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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Another taste of tourtière

Because my family event required 14 servings, I needed a second tourtière. After reading recipes, I chose one with other ingredients and a different thickening. This one called for onions, spiced with allspice. And potatoes, which really pumped up the filling! The meat filling was simmered for 2 hours. S we could do a taste test, I marked it with a tree (but we devoured it too quickly). This recipe came from the Je Me Souviens—La Cuisine De La Grandmère cookbook (published by the American-French Genealogical Society in Woonsocket, Rhode Island). A member of our local French-Canadian society kindly purchased it and sent it my way. The Je Me Souviens cookbook also included recipes for blood sausage, which—guess what?—happens to be a favorite food of Pretty Mouse, another of the book’s characters. (As interesting as blood sausage might be to read about, I don’t plan on testing that recipe. Reading about it will have to...
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What is André’s favorite food?

Tourtière is a French-Canadian meat pie made with ground pork and fragrant spices and often served at holiday times. This is important because tourtière is André‘s favorite food (André being the main character of “Waters Like the Sky.”) Each family has individualized the recipe, varying the spices, including other ingredients, like potatoes and onions, and using different methods (like simmering the meat from 15 minutes to 2 hours). I found this out when I casually asked about THE recipe. My French-Canadian cousin Joelle sent the cookbook from St. Genevieve’s Parish in Centerville, Minnesota. Her family’s special version was clipped to the pages with traditional foods. I could almost taste it. For a recent family occasion, I made her recipe. I’ve always wondered what held the crumbles of ground pork together—Joelle used bread crumbs, a delicious choice. And her spicing—cinnamon and cloves—was perfect. I marked the crust “N” (for “no onion”) which my brother and nephew particularly appreciated. Yum!...
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#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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