Voyageurs' Blog

Countdown to Canada 150 – Just who were the Voyageurs?

Posted: June 13, 2017 by Frank O'Connor

These stout men, no man was taller than 5’4″, who hailed from Quebec were used by all three competing fur trading companies (NWC, HBC, American Fur Trading Company) to paddle their freighter canoes. Their low centre of gravity and their short physical stature made them ideal to paddle canoes and carry packs weighing 180 pounds over rough portages. Paddling all day, the smoke of a pipe, a little sip from the special barrel, and some bannock bread was all they needed to survive. Singing songs of lost love as they paddled, kept them in time and rythmn. On places like Lake Superior, they would rise at 4am to paddle when the lake was calm. Their colourful clothing matched their unabashed joie de vivre, and their sashes that they wore around their waist to hold in their hernias are still used by the Metis Nation in Canada today. Trips were typically taken between May and August, and the remainder of the year was spent at home in Quebec tending to the chores of running a household or farm during the harsh winter months.