West indian culture

Weekly Thoughts: People have brought character and culture to Peace River – Part 97

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We have learned a great deal about our newest Governor General, Mary Simon, and the role a Governor General plays in Canada’s Constitution – more than a figurehead – albeit with a diplomatic bent and substance. We know that Simon is the Queen’s Canadian representative, wherever she travels during her viceregal appointment.

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She said of the important subject of reconciliation, “While much progress has been made in recent years, there is still much work to be done as we walk the road of reconciliation. We all approach reconciliation from different angles, and its definition is fluid depending on who you ask. It is important, however, that we engage in ongoing and open dialogue, and that we allow room for each other’s point of view.

“As an Inuk woman, I am proud that Indigenous people tell their stories. Our collective story cannot be told without Indigenous voices. And that can’t be said without some tough conversations. The recent discovery of unmarked graves in many communities has made us all reflect on the impact of residential schools. But through the pain, I have seen Canadians from coast to coast open their hearts and minds because they want to be part of the reconciliation and healing process.

“As we mark this special day [Indigenous Day, June 21, 2022], I encourage all Canadians to discover and share the important role that each diverse Indigenous community plays in our past, present and future. Together, we can provide safe spaces for Indigenous stories, grounded in understanding, respect, healing and reconciliation.

In an earlier speech, Simon said, “People want to see reconciliation happen, and reconciliation will happen – in different ways.

On Simon’s private side, according to his biography, “She plays the accordion and loves nature and berry picking. She is anaana (mother) of a daughter and two sons; anaanatsiaq (grandmother) to 12 children; and amauq (great-grandmother) to four children. She also has three stepchildren from her marriage, in 1994, to Whit Grant Fraser, a longtime former CBC journalist and former head of the Canadian Polar Commission, former Inuit director Tapiriit Kanatami [formerly Eskimo Brotherhood of Canada – national Inuit advocacy organization – promotes awareness about political, social, cultural, and environmental issues that impact Inuit communities – Simon was once its president].”

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From APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network): “Because her father was white from Manitoba and her mother a unilingual Inuk, they were told she was not eligible. Instead, her father became her teacher and homeschooled her. He came north as a young man to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company, learned to speak the language fluently, and never left. “At that time, it was difficult,” she says. “But looking back, it’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Before moving on to eight of Canada’s Governors General we heard about from Ponderings, it would be good to reflect on the contribution to the NHL and its hockey champions by the 6e Governor General since Confederation, Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley of Preston, who served from June 11, 1888 until September 18, 1893, in fact, only until July 1893, necessitated by the death of his brother and compelling family reasons.

Lord Stanley, fascinated by the amateur hockey played at the Montreal Winter Carnival in 1889, donated a “decorative cup” which he purchased in London for the equivalent of $50 in 1889. It was “awarded to the Montreal Amateur Sports Association in 1893 and named in honor of its donor. The Stanley Cup, presented to the Colorado Avalanche Championship on June 26, 2022, was alas not the original, but rather the result of several design changes over its illustrious 129 years.

Now let’s move on to another topic related to water – this time unfrozen. When we talk about the North and the Hudson’s Bay Company, we can think of many things – the employer of Mary Simon’s father, the Native people, their shelter, their food and their means of transport on the waterways. of the country – canoes. “Summer and life are easy”, so goes the song. Since summer is upon us – all the more reason to think about canoes – for some, a recreational outing; for others, once, a mobile office from which they worked – in the extreme – not easy to live there. Either way, waterways are and were the means by which canoeists travel – rivers their highways. According to some, “the canoe has defined the Canadian character and spirit.”

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John Jennings in his book, The Canoe, A Living Tradition, states, “The canoe is an enduring symbol of wilderness and freedom throughout North America. Handmade ships transported people and goods for centuries before the arrival of Europeans, providing an excellent and convenient mode of transportation that developed regionally to meet the needs of indigenous peoples. Canoes were used by hunters, travellers, traders and warriors.

What’s new today? What are the reasons for the importance of this craft in our past history, which supported its appeal, merged with passion, in the 21st century of technology and mechanization?

First, let’s look at a moment that we only know about through documentation and sometimes speculation, by those interested in what happened before.

The heritage of the canoe dates back thousands of years. It is said to have started with the marine ‘kenu’, essentially a canoe tree trunk, originating from the Caribbean Indians of the Caribbean. That said, the indigenous peoples of North America are credited with creating the most familiar canoe – a wooden rib frame covered in light birch bark or elm or cedar bark. The design has remained, essentially the same, for thousands of years as it has proven ideal for navigating the many North American waterways.

Why birch bark? Why not?

Birchbark was pretty much everywhere the canoe users went, except in the Western Subarctic, where spruce bark sufficed. Its strong, smooth, light, resilient and waterproof structure was attractive, as was the fact that the canoe joints could be held together with white pine root and waterproofed with hot pine or spruce resin, also readily available. .

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It should be no secret that First Nations people perfected the canoe. The Algonquins of the Eastern Woodlands seem to be most closely associated with the style of the birchbark canoe of today. It tended to weigh less than 136 kilograms (300 pounds), double that when wet. It could carry many times its own weight in cargo. It was maneuverable and easy to transport and “could be coaxed through the most treacherous whitewater”. Fragility was its greatest drawback – the slightest error in judgment while running a rapid could throw it against a rock and rip a gash in the birch bark.

Nevertheless, the Hudson’s Bay Company, which came late to canoeing, when threatened by people like the Nor’Westers, used two main types of canoe: master’s canoe (Canot de Montréal), the larger of the two – 12 meters long, requiring a crew of 12 paddlers. It carried a payload of around four tons and could only be carried by four men minus the payload. It was used from the St. Lawrence River to the Lakehead.

The smallest northern canoe was seven meters long and handled well with only six to eight crew members and was light enough to be carried by two men. Its payload, however, was slightly less than that of the master’s canoe only one and a half tons. The many portages and steep rivers of the West, including those from Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River in present-day Oregon to Athabasca Country proved ideal for such a boat’s capabilities.

A third canoe, light canoe (express canoe), about five meters long – used to ferry people, reports and news to and from various posts in the northwest. George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, travels the continent by canoe, with elite teams of Iroquois (Mohawk) from the Montreal area paddling Simpson’s canoes, setting records for travel as you go. There was another canoe – a voyage canoe – 27 to 34 feet long, called a bastard canoe, also in use.

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More on canoes in the next thoughts.

Sources: Peace River Remembers, Jack Coulter, Frank Richardson; Turning the Pages of Time – History of Nampa and surrounding districts; Records from the Mackenzie Peace River Museum, Archives and Center; Peace River Record-Gazette; Peace River Standard; Coots, Codgers and Curmudgeons – Hal C. Sisson and Dwayne W. Rowe; Edmonton Journal; Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21; Canadian history; Northern Gazette; Peace River file; Northern Review; The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Beth Wilkins is a researcher at the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre.

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