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August 10, 2007

The Canoe in View Again


Canoes have been in the news a lot this summer with for example the Mattawa River Canoe Races and The Dragon Boat Festival taking place in July.  The La Vase Portage has been in the news lately as efforts are made to preserve its history.  Looking at the big picture the canoe was fundamental to the success of native people and later to the explorers and fur traders.  There have been numerous re-enactments of trips on famous routes.  One of my favorites is described in the book Footsteps of Grey Owl (2002) by Gary and Joanie McGuffin which records a trip through Algonquin Park and across the Ancient Water Trail to Lake Superior.  It has beautiful photographs and many powerful quotations from one of my favorite authors Grey Owl. 

Etienne Brule Expedition - 2007 

Ten people in two 17.5 foot birch bark canoes came across Lake Nipissing and up the LaVase, and down the Mattawa River this week on a trip honoring Etienne Brule the original Courier du Bois.  Brule came with Champlain 400 years ago next year at age 16 and mixed with the native people and produced some of the first Metis children before his untimely death in 1634.  His travels are legendary. 

Shooting the Rapids by Frances Anne Hopkins 1879

Experienced Canoeist Bob Abrames, his son and his sister have joined with six men and a woman to take a 1500km 60 day canoe excursion that began in Ottawa July 1.  They traveled through the Rideau Waterway to Kingston, across Lake Ontario, up the Trent-Severn system to Georgian Bay and up the French River to Lake Nipissing.  Since I am writing this prior to their arrival I can only hope interested observers watched the Nugget and the radio for their arrival on August 7th. 

Roy Summers and other Friends of the La Vase Portage were scheduled to assist them over the La Vase.  By today they will have passed through the Mattawa and down the Ottawa on their way back to Ottawa. 

They are using similar original equipment and food as the early traveler, and camping as they go like the early travelers - surely a trip to remember. For more information on the La Vase Portage see my article from June 14, 2002.

Blue Sky Heritage and Arts Tour 

The W.K.P. Kennedy Gallery has put together a package tour for any interested group this summer.  The original motivation for the initiative was access to the Angele Art Exhibition celebrating the life of Grey Owl and his Bear Island wife Angele Egwuna at the restored Temagami Train Station.  A trial run which involved the North Bay Museum, the Temagami Fire Tower, the Dream Keepers Centre along with the art show was very successful. 

Michelle Trinier the coordinator of the Angele project for the Kennedy Gallery is coordinating the tours and has a brochure with details at the Kennedy.  She can also be contacted at 474-1944 ext 234 or at Michelle@kennedygallery.org 

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