of education was by example, experience, and storytelling. The first principle involved was total respect and acceptance of the one to be taught, and that learning was a continuous process from birth to death. It was total continuity without interruption. Its nature was like a fountain that gives many colours and flavours of water and that whoever chose could drink as much or as little as they wanted to whenever they wished. The teaching strictly adhered to the sacredness of life whether of humans, animals or plants.” – Art Solomon, Anishinaabe Elder
“There comes a time when we must stop crying and wringing our hands and get on with the healing that we are so much in need of” – Art Solomon, Anishinaabe Elder
Grandfather, Look at our brokenness. We know that in all creation only the human family has strayed from the sacred way. We know that we are the ones who are divided and we are the one who must come back together to walk in the sacred way. Grandfather, Sacred One, Teach us love, compassion and honor that we may heal the Earth and each other. – Art Solomon, Anishinaabe Elder
In other words of Art Solomon, an Anishinaabe elder: “To heal a nation, we must first heal the individuals, the families and the communities.”
….the canoe is not a lifeless, inanimate object; it feels very much alive, alive with the life of the river. – Bill Mason, Path of the Paddle
There is nothing that is so aesthetically pleasing and yet so functional and versatile as the canoe. – Bill Mason
Today, most Canadian canoeing is recreational. Many of us would assert that it is usually meaningful, aesthetically fulfilling and ecologically sensitive recreational canoeing. Admittedly, these modifiers are not present in the highly competitive, highly structured and technically oriented canoe racing sports which tend not to take place in a wilderness environment. But with these large exceptions, canoeing, certainly canoe tripping and lake water canoe crusising, tends to involve in varying degrees a quest for wilderness or at least semi-wilderness. It also involves a search for high adventure or natural tranquility or both. These activities are an integral part of Canadian culture. Bill Mason asserts that the canoe is “the most beautiful work of human beings, the most functional yet aesthetically pleasing object ever created,” and that paddling a canoe is “an art” not a technical achievement. That certainly means culture. - Bruce Hodgins, from Canexus, p.46
On her Dad’s art: “Like him, I find that paddling can take you on a voyage of creativity where you store up experiences in you memory to treasure for a lifetime.” – Becky Mason
The canoe has appeared in many forms of art….in paintings by artists such as Tom Thomson….and Bill Mason certainly comes to mind….and many many others….then there’s great photography such as that by Jim Davis or Mike Monaghan….not to mention great films by Bill Mason or Justine Curgenven….even the act of paddling a canoe is seen as art (especially if you’ve seen Free-style paddling by the likes of Karen Knight or even a display of Canadian style paddling by Becky Mason….truly canoe ballet)….but the canoe is also found in other forms of art too.
On Facebook, Fiona of Badger Paddles posted on a sculpture/installation in Lewiston, Idaho called Canoe Wave….Lewiston, Idaho is where Lewis and Clark met the Nez Perce tribe….Christopher Fennell created Canoe Wave, a 23-foot-tall colorful wave of canoes welded together on the bank of the Snake River. From his website Making of the Canoe Wave, http://cfennell.com/pages/lc.html, comes this description:
For him, each canoe stands for a person, and here is a wave of them. Visually, it’s a storm of canoes. It’s a monument to Lewis and Clark who used the canoe, but also to the life of the rivers that flow through the valley. It will take 50 or more canoes to create the wave. The canoes are all aluminum, a material that will withstand the storms of ages. He discovered fiberglass would disintegrate. While 10 canoes came from the Boise area, most are from Chattanooga, Tenn., where Fennell once created a giant doorway from trees. People familiar with his work there sold him their canoes after learning of his Idaho project in local newspapers. In the process they shared stories of rapids, frostbite and other adventures in their boats, which were like old friends. “I wanted canoes that had a history to them,” Fennell says. “They wanted to retire their friend into something that would last forever.” Like most of his work, the $100,000 art piece is made from 80 percent recycled materials. As an avid outdoorsman, natural forms like waves, flora and fauna are prevalent in Fennell’s work. “It’s totally where I’m inspired. The engineer in me still looks at how nature puts things together and how man puts things together and I’m mixing the two.” Another way to put it, he says, is a beehive and a skyscraper are basically the same. “I always like to think there’s nature and civilization. If you stand off a bit, we’re all nature.”
Canoe Wave, from http://cfennell.com/pages/lc.html.
This got me to thinking about various sculptures based on the canoe….especially large installations….not public (or even private) exhibits of actual canoes….so I thought I’d post a few examples.
Bill Reid, a famous Haida artist and carver, created several such works. He even helped renew the tradition of building traditional canoes. From The Raven’s Call, http://theravenscall.ca/en/art, a publication on Bill Reid’s art comes this by Dr. Martine Reid (an independent scholar, author, and curator):
In 1991, after five years of work, Reid and his crew of assistants completed the large bronze “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii” (“The Black Canoe”) and installed it in a reflecting pool at the Canadian Chancery in Washington D.C. Its black patina represents the black argillite slate carved by the Haida people. A second casting with a green patina (“The Jade Canoe”) is installed at the Vancouver International Airport. An image of “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii” was chosen to represent Canadian art and culture on the Canadian twenty-dollar banknote.
“The Spirit of Haida Gwaii” (“The Black Canoe”)
Bronze with black patina
3.89 m H x 3.48 m W x 6.05 m L
Collection of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT)
Catalogue number 994.98.1
Gift of Nabisco Brands Limited, Toronto, Ontario
Photo: Glen Bullard, DFAIT
“The Spirit of Haida Gwaii” (“The Jade Canoe”)
Bronze with jade patina, the second and final bronze casting
3.89 m H x 3.48 m W x 6.05 m L
Collection of the Vancouver International Airport Authority
Photo: Kenji Nagai
Both photos from http://theravenscall.ca/en/art.
The canoe as an image is often used….frequently to tie in with a historical event. In Huntsville is a sculpture to Tom Thomson that Murat V. of the Paddle Making blog wrote about in this post, Tom ThomsonCanoe & Paddle Sculpture,http://paddlemaking.blogspot.com/2010/02/tom-thomson-canoe-paddle-sculpture.html:
In front of the historic town hall in downtown Huntsville is a statue of legendary Canadian artist, Tom Thomson whose raw impressionist style marked the beginning a new era in Canadian wilderness art. His suspicious death in 1917 while paddling on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park served to increase his fame and elevated him to a sort of legendary status.
The statue was sculpted and cast by local a artist, Brenda Wainman-Goulet. It features Thomson in his characteristic wool cap painting a sketch while sitting on a tree stump. Next to him rests an overturned 12 foot canoe and a paddle…..made in ’08. The canoe was sculpted in wax, cut into sections, cast and reassembled in bronze. The total weight of the bronze canoe is 900 lbs (portage that!) and is apparently the first bronze canoe of its kind in Canada.
THEMUSEUM in Kitchener will have an installation based on the Tom Thomson story by Professor Marcel O’Gorman, PhD (Director, Critical Media Lab, Department of English, University of Waterloo), as part of the art exhibition, SEARCHING FOR TOM | Tom Thomson: Man, Myth and Masterworks. For more on this see my blog post, http://reflectionsoutdoors.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/myth-of-the-steersman-more-on-tom-thomsons-canoe/ or Marcel’s blog, http://blog.steersman.ca/.
Artist John McEwen has created several canoe related projects (in these two cases in collaboration with Steve Killing, well known boat designer, including designs of canoes and kayaks….as Steve states on his website,http://stevekilling.com/specialart.htm, regarding such work: I feel honoured to work with these artists. My task is to computer model, render, and sometimes engineer the shapes that they imagine).
A Bronze Canoe Sculpture installed in the Canadian Embassy in Berlin
Artist: John McEwen, photo from http://stevekilling.com/specialart.htm.
From http://torontohistory.org/Pages_ABC/Canoe_and_Calipers.html, Canoe And Calipers.
Photos and transcription by contributor Wayne Adam – June, 2009, from http://torontohistory.org/Pages_ABC/Canoe_and_Calipers.html.
Here is more, from http://torontohistory.org/Pages_ABC/Canoe_and_Calipers.html:
Located on the southeast corner of The Queensway and Windermere Avenue is this public art for Windemere by the Lake. The accompanying plaque has this to say:
This sculpture of Canoe and Calipers, marks the meeting of two technologies: the calipers a symbol of the old world and the canoe a gift of the First Nations. Both were instrumental in shaping Canada and on a smaller scale both refer to the history of the area — First Nations peoples and early explorers canoed Lake Ontario to the south and the Humber River to the west. Most recently the Stelco/Swansea Iron Works Factory which made nuts and bolts occupied this site.
Also in Toronto is a sculpture most know simply as The Big Red Canoe. It can be seen from the Gardiner Expressway….or travelling by GO train. Here are some photos:
Photo from http://mute.rigent.com/index.php?ladat=2009-09-29 , which is described by the photographer as: A new park in downtown Toronto situated on a large condo development. The 8 acre park was designed around the vision of author Douglas Coupland and features this over-sized red canoe pointing out over the Gardiner Expressway – Toronto’s busiest ‘river’.
Photo from Eye Weekly, http://www.eyeweekly.com/city/details/article/71921. This is the description from this website:
Canadian author and designer Douglas Coupland was in Toronto last week to launch his latest project: a park between Spadina and Bathurst among the CityPlace condos. The new as-yet-unnamed park continues Coupland’s Canadiana theme with giant fishing lures, a pathway named after Terry Fox and what will likely become a Toronto landmark: a big red canoe on a hill that points directly at the Gardiner.
Since these articles the park has been named Canoe Landing Park. That is a truly appropriate name….not only for the Big Red Canoe that is part of it….but also for the fact that Toronto began as a First Nations village, then later a fur trading post….and this is close to the access (in Toronto any way) of the portage many knew as the Toronto Carrying Place. ( NOTE: Apparently up to 10 people can fit into the Big Red Canoe….that is a lot of potential paddlers LOL LOL.)
Photo of Nuu-Chah-Nulth Whaling Canoe sculpture in Port Alberni, BC, front view, from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nuu-Chah-Nulth_Whaling_Canoe_sculpture_in_Port_Alberni_front.JPG.
Photo of Nuu-Chah-Nulth Whaling Canoe sculpture in Port Alberni, BC, back view, from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nuu-Chah-Nulth_Whaling_Canoe_sculpture_in_Port_Alberni_back.JPG.
This sculpture was originally housed in the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria.
Another Canadian canoe art piece is described by Nova Craft Canoes, http://www.novacraft.com/inline_whatsup.htm:
Canadian History Up in the Air
Along with 23 Nova Craft Canoes
Our canoes can be spotted in some unusual places these days. Two London art galleries are displaying our canoes in an exploration of Canadian history from an alternative perspective.
Underway in London is a research project entitled ‘Mapping Medievalism at the Canadian Frontier’. Led by UWO art history professor Kathryn Brush, the project aims to introduce Canadian history to the definition of ‘medievalism’. In the exhibition, artifacts from the European Middle Ages are mixed with Native North American objects from the same era. The effect is to visually define the ‘Canadian Middle Ages’.
Among the Native North American objects on display is our authentic birch-bark canoe. Normally housed in London’s Paddle Shop showroom, the canoe is now a spectacle at UWO’s McIntosh Gallery – one of three exhibition sites for Brush’s project. Together with pre-1550 Native artifacts and other historical objects, the 16-foot replica carries the Native North American side of the visual dialogue.
Our canoes also appear in a related installation, across campus in the Visual Arts Department. Assigned to respond to Brush’s exhibition, third-year sculpture students have begun their own exhibition, called ‘Medievaled Sculpture’. The show takes place in the department’s ArtLAB gallery.
Inspired by our birch-bark canoe, the sculpture class decided to use canoes as the backdrop for their show. Not just one or two, however, but 23 of our Royalex Lites are being installed in the 1600-square-foot space! Moreover, most of the canoes will be hung from the gallery ceiling. Three people are required to hang each canoe: one to ride a Skylift up and tie ropes to steel girders 30-feet high, and two on the ground to hoist the canoe using pulleys. The canoes are being arranged in a Gothic pattern reminiscent of medieval architecture.
Underneath the Gothic canoe ceiling, the gallery floor is covered in a collaborative drawing project. The space in between contains the students’ sculptures, involving all sorts of materials such as clay, glass, wood, metal, feathers, lights, video, and found objects.
The reaction to ‘Medievaled Sculpture’ is that of “surprise”, says Kelly Jazvac, the class’s professor. The exhibit is a show-in-progress; the ArtLAB gallery is open during the installation. Closing night is Dec. 2, at which time installation will be complete. Jazvac anticipates a large closing night crowd.
We are pleased to support the university’s research on expanding the current perception of Canadian history. In addition to its longstanding reputation as an “icon of the Canadian wilderness”, the canoe can now be considered a symbol of the Canadian Middle Ages.
Outside of Canada are other canoe related sculptures….as I noted in the opening of this post on Christopher Fennel’s Canoe Wave. Here are some other examples:
Photo of Basalt Canoes, Smith Lake, Oregon, fromhttp://www.columbiariverimages.com/Regions/Places/smith_bybee_lakes.html.
In Las Vegas another example of an installation of canoes was erected in front of the Aria Hotel….from http://motiongroove.com/2009/12/11/not-much-to-update/, comes these photos with the following descriptions:
this a crazy sculpture at the Aria Hotel, if you look closely you will see these are all canoes, probably over 100 canoes were used for this art piece.
closer look at the canoe art piece.
In San Francisco, from http://www.artbusiness.com/1open/021210.html, comes this photo of a canoe sculpture:
From New Zealand, from a blog called Gorgeous With Attitude (a blog by a couple of Kiwi, stay-at-home mums – femivores if you like – living on opposite sides of the world….who get excited about all kinds of things from slow-food,permaculture gardening, farming and pets to art (especially public sculpture and Maori art), local history,trains, fabulous walks, nature, beautiful things in general…), http://gorgeouswithattitude.blogspot.com/2009/11/waka-sculpture.html, comes this description and photos of a very interesting sculpture:
This new roundabout in Hamilton is graced with this magnificent sculpture. It represents seven waka (Maori canoes). The artist is Aucklander, Dion Hitchins in association with local Hamilton artist James Ormsby.
According to the Hamilton City Council web site, the arrangement of the seven waka represents the Kingitanga symbol of the Matariki star constellation (Maori new year). Each waka has symbols of local significance on it – such as a Kowhai flower, eels, a fire.
It`s incomplete – to be added is a cluster of tuna (eels) suspended in the shape of a hinaki (eel net). Each of the waka will be up-lit and LED lights will illuminate the symbols and the eels. The sculpture is located in a suburb of Hamilton called Rototuna (roto meaning lake and tuna meaning eels), hence the significance of eels. At the moment it`s on the outskirts of town and a bit remote, but I understand the main state highway bypass will eventually join it.
Of course this is just a sampling of canoe sculptures….there are many many more….some you may like….others you may not….I still don’t know if $100,000 is what Christopher Fennel’s Canoe Wave is worth (you could buy a lot of wood canvas canoes for that….but then it might be a good use for aluminum canoes LOL LOL)….and the canoe is truly a beautiful art form in whatever that form of art takes….whether in a sculpture or a painting or a photograph….even on its own the the canoe is a beautiful thing….especially a beautiful dream of a canoe like this:
Photo by yours truly.
In my opinion, wood canvas canoes are truly the most beautiful of canoes….and yes I’m biased LOL LOL.
Beautiful things made by hand carry within them the seeds of their survival. They generate a spark of affection. For some it’s sentimental, for some it’s the art of the craftsmanship, for some the beauty of the finished boat. People love these things and try hard to ensure they endure.
The survival of the wood-canvas canoe (to paraphrase John McPhee) is certainly a matter of the heart; a romantic affair. The economics are unfavorable. In fact, the wood-canvas canoe’s most conspicuous asset and advantage is that it’s a beautiful piece of art. It’s the Shaker rocking chair of outdoor sport – handcrafted, simple, clean, and functional. There’s nothing in it that doesn’t have to be there, but all of the pieces add up to more than the parts. It works well and looks wonderful doing it.- From Honeymoon With A Prospector by Lawrence Meyer
Paddles up until later then….and no matter what type of canoe you prefer, enjoy the canoe as an art form….especially in the ‘wave’ of canoe sculptures.