European Travelers in the Voyageur Canoe: Marks of Status in Decorative Designs

Autre article sur les voyageurs

Voyageur Heritage • • • Community Journal & Resource Guide

by MaryEllen Weller-Smith

Encampment, River Winnipeg, Saulteaux and Voyageurs (dated 1849-1856, ROM 912.1.19). Source: Royal Ontario Museum. ©ROM Paul Kane, Encampment, River Winnipeg, Saulteaux and Voyageurs (dated 1849-1856, ROM 912.1.19). Source: Royal Ontario Museum. ©ROM.

In the days when canoes were the best North American transportation system, their size and shape varied much as automobiles do today. For canoes, the size and shape depended on the waterways to be traveled, and all this is recorded in sketches in explorer and missionary journals from the 1600s and 1700s. The paddles sketched were highly decorated, but bark canoes were represented as plain or inscribed with small symbols, as among the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet of the Atlantic seaboard. Lavishly painted dugout canoes were found among the Haida, the Kwakiutl and other nations of the Pacific coast. This difference likely derives from the perishable nature of the bark canoe which was estimated to last two years; a dugout could last decades. Investing the time and effort to paint…

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