#8 voyageur statue: Pine City

The statue in Pine City, Minnesota, shows Ojibwe heritage, with straight hair and no beard, deep-set eyes, strong jaw and lack of beard. He’s wearing a knitted cap with a tassel, a simple voyageur shirt, sashed, and his trousers are tied with double cords at the knee (like my costume when I present programs). A voyageur’s tuque and sash complete his apparel. His moccasins have an amazing woodland flower pattern carved in, like they were beaded moccasins. His hair is almost to his shoulders and is blunt-cut. His narrow-bladed paddle that reaches past his shoulders suggests he was a steersmen, the avant or gouvernail, and a position of great responsibility. His mood is introspective — as if measuring the cost of the fur trade against his tribe and band — what will the world bring to them and how will they survive? He looks out at the river and community beyond, having led traders there. Maybe he’s wondering how now to best help his tribe. He stands on a base with the North West Company logo and motto “Perseverance.” This statue is another giant, at 35 feet, created in 1992 by Dennis Roghair, a local chainsaw sculptor, who carved it from a California redwood about 7 feet in diameter. It’s in a community park overlooking the Snake River. To get the full experience, stop by the North West Company Fur Post, re-created at the site of the original 1804 trading post and now a Minnesota State Historical site, just a few miles west. Hope you’ve enjoyed this parade of Minnesota’s roadside voyageurs. There’s another group in Mattawa, Ottawa Canada, but they’ll have to wait for another time....
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#7 voyageur statue: Big Louis in Barnum

Big Louis, the name of the statue in Barnum, is one of the biggest (seems about 40 feet tall) and most elaborate, like his possible brother Big Vic of Ranier. Made of fiberglass, he is also colorful, with a curly black beard and hair and a red-banded tuque hat. He’s dressed in white-striped and long-fringed full-length buckskins, winter wear, belted, not sashed. The long fringes  cover his feet. Big Louis is armed — a pistol tucked in his belt, a musket out front and his power horn in back! His face shows the joie de vivre characteristic of voyageurs — alert to a rival trader moving in to his territory and ready for the challenge. But there’s no paddle. He’s here for good. Big Louis stands sentinel over the Interstate 35 exit #220, checking out the lake on its east side. Next to him is a convenience store, gift shop and café, which are appropriate — voyageurs ran the very first shops in town. Up next: Pine City...
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#6 voyageur statue: Cloquet

Cloquet’s voyageur statue is 25 feet tall, made of fiberglass. He holds the short paddle of a middleman in his canoe. His apparel looks ready for winter — a long double-fringed buckskin tunic, tight leggings and a fur hat. His beard is trimmed and his hair as well. However, he looks gruff, like he misses the good old voyageur companions during the long winter nights. This guy faces inland, with his back to a very calm portion of the St. Louis River. My sister Kris, who led many Girl Scout canoe expeditions, and I are sitting on this guy’s really big feet. The official bronze sign says it was a bicentennial project dedicated July 5, 1976, by Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, Rep. James Oberstar, Floyd D. Jaros, mayor, and Henry C. Larson, chairman. You can find him on Dunlap Island Park, with an old military fort nearby. Drivers will need to figure out which road twists under the bridge. Tomorrow: Big Louis in Barnum...
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#5: Two Harbors’ second voyageur

Two Harbor’s second voyageur is maybe 15 feet tall, which is shorter than his competitor Pierre (and historically accurate in that these guys had to be shorter than 5’6” to fit into the canoe). He has long hair and beard (better to keep out the dreaded mosquitoes and black flies) and is dressed in fringed — and laced — buckskins, a high fur hat and even laced boots. He holds the short wide paddle of the middleman. His eyes study the lake, watchful for the erratic weather that is a bane for voyageurs — fog, high waves, fast-building storms. He also looks hungry — like a winterer wondering how he is going to make it through the ravages of the season. Maybe he only has one year left of his contract. Sculptor John Gage created this statue from a tree trunk; the monument was dedicated to the Minnesota DNR in appreciation by the City of Two Harbors. This voyageur overlooks the harbor and Lake Superior, not far from the lighthouse. Next: Cloquet...
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#4 voyageur statue: Pierre of Two Harbors

Two Harbors is the proud home of two monuments. Pierre sports a laced tunic and tall boots, useful the dreaded muddy Savanna Portage. Locals told us he is known as Pierre the (Pants-less) Voyageur, due to his garb. But it’s correct and appropriate for the summer — being in and out of water would make fringed leather or wool trousers a misery. His short beard suggests that he was spiffed up for the rendezvous at Grand Portage. He holds his vermilion-painted gouvernail’s paddle ready to jam it between rocks to steer. His other arm is bent, fist at the waist (akimbo?) — as if to say, “Try me, river. I know you, and I can beat you.” At his feet is the front half of a birch bark canoe (for folks to pose in). Pierre has the right build — wide shoulders, short legs. And he is lit at night (note the trio of lights over his head), which again is appropriate — voyageurs enjoyed their allotted dram of high wine. Though a 25-foot concrete statue, he seems lively, totally in character with the real thing. The sign, which once told more, is no longer legible. He’s next to a sign announcing an award-winning “hidden food gem” café. Pierre stands on the east side of MN Highway 61, just before you get into town. Tomorrow: Two Harbors’ second voyageur...
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