What’s that you said??

The writings that have survived from fur traders are full of inventive spellings — like Lac Ouinipique or Ouisconstan. Can you guess where they are? There weren’t many literate people in the fur trade. Most voyageurs signed their contracts with an X. The clerks’ spellings were iffy, because the language hadn’t crystallized into a single spelling for a word.* Add to that, they heard unique Ojibwe and Cree words and tried to imagine ways to spell them so others could read and understand. Peter Pond (about 1740-1807) was an American-born fur trader, a founding member of the North West Company (rivals of the Hudson’s Bay Company) an explorer and a cartographer. He was a member of the prestigious Beaver Club, the bourgeois of the fur trade. His narrative is in “Five Fur Traders of the Northwest” (Minnesota Historical Society, 1965). But it takes ingenuity and persistence to understand what he is writing about. So today’s post is pronunciation practice, taken from Peter Pond’s writing—the use of capital letters is his. (HINT: Say the words aloud. They’re all English words or places.) Places: (Check the map below for some answers — and appreciate the mapping skills of the 18th century.) Masseppay (or Massasippey) Miseeurea (or Miseiarey) Ontarey Erey Michlamacneck La shean (Lachine is the Canadian village from which all the canoes left.) Amareca Cannaday Ouisconstan villeg cuntray People: voigeer InGashaes Ochipway Mishenerae preast inHabetans aquantans parans (or pairans) fammaley And other words: (interesting use of capitals in the last two) rigmintal coate exseadingly mutanise cumplyed Saremoney canues burch seader Artickels Entelagent aSosheat aStableshad Two more from other sources: Paquégamant or Paquayaman Lac Ouinipique or Lac Winnipick * Mark Twain once said, “It’s a poor man who can only spell a word one way.”   Pix: PPond’s map, book 5 Fur Traders, map with...
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My first Girl Scout canoe trip

During my first Girl Scout canoe trip back in 1963, flipping our canoes and making the fewest number of passes across a portage (with only one girl carrying the canoe) was a source of great pride. We squashed loaves of white bread—that was before freeze-dried food—and made our Koolaid with untreated lake water. We paddled rain or shine, discovered the dangers of the rocky shore on a windy day, built fires with wet wood, dug latrines. At that time there weren’t regulations on campsite use, so our base camp boasted 12 tents! One Sunday I was assigned to organize a Protestant service. We sang a few familiar hymns and voyageur songs. Then I offered a short reflection on living up to the Girl Scout promise. (How stuffy of me — I am embarrassed to look at those notes now.) I recall searching anxiously for portages where ALL the islands and land looked like Hamm’s Beer scenes, sneaking cookies, singing at campfires, deciding what “city” food we wanted the most upon our return (root beer and French fries were the top two). When voyageurs were “baptized into the brotherhood,” they had to promise not to kiss another voyageur’s wife without her permission, and then they all had a dram (or more) of high wines. I don’t recall any such vows on our initiation, but we might have had green Koolaid instead of red. I’d love to hear what others remember. What a gift this Girl Scout trip was! It fueled my great appreciation for canoe camping, the Boundary Waters, old maps, the fur trade, Hudson’s Bay blankets and so much more....
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Proof of my official voyageur status

I’m an official voyageur and I can prove it. Here’s my certificate, awarded in the summer of 1963 while on my first Girl Scout canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park. I recall the trip fondly (tho’ I’ve forgotten the actual ceremony). The certificate is in pretty good shape. How did I manage to keep it? Our 12-day expedition drew 20 mostly-rookie paddlers (plus proficient adults). We came from troops in northern Minnesota, with a few from Cannon Falls, Minnesota, and others from Minot, North Dakota. The first shock was to get our feet wet while loading the canoes. My paddle partner, Merrie, had to learn to steer. (Or maybe she already knew.) Here’s my list of our route: Starting from Moose Lake out of Ely, we camped at Bayley Bay, Meadow Lake, two nights at Julie’s Island and four at a base camp at Lake Agnes. Then we reversed the order to return home and spent our last night at New Found Lake to get to the landing point earlier in the day. I remember visiting Louisa Falls, watching moose and bear at a distance, and one day to the north end of Lake Agnes — if Boy Scouts could get that far, we could too. (Apparently we took a side trip to see the Painted Rocks — but I don’t recall it.) Amazing what memories arise from a box of papers. Even more amazing that my ancestors, real voyageurs, had canoed those same places centuries earlier....
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