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Canoeing with the Cree by Eric Sevareid

Canoeing with the Cree (1935)

by Eric Sevareid

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Arnold, who became known during his journalism career as Eric, Sevareid was stirred to adventure during a high school reading of Rudyard Kipling's poem The Feet of the Young Men. His best friend, Walter Porter, also longed to see the world. Together they decided that as soon as high school ended and they graduated they would buy a canoe and paddle from Minneapolis to the Hudson Bay.

It didn't bother them that they didn't have a canoe or experience, or that this particular trip had never been done before.

As the forward says:
"Without benefit of motor or radio, and indeed with little in the way of good maps or background information, the young men launched an eighteen-foot canvas canoe at Fort Snelling. .... 2250 miles, sixty portage and fourteen weeks ... Delayed by accidents and weather, they raced against time. ....(as they must arrive) before fall freeze up” (Slightly edited to avoid spoilers)

Woot – if you enjoy stories of wilderness and youthful derring-do adventures, this is a great read. I enjoyed the descriptions of the First Nations and the Metis, although the casual prejudices of the time do show. The book carried me onward to the end. A short book, a quick read and highly recommended. ( )
  streamsong | Apr 12, 2017 |
Canoeing with the Cree by Eric Sevareid

My February Non-Fiction Challenge book. This is the story of two boys, Eric Sevareid and Walter Port, aged 17 and 19, who decide that it would be a fun adventure to canoe from Minneapolis, Minnesota to York Factory on Hudson Bay. The book is relatively short and I found it to be gripping as I read it in a single sitting.

I have spent a decent amount of time canoeing and consider myself fairly good at it. So with that foundation, what these kids did was insane and borderline suicidal in my opinion and I am in awe of their endurance. I also have serious questions about where these kids parents were because I would lock my child up before they tried something like this.

Fortified with $50 from a Minneapolis paper, they conceive of this idea of starting from Minneapolis, proceeding southwest to the Minnesota river, canoeing northwest until they get to the Red River and then following that river all the way to Winnipeg. From there they crossed Lake Winnipeg (a huge body of water) and then following a series of smaller rivers and lakes back northeast to York Factory on Hudson Bay. Basically, this sort of journey is akin to what the original Voyageurs were doing when they were collecting beaver pelts for Europe (think The Revenant but a little further north and east. To do it, they paddle from eight to ten hours straight every day and when they aren't paddling they are portaging their canoe and supplies over some very rough terrain.

They do the whole trip in an d18 foot canoe. The boys do stop for provisions along the way and manage to get some necessary help like when one has infection and is treated by a kindly doctor. They also do "cheat" on Lake Winnipeg, when after encountering a constant, contrary wind they book a short passage on a lake steamer to complete their trip across Lake Winnipeg. Keep in mind that "Lake" Winnipeg is the size of some small seas being the 11th largest lake on the planet and extending 258 miles north to south. Having paddled on a few larger lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area I can say that the idea that you would even think of venturing on to a lake of that size in an 18 foot canoe is crazy. Did I mention that by the time the boys made it this far north they were in a race against time as everyone they met told them that the waterways were going to freeze over before they made it to Hudson Bay?

By the time the boys depart Lake Winnipeg they are moving into largely uninhabited territory. They encounter a few Cree and the occasional Mountie but mostly they are alone. They are trying to navigate simply by compass and maps (I have done this too and it is really hard). Basically, when they leave the last community for the trip to the Bay they are vanishing into the wilderness with winter starting at any time. A different version of this story would have been that the boys disappear down the river to never be seen again. Certainly no search party would have found them. Shockingly, the boys make it to Hudson Bay alive and in one piece. It is an amazing accomplishment.

There are some portions of the book that sound off to modern ears. The depictions of the Cree are clearly tinged by ideas of the "noble savage" and there are frequent references to "half-breeds." However, there is little racial animus expressed. Mostly there is admiration for the people living in such a harsh and isolated area.

Canoeing with the Cree was a fun read and an engaging adventure. ( )
2 vote Oberon | Feb 2, 2017 |
Terrific adventure tale. Remarkable to think two 18 year old boys undertook a 2500 mile canoe voyage right out of high school. ( )
  namfos | Jan 11, 2017 |
A quick and easy read about two teenagers who canoe from Minneapolis, MN to Hudson Bay. Very interesting facts about the culture, nature, and experiences they have while traveling. Great book for anyone who enjoys the outdoors or is familiar with the area. ( )
  LonelyReader | Feb 21, 2013 |
This 2,500 mile canoeing odyssey reads like one of those old, quaint "Boy's Life" articles. But then again, young Eric was only 17 when he wrote it and 18 when it was published.

This would be a great choice for any boy who is interested in adventure. ( )
1 vote Sandydog1 | Mar 28, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eric Sevareidprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bancroft, AnnForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To My Mother and Father and my friend Walter C. Port
First words
It was a warm May afternoon, and my class in English literature was almost ended when I happened to turn to that page of Kipling.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0873515331, Paperback)

In 1930 two novice paddlers--Eric Sevareid and Walter C. Port--launched a secondhand 18-foot canvas canoe into the Minnesota River at Fort Snelling for an ambitious summer-long journey from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay. Without benefit of radio, motor, or good maps, the teenagers made their way over 2,250 miles of rivers, lakes, and difficult portages. Nearly four months later, after shooting hundreds of sets of rapids and surviving exceedingly bad conditions and even worse advice, the ragged, hungry adventurers arrived in York Factory on Hudson Bay--with winter freeze-up on their heels. First published in 1935, Canoeing with the Cree is Sevareid's classic account of this youthful odyssey. The newspaper stories that Sevareid wrote on this trip launched his distinguished journalism career, which included more than a decade as a television correspondent and commentator on the CBS Evening News. Now with a new foreword by Arctic explorer, Ann Bancroft.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:40 -0400)

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