What happened at the voyageur rendezvous at Grand Portage? Was it every summer? (from Jessa, age 12)
The rendezvous took several weeks each summer, so the North West Company could basically swap loads of their employees — the canoemen who had traveled from distant parts. From deep into Lake Superior country and as far north and west as Athabasca, traders brought furs they’d collected all winter. From Montreal, voyageurs in huge canoes delivered trade goods. The Montrealers needed six to eight weeks of dawn-to-dusk paddling to reach Grand Portage, the Northmen and Athabascans much longer.
So the rendezvous wasn’t an exact time — it depended on when canoemen arrived. That depended on when the ice broke up on the rivers, allowing them to travel the “water highways.”
At the rendezvous, the wintering partners of the North West Company met to discuss business.
Their clerks were responsible to inventory the vast piles of furs and trade goods that arrived, to press the furs into bales and to reapportion the goods for their next destination.
The voyageur’s break at the rendezvous was filled with merriment — voyageur contests, singing, dancing, and more.
The first canoes in were repacked with new loads as quickly as possible, so they were the first ones out. Northmen returned to their posts with new trade goods for their Native American customers and pork-eaters would load up with fur bales headed for Montreal warehouses.