Subject: voyageur fur trader
Culture: Canadien / French Canadian
Setting: fur trade, western Canada 18-19thc
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Wilson 1980 p51-52
"The North West company depended on its very existence on the many thousands of kilometres of waterways reaching far west from Montreal, first to Fort William and then to the Athabasca country. The hero of these waterways was the voyageur.
"The voyageurs were the men who paddled the canoes or rowed the larger boats which carried men and supplies over the rivers and lakes far to the north and west. They were usually French-Canadian or Métis, and they led a colorful but hard life. [...]
"To many travellers, the voyageurs were the heroes of the fur trade, but to others they were very human people with many faults. Daniel Harmon, who spent twenty years in the fur trade, got to know the voyageurs very well. He praised them for their willingness to 'submit to great privation and hardship, not only without complaining, but even with cheerfulness and gaiety.' He also, however, described them as fickle, thoughtless, improvident, deceitful and vain. Like all people, in other words, the voyageurs had their good and their bad points. But they were essential to the fur trade, and they did their job well."
* Nute 1931 p13
"'My man dressed himself up in the habit of a voyageur, that is, a short shirt, a red woolen cap, a pair of deer skin leggins [sic] which reach from the ancles [sic] a little above the knees, and are held up by a string secured to a belt about the waist, the aziōn ['breech cloth'] of the Indians, and a pair of deer skin moccasins without stockings on the feet. The thighs are left bare. This is the dress of voyageurs in summer and winter.' Add a few items which the worthy missionary, Sherman Hall, neglected to mention -- a blue capote, the inevitable pipe, a gaudy sash, and a gay beaded bag or pouch hung from the sash -- and you have the voyageur as he appeared speeding over lakes, advancing cautiously up narrow creeks, toiling over portages, cracking his whip over the heads of his dogs, laughing down rapids, fiddling in log forts, and singing wherever he was."