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The Voyageur by Grace Lee Nute

The Voyageur

by Grace Lee Nute

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The Voyageur examines the folkways, character, and tremendous skill of the French-Canadian men who enabled the exploitation and exploration of the Canadian West and Northwest. Wherever possible Nute uses direct sources - descriptions by others of the voyageur temperament and actions. Neither the great fur trading company emperors (like John Jacob Astor) nor the renowned explorers like Mackenzie, Fraser and Franklin would have gotten far without the toil of these men. Born of the French-Canadian stock around Montreal (many of them descended from the small group of men who had originally accompanied the early expeditions with Champlain and those immediately after him) these men knew how to build a canoe, hunt, run rapids, build a fort - their abilities are seemingly endless. What makes them so appealing, however, is their character, which Nute tries to capture: a very un-Anglo combination of gallic insouciance and charm combined with fierce competitiveness and a lack of personal ambition. They were wild and free and you couldn't order them to do anything, but you could offer a challenge, ask them to prove themselves better than some other, and that would provoke an immediate response. I think Nute successfully balances the temptation to romanticize this very charismatic and contradictory group with the realities of who they really were and their extraordinary achievements. The chapter on their songs, their penchant for singing while paddling, the fact that when approaching a destination they would stop to bathe and clean up in order tomake a fine entrance if possible, offered more proof and insight of how marvelous and unique they were, approaching even the hardest life possible with unimaginable gaiety and joie de vivre. The most important take-away however, is that this group opened the Northwest of Canada and that their 'maniere de vivre' is a deeply-rooted part of the Canadian character and very different from our own driven, self-absorbed and, by comparison, morose and intolerant selves below the 49th. **** ( )
3 vote sibyx | Aug 17, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0873512138, Paperback)

The Voyageur is the authoritative account of a unique and colorful group of men whose exploits, songs, and customs comprise an enduring legacy. French Canadians who guided and paddled the canoes of explorers and fur traders, the voyageurs were experts at traversing the treacherous rapids and dangerous open waters of the canoe routes from Quebec and Montreal to the regions bordering the Great Lakes and on to the Mackenzie and Columbia Rivers. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, explorers and fur traders relied on the voyageurs to open up the vast reaches of North America to settlement and trade.

A noted scholar of the fur trade, Grace Lee Nute was a curator at the Minnesota Historical Society, a professor of history at Hamline University, and the author of The Voyageur's Highway.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:23 -0400)

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