What is a voyageur?

What is a voyageur? (Avalyn, age 13)   Think of the word “voyager” — a person taking a voyage or a trip. Voyageurs were canoemen who traveled about 1,200 miles, from near Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to Grand Portage (on the Minnesota side of Lake Superior) — and back. The voyageur brigades left each May. It took about two months to arrive at Grand Portage and two more months to return. But they weren’t there to enjoy the trip — they paddled canoes packed with heavy loads most of those miles. When they couldn’t paddle, they carried the trade goods and provisions from their canoe on their backs. They were like the “engine” for a truck. Another word for voyageur was an engagé, a person “engaged,” or hired, as a canoeman. Most voyageurs were French Canadian, but they also included Native Americans — Crow, Cree, Ojibway, Iroquois — as well as some men from England, Scotland and Germany. Voyageurs began traveling to trade furs across French Canada in the 1690s; the era ended in the 1850s....
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The fur brigades start their voyages to Grand Portage

In April, the fur companies in or near Montreal, Canada, were busy organizing the spring brigades — inspecting new canoes, repacking trade goods, selecting canoemen, signing contracts. In May, as soon as the fur companies received word that the ice was gone from the waters their voyageurs were to traverse, hundreds of  men, mostly French Canadians, surged out of Lachine, Canada, to begin their trek. In their two-month trip to Grand Portage, they would cross wild rivers and two of the Great Lakes in canoes laden with up to three tons of trade goods. After meeting at the annual Rendezvous, some of those voyageurs would head back to Montreal, their trade goods exchanged for an equal weight of furs — beaver, if possible, but also fox, marten, fisher, wolf and many others....
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