Read “The Voyageurettes” for a giggle

Interested in a goofy read? “The Voyageurettes” is a giggle, especially if you’ve canoe-camped. The book fits delightfully in the tongue-in-cheek category—all the female characters are named Marie (the guys were mostly Jean Baptiste) and they are smart. To appeal to a “broad-er” audience, they offered Yvonne beauty products like Epidermis So Smooth, the B.B. Legume line of outdoor clothing, L’Ambway cleaning items and Putterware instead of grass baskets and iron kettles. Instead of carrying heavy packs of trade goods over a portage, they instituted a system of free samples and catalog ordering, which was much lighter. Each chapter tells of their amazing exploits, from catching a muskie to inventing bent-shaft paddles. And each chapter begins with a French quote and its English translation. Here’s a few:“Une vérité décorée n’est pas la même chose qu’un mensonge.” (Truth-decorating is not the same as lying.) Les voyageurs n’avaient jamais vu de petite loups. (Voyageurs never see small wolves.) Un peu de compétition ajouote du piquant dans la vie. (A little competition adds to the joy of life.) I especially enjoyed Chapter 40, the Voyageurette Nature Guide. It helps people distinguish between 2-legged and 4-legged animals and swimming creatures in the wilds. Fuzzy animals come in many sizes—but the small ones don’t have enough meat to be eaten. You can tell timber wolves from dogs by their lack of collars and red bandannas. If you see an animal swimming far away, it is safe to call it a beaver since others won’t be able to tell the difference between it and a muskrat. Beavers, however, do not make good house pets, as they are hard on furniture and hog the bath tub. If a bird in the water doesn’t move when the canoe gets close, it’s actually a skinny tree stump. When you see a turtle with a thick neck and ugly rough shell with spikes, walk away fast—it is a snapping turtle. But don’t run—people will think you aren’t brave. A rat wearing a turtle shell is probably an armadillo and you have probably paddled too far south, in the vicinity of alligators, crocodiles and water moccasins. And the constellation that many canoeists call the Northern Cross, they refer to as the Giant Mosquito.   At the end is a a mini-bio with the real Maries behind each character. Written in 1999 by Susan Engebretson and Rebecca Barry, the book won’t...
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Canadian canoe pilgrimage nearly there

The paddlers of Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage, traveling along the Ottawa River to the St. Lawrence River, near their final destination in Montreal, Quebec, Aug. 15. At the end of the pilgrimage is a stop at the Shrine of St. Kateri, Khanawake Mohawk Territory, a First Nations reserve on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. This is one of the oldest images of St. Kateri Tekakwitha,  painted by Jesuit Father Claude Chauchetière in 1696. (Thanks to Wikimedia Commons i for this public domain image. The Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage was inspired by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission with the hope of encouraging intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and learning. Participants, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, were immersed in each other’s customs and traditions to foster deep respect, trust, dialogue and hopefully friendship, the building blocks for reconciliation and a path of...
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A pilgrimage, not just a fun paddle

This 25-day-long, 850-kilometre canoe trip was organized in response to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The TRC, which was part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, began in 2009 and spent 5 years uncovering the tragic history of Residential Schools in Canada. These schools were part of a policy of active assimilation that aimed to cut young Indigenous people off from their familial and cultural roots and impose on them a European culture. The TRC, through national events, provided a place where the survivors of these schools could share their tragic experiences in this system. The Jesuits, acknowledging their role in the residential school in Spanish, Ontario, are committed to the healing and reconciliation process. The Jesuits were given the opportunity to read a Statement of Reconciliation at the TRC National Event in Montreal in April...
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Canoe pilgrimage more than halfway there!

The Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage I’ve been following has now traversed the Mattawa River to the Ottawa River. (This leg of the journey might have taken a week or more battling the upstream current in spring, when the water was the highest.) Fortunately the pilgrimage is going downstream, which requires a different kind of skill (and perhaps less stamina). If weather and other logistical concerns don’t alter their plans, the paddlers expect to be in Pembroke, Ontario, Aug. 6 and in Ottawa, Ontario, Aug. 9. Samuel de Champlain, Jean de Brébeuf and other early European settlers used this route, learned from the Indigenous peoples. Here’s Champlain’s map, from 1612 (compliments of...
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A Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage!

A Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage, with 30 Indigenous, Jesuit, English and French-Canadian paddlers, left Midland, Ontario, July 21. The voyage followed the shores of the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron to the French River. Then they headed upstream on the French River to Lake Nipissing. (Going downstream the river was a wild hair-raising 75-mile chute for the fur traders.) From Lake Nipissing the group traveled downstream along the Mattawa River, where they expect to arrive some time today, Aug. 2. The waterway is a traditional First Nations trading route that voyageurs used to and from the rendezvous. And they expect, weather permitting, to arrive in Montreal by Aug. 14-15. Is this a cool idea or...
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