Map

Map Legend

BLACK PIN: Harmon journal entry 1800-1816
BLUE SQUARE: Heritage River, Park, or Natural Heritage Site
DIAMOND: Fur trade cultural heritage sites (red=NWC, gray=HBC, green=XY Company)
YELLOW STAR: Lynn Noel performances 1988-2005

Timeline

Saturday, October 01, 1988

GOING UPRIVER: Interpretive Program Workshops

GOING UPRIVER included two workshops as part of the summer tour: "Citizen Action for River Conservation" and "Music and Folklore in Environmental Education." The first, developed and presented by Teresa Garen to resource professionals at Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm, Dayton, Ohio, was drawn from Eugster and Diamant's text of the same name. It included icebreakers (building a "river" of river-related words and images), a review of tools and techniques available to citizen activists, and a role-play "town meeting" developing a conservation plan for a hypothetical river. This admittedly simplistic example stimulated an excellent discussion, and facilitation of the workshop itself was a learning experience for a young professional.

WORKSHOP COMMENTS

Citizen Action for River Conservation: Aullwood Audubon Center, Dayton, Ohio, July 22, 1988

"Program was enjoyable. Solutions to Clearwater project were unrealistic: not showing economics and realistic demands detracts from the solution's credibility."
"River example used in presentation is very realistic -- i.e., canoeists, development, communities, etc. Need a little more time for presentation."
The second workshop was developed in 1987 (see "The CROSSCURRENTS Concert Series," page 18) for professionals in interpretation and education. This summer's presentation to the staff of Sault Ste. Marie Heritage Locks (Canadian Parks Service, Ontario) focused on the role of the storyteller/singer as steward and interpreter of cultural heritage. Participants chanted, drummed, sang, and acted out native folktales. The workshop concluded with a discussion of cultural heritage resources (primarily music and folktales) and of the legal considerations (copyright, etc.) involved in the use of recorded music and folklore in National Parks and sites.
WORKSHOP COMMENTS: Music and Folklore in Environmental Education

Citizen Action for River Conservation: Sault Ste. Marie Heritage Locks, Ontario, August 10, 1988

I enjoyed the part about the singing of "Hey Hey Watenay" (Indian chant). It was lots of fun and I think you're doing a great job. Keep it up."
"The workshop was incredibly inspiring. It showed what could be done to greatly improve interpretive programs with the little talent (musical or otherwise) that the average summer interpreter has. What struck me most is that even one song or story will create a lasting memory for a child or adult, whereas a lecture rarely does this. I hope to see the program back at the Sault Canal next summer."
"Lynn's presentations were inspiring and educational. I particularly liked the participatory nature of both the public performances and the interpretive workshops."
-- Sally Gibson, Visitor Services Co-ordinator, Sault Ste. Marie Heritage Locks
4
LEFT: A member of the "planning board" presents their recommendations for management of the Clearwater River at the "Citizen Action for River Conservation" workshop in Dayton.
PHOTO: Lynn Noel

GOING UPRIVER: Background

GOING UPRIVER animated a touring exhibit for the Canadian Heritage Rivers System in the summer of 1988 with special interpretive programs presented at parks, historic sites, museums, and other venues. Bilingual (English/French) programs included CROSSCURRENTS, a series of illustrated concerts based on regional Great Lakes/St. Lawrence river themes, and WATERWATCH, a young audiences' program on stream ecology, as well as two training workshops.

The goal of this unique international co-operative effort was the promotion of awareness and stewardship of North America's river heritage, by sharing the social, cultural, and historical value of rivers as expressed in music, literature, folklore, and visual images.

Project staff traveled up the St. Lawrence from "Saint Croix to Saint Croix" (Saint Croix River, New Brunswick/Maine, to Lower St. Croix River, Wisconsin/Minnesota), crossing the U.S./Canadian border six times, to present a total of 77 public programs and eleven exhibit displays at 26 program sites. This report highlights the summer tour, describes and evaluates programs, and offers some reflections on the meaning of the journey.

GOING UPRIVER was bound together by several underlying themes and symbols:
  • • the geographical fact of the Great Lakes
  • • water transportation as a symbol of regional trade, natural resources and communication
  • • the confluence of individual lives into the river of history, as expressed in the stream of culture that is folklore
  • • the essence of rivers and of music: stillness in motion
  • • the spirit of the voyageur: adventure, wilderness, exploration and freedom in the path of the paddle
  • • heritage conservation as the nexus of natural and cultural landscapes in the uniqueness of place.

It was a remarkable project for several reasons: its international, transboundary scope; the collaboration of Federal and nonprofit organizations, supported by a coalition of public and private agencies; its use of music and folklore to communicate heritage values; and finally, the way in which the literal journey became an example of regional unity. Such a project can serve as a model for international, interagency co-operation, and catalyze exchange of ideas and technical expertise in education for river conservation.

GOING UPRIVER was sponsored by the Atlantic Center for the Environment, a division of the Quebec-Labrador Foundation. The Atlantic Center for the Environment promotes environmental understanding and encourages public involvement in resolving resource issues in Atlantic Canada, eastern Quebec and northern New England: the Atlantic Region. This interregional exchange and education project is a centerpiece of the Atlantic Center's new rivers initative.
Support for GOING UPRIVER was provided by The George Gund and William H. Donner foundations; the Canadian Heritage Rivers System; the U.S. National Park Service; and program sites.

For more information on this and other Atlantic Center programs, please contact:


QLF/Atlantic Center for the Environment
39 South Main Street
Ipswich, MA 01938-2321
(508) 356-0038

GOING UPRIVER: The Crosscurrents Concept


Speaking of contraries,
See how the brook in that white wave runs counter to itself.
It is from this in water we are from
Long, long before we were from any living creature. …
It is this backward motion toward the source, against the current,
That most we see ourselves in
The tribute of the current toward the source.
It is from this in nature we are from.
It is most us.
-- Robert Frost, West-Running Brook

The CROSSCURRENTS concert series was developed at Gros Morne, Terra Nova, and Kouchibouguac National Parks (Atlantic Canada) in the summers of 1986-87, with support from the Canadian Parks Service and QLF/Atlantic Center for the Environment. Originally symbolizing the upwellings of water off Newfoundland's Grand Banks and the resulting flow of human migration, the title has come to stand for the crosscurrents of natural and cultural landscapes that is the focus of heritage conservation. Each program explores the "terrains of consciousness" expressed in music, literature, folklore, and historical narrative, to capture the heart of a region in the "spirit of place."

Each unique place or theme suggests its own program approach. Thus, CROSSCURRENTS illustrates traditional ballads with slides of the "Newfoundlandscape." L'ACADIE blends Acadian French songs into dramatic readings of Longfellow's Evangeline. WILD THINGS captivates young audiences with singalongs and animal stories to illustrate concepts in wildlife ecology; SWEET SEAS explores the Great Lakes with maps, nautical charts and shipwreck ballads; and the bilingual C'EST L'AVIRON animates the fur trade through the eyes of "Lisette Duval," a character drawn from historical accounts who draws her audience into dramatizations of French-Canadian songs and folktales. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently honored CROSSCURRENTS with its 1988 "Tree of Learning" Award.

Throughout each program runs the current of music, that river of sound flowing from past to future. By raising our voices together in song, we become participants in our common heritage, and creators of harmony. The songs and stories of CROSSCURRENTS are tributaries to the river of history: "the tribute of the current toward the source."As they carry us on their journey into the landscapes behind our eyes, we develop vision and imagination: critical skills for understanding the past, shaping the present, and creating the future..+

GOING UPRIVER: Tour Highlghts

Here are some of the highlights of GOING UPRIVER's adventures.

ATLANTIC APPROACHES

NEW BRUNSWICK: After a "sneak preview" concert for Environment Week in Halifax, NS (sponsored by the Canadian Parks Service), we kicked off the exhibit tour with a special program for the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board on the St. Croix River in St. Stephen. The display then moved to Market Square, St. John, where our trip "upriver" officially began on the St. John River with a boat tour through the famous Reversing Falls. We headed inland from the Gulf of St. Lawrence at Kouchibouguac National Park (see sidebar).
QUEBEC: La Corporation pour la Restauration de la Jacques Cartier, a citizen's group, hosted us for nine programs in French (ably led by Alain) and a visit to a salmon ladder with "bus service" (to help spawning salmon around the dam). We canoed the wild rapids of the Jacques Cartier, a nominated Canadian Heritage River, in the spectacular Jacques Cartier Provincial Park.

INDUSTRIAL HEARTLAND

ONTARIO I: As participants in Ottawa's Canada Day celebrations, we joined in the Voyageurs' National Campfire program and opened the awards ceremonies for the Voyageur Cup for an estimated 2000 visitors. St. Lawrence Islands National Park on the U.S./Canadian border made the perfect backdrop for songs of the Lakers, as the heavy-laden Great Lakes freighters steamed majestically downbound from Duluth to Panama.
We crossed the Ontario peninsula for a tour of Georgian Bay: SWEET SEAS concerts at Fathom Five National Marine Park (Canada's newest!) and Bruce Peninsula National Park at Tobermory; WATERWATCH programs at Georgian Bay Islands National Park; and a visit to Saint-Marie-Among-the-Hurons, site of the first Jesuit mission in the New World. We topped our end-to-end tour of the Niagara Escarpment at Niagara Falls, the only place one can see four of the five Great Lakes at once. Our regional vision gave us new eyes to appreciate the hugeness and power of the Lakes as they thunder over the Falls.
OHIO: The industrial heartland welcomed us to Cleveland, where we displayed the CHRS exhibit in the historic Old Arcade and celebrated urban rivers at the Sohio Riverfest with our hosts, the Cleveland Waterfront Coalition. Their Annual Meeting capped our outreach programs to the Cleveland Children's Museum, the Ohio Sierra Club, Bowling Green State University, and Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm in Dayton, where Teresa led a workshop in "Citizen Action for River Conservation."

THE VOYAGEURS' HIGHWAY

ONTARIO II: The high point of the summer was the dedication of the Mattawa River as a Canadian Heritage River. Lynn led the singing in the voyageurs' canoe as it paddled upriver to the ceremony platform, where she and Alain opened the dedication ceremonies with "O Canada." Time telescoped at the Voyageur Heritage Center, where the exhibit was displayed: our characters "Lisette" and "Pierre" took on a life of their own as we voyageurs led the audience in songs and stories of the fur trade. An overnight paddle on the Mattawa was a magical chance to follow in Mackenzie's footsteps and attune to the power of the river at an Indian ocher mine in Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park.
WISCONSIN: After a concert and workshop at the Sault Sainte Marie Heritage Locks, we followed the Michigan lakeshore southward to Green Bay. Bay Beach Nature Center staged a whirlwind of activities for us: thirteen programs, two TV spots, and an all-day "Super Saturday" at their outstanding facility. At the other end of the Fox/Wisconsin Waterway in Prairie du Chien, the State Historical Society of Wisconsin's Villa Louis hosted two performances of C'EST L'AVIRON, and displayed the exhibit and our own Great Lakes map collection at the Villa's Fur Trade Museum. Our final trip "upriver" was a symbolic paddle down Marquette's route. After tracking the explorer across the continent, we paddled down his beloved Wisconsin River, and in his words, "entered the Mississippi with a joy I cannot express."

CLOSING THE CIRCLE

Officially, C'EST L'AVIRON at Minnesota's St. Croix State Park was the final program of the summer. But demand continued, and the return journey included a special presentation to the National River Preservation Conference in Columbus, Ohio. After a week at the University of Wisconsin Center-Richland, the exhibit made its eleventh and final display here, and was then returned to Ottawa with thanks to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System. The circle widens this fall with CROSSCURRENTS programs in Massachusetts schools and a special invitation to join Trent Unversity's annual Canadian Studies Retreat at Wanapitei Wilderness Canoe Centre in Temagami, ONT.

GOING UPRIVER: An interpretive tour to celebrate North America's freshwater heritage, Gulf of St. Lawrence to Great Lakes, Summer 1988

UPRIVER. The word evokes mystery, challenge, the lure of the unknown. Upriver swims the salmon each year to spawn. Upriver sought the Indians for the Father of Waters. Upriver came the first Europeans into the heart of an "unknown" continent, to find swift white currents and Champlain's "sweetest seas," the vast Great Lakes. Upriver strove the voyageur, the shantyboy, the paddlewheeler and the iron freighter. Upriver today lies most of our fresh water, and much of our foul.
The rivers of North America tell the story of our beginnings. Their song is the song of our future. GOING UPRIVER traces history's journey up the great St. Lawrence river from Gulf to Great Lakes, listening to the voice of the river in the stories and songs of its people.

In the summer of 1988, a special interpretive tour spanned the Great Lakes/Saint Lawrence with an exhibit and program series on North America's freshwater heritage. QLF/Atlantic Center was proud to sponsor GOING UPRIVER as a centerpiece of its rivers initiative.


"What a magic way you have of creating a wonderful feeling about the rivers! Your program is a refreshing way to convey to people the specialness of these waters." Ohio

I: FROM GULF TO GREAT LAKES

The Saint Lawrence Seaway stretches across half a continent from eastern Quebec to Minnesota. This vast waterway defines the world's longest freshwater boundary, between two nations that control 20% of the world's fresh water: the Great Lakes. QLF/Atlantic Center envisioned the GOING UPRIVER tour as a celebration of our boundary waters, and as a literal and metaphorical journey into the heart of the continent.

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

Our goal was to promote awareness and stewardship of North America's freshwater heritage. Two events catalyzed this project: the twentieth anniversary of the U.S. Wild and Scenic Rivers Program, and the development of a magnificent photographic display by the Canadian Heritage Rivers System. The CROSSCURRENTS concert series (see page 2), and a freshwater ecology program, WATERWATCH, complemented the CHRS exhibit. Support for the project was provided by The George Gund and William H. Donner foundations, the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, the U.S. National Park Service, and program sites. 

Our objectives were fourfold:
  1. to educate U.S./Canadian audiences to an appreciation of our common history, geography and water resources;
  2. to place current river conservation initiatives in their regional and historical context;
  3. to collect, present and preserve river-related music and folklore as regional cultural artifacts;
  4. to encourage citizen involvement in river heritage conservation.

ST. CROIX TO ST. CROIX: TRANSBOUNDARY COOPERATION FOR RIVERS MANAGEMENT

Our two chosen endpoints symbolized the transboundary nature of the tour. One St. Croix River forms the boundary between Maine and New Brunswick; jointly managed by both state and province, its nominated status as a Canadian Heritage River reflects its outstanding natural, cultural and recreational value. To the west, the other St. Croix was among the first designated U.S. Wild and Scenic Rivers, and it too is jointly managed (by Wisconsin and Minnesota) to preserve its outstanding character. Both rivers were central arteries for early exploration, and their common name bears witness to a common history whose symbol became the symbol of the tour: the voyageur.

Our journey had its epic qualities, much like the early days of the fur trade when the heavy-laden canoes left Montreal each spring. Summer staff Alain Meunier and Teresa Garen joined me in May to travel from New Brunswick to Minnesota in eighteen weeks, crossing the U.S./Canadian border six times, to present a total of 77 public programs and eleven exhibit displays. The 26 program sites included museums, nature centers, retail arcades, schools and libraries, and national and provincial parks. Our tour was made possible by the welcoming support of our site hosts and the warm response of over 5000 audience members.

STAFF

LYNN NOEL is a geographer, musician and environmental educator from Madison, WI. Born in Boston, she received her B.A. from Dartmouth College and her M.S. in Geography from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She appears on two albums by Revels, Inc. and on two solo cassettes, CROSSCURRENTS and GOING UPRIVER, both available from QLF/Atlantic Center. She continues to pursue her special interests in landscape imagery, conservation policy and women and wilderness.

TERESA GAREN hails from Defiance, Ohio. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Science and Biology from Bowling Green State University, Ohio, with a major in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana Student Exchange Program. As of this writing, Teresa is headed to Costa Rica with the Peace Corps.

ALAIN MEUNIER received his B.A. in Native Studies from Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. A bilingual Quebeçois, he has a special interest in Community and Human Resources Development. Alain is now working at a youth drop-in center in Montreal and preparing for a trip to South America in December.

Thursday, August 25, 1988

REFLECTIONS: GREAT RIVER (Mississippi)

Friday, 25 August, 7:30 am Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin


The Great River is quiet today, green and blue against a flat sky. Why are summer rivers this flat, pure green and blue? In late summer, colors are distilled to pure tones before they bleed into the blended browns and bronzes of autumn. Russet, copper, gold: fall colors are shiny, metallic. The water then is cold and silver as the aluminum hull of a canoe. But today, while the summer sun slants low behind me, the water glides flat blue, leaf-green.

Just across the river there is Pike's Peak, Iowa: the bluff that overlooks the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. Last night Michael Douglass, Villa Louis Director, took us up there for an Adventure: the Great River by moonlight. In the dark I was disoriented at first. But the lights of Prairie du Chien across the water sorted me out, and I began to see.

The bluff is dim and silver in the moonlight, and below us the Great River pours away like a stream of time. Behind the black bulk of Wyalusing, the full moon pours its river of silver over the vast landscape. Time unrolls itself like a map, and I can feel the silver ribbons of rivers stretching into history. Whither away, o voyageurs?

To Itasca? Turn northward, upstream, where Zebulon Pike sought the source of the Mississippi in a clear spring. If a source is that stem of a a river that rises highest and farthest from its mouth, then, says John Madsen, the Missouri holds that title for the Mississippi, and this river below us is some other river entirely. But to find Itasca (from the Latin for "it is the head"), turn right from the mouth of the Wisconsin, then left below the falls of St. Croix past Fort Snelling, until you come to the place where the glaciers flung ten thousand lakes across the Minnesota muskeg like handfuls of silver coins. There you will find Itasca, one headwater among many.

To Québec? Turn back east up the Wisconsin, up Derleth's "River of a Thousand Isles," and trace the long homeward journey across the portage to the Fox, and down through Lake Winnebago to Green Bay. Paddle cautiously through "Death's Door" at the tip of the Door County peninsula, and steady your heavy load for the icy autumn waters of the Lakes. It's two months from here to Montreal, so touch your cap to the cliffs where Marquette lies in the Straits of Mackinaw, and call on your God to carry you through the North Channel of Georgian Bay past that greatest island, Manitoulin, Spirit Place. Bend to your paddle to climb the French River; breathe for a moment in the wind-whipped waters of Lake Nipissing; then hoist your heavy furs to the Mattawa's many portages. Bring out the high wine on Explorer's Point, for tomorrow you will turn right, down the Ottawa, and next week you will dance with your sweetheart in the taverns of Trois Rivières.

To St. Louis? Turn left from the Wisconsin's mouth, if you are Marquette, seeking your beloved Kaskaskia far to the south. For winter is coming on soon, and you are an ill man. Joliet knows this, as he knows the hostile tribes ahead who will care little for the trade goods you carry. They know only that you are one of the hated black robes, bearers of disease and supplanters of faith. But you will reach your cherished village this last time. Kaskaskia, downriver. Of all the missions you have founded, this one lies closest to your heart. From your sandbar at the Wisconsin's mouth, Father, the way lies clear. The Great River is your lifeline.

Michael's voice is suddenly quiet in the wide silence. "What was he thinking, Marquette?" We laugh quietly, and recite, all three together: "Today we entered the Mississippi with a joy I cannot express." Alain knows that line by heart, by now. All summer I have been retelling the story of how I tried to recreate that magic moment.

It was August, a year ago, and I strained to see the Mississippi for the first time, from a canoe. The massive bluffs drew closer, closer....crunch! Did Marquette hit this sandbar too? We piled out of the canoe into boot-high quicksand: "too thick to drink, too thin to plow." Tugging and hauling our aluminum canoe, we walked into the Mississippi.
Yet the moment was magic. The Iowa bluffs loomed massive, reminders of that great glacial Mississippi that once drained a continent in a roaring, churning yellow flood. Once these waters ran as yellow as the sandstone scarps where eagles perch. We idled a moment in the sandy slough, soaking it all in, then thrust the bow cautiously into the current of the Great River.

So too must Marquette have let the current take him. "Here we leave the waters that flow toward Quebec, to follow those that will lead us into strange lands." As I stand on this moonlit bluff, the current of history tugs me with living force. This silver ribbon below me flows timelessly toward the sea, gathering each of our lives to it as smoothly as a stream running over bare rock. Time spreads itself like a map, etched with the silver tracings of the rivers that bind the land into a living network.

So too is the land bound up in the lives of the paddlers. The Great River is our history, our future, and our eternal present. Here, in a silver ribbon of moonlight, I can reach far upriver into the foothills of time to where the campfires still glow with the warmth of song and story, a living human heart in the dark forest where the river begins.
Time unrolls itself like a map, and I can feel the silver ribbons of rivers stretching into history.

Friday, August 05, 1988

REFLECTIONS: Mattawa dedication ceremonies as a Canadian Heritage River

Friday, August 5, 1988, Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, Ontario



Friday morning dawned cooler than we'd had in a while, and overcast. Good, said the voyageurs in their wool caps and sashes. Good, said John le Bourgeois as he donned his ruffled, stiff shirt, wool trousers and satin waistcoat. Good, said I in my tight bodice and layers of petticoats. "Come on," said Jean-Guy, Assistant Super, our avant (bowsman), a.k.a. "Papa Smurf" in his floppy cap. "Come on, Bourgeois, put on your coat and hat!" John, whose on-the-job garb for the last five days has been Hawaiian shorts and a tank top, just laughs. There's plenty of time.

It was a controlled flurry as the park trucks roared down to the staging area, a hurry-up-and-wait as the men hoisted the wickedly heavy canoe down the steep hill to the river and we debated taking a practice run. "There's time," said Louis. "But they're early," says Henri. "Do we really need to practice?" says Ti-Jean. "Aw, come on," says Etienne, our stout-hearted Jeff who began dubbing us all with French names this morning. His face is wreathed in a glowing grin at the prospect of recreating the life of his hero, Etienne Brulé, who at sixteen was only three years younger than Jeff when he made "the most famous left turn in history" up the Mattawa in 1610.

"So, come on, Etienne, let's practice," I say. "Are you going to drop me like Madame on La Vase Portage?" The scenario calls for the milieux, Jeff and Ky, to carry me out of the canoe to the ceremony platform, where I am to gather all the children together and lead them and the multitudes in the national anthem. I have mixed feelings about this plan. My feminist independence and long canoeing experience battle with my respect for historical accuracy and desire not to look foolish struggling out of a deep canoe in long skirts. There will be cameras, after all. So, they make a chair of their forearms and I sit, bustle-first, into it and swing my moccasins over the gunwale. After a few tries, we can pull it off reasonably gracefully. 

We settle onto the narrow seats to laugh about that earlier Madame, who like all the other early travelers had to cross the famous La Vase Portage further up the Mattawa. La Vase often translates as "mud," but Alain has informed us that it is no ordinary mud, but "slime," "ooze," sludge," and other malodorous liquids. The usual way to carry the bourgeois (and their wives) was "pickaback," but this portly dame thought it undignified and insisted on the more modest (and awkward) chair carry. Her weight proved too much for their forearms (or their patience) and suddenly --"oops! Sorry, Madame!" -- they dropped her in La Vase. History does not record her comments as she struggled, half-carried, half-stumbling, through the remaining two miles of waist-deep slime.

But Jeff and Ky have strong forearms and cheerful patience, and the bank is dry. Cautiously, we paddle out into the current for a practice run, trying unsuccessfully to conceal ourselves from the waiting twentieth-century crowd upstream. A green heron glides past the green bank, and a fish breaks the swirling surface with a gentle smack. Time glides backward like a river, and it is 1815, when the voyageurs' paddles swirled the pools of the Mattawa as smoothly as a song. This canoe rides high and empty of the weight of furs, but the sudden breeze smells as sharp and spicy-sweet as the spruce of the pays d'en haut. Upriver the paddles pull, upstream toward that earlier time. "C'est l'aviron qui nous mène, qui nous mène, c'est l'aviron qui nous mène en haut."

Suddenly the radio crackles from the truck on the bank, and we dive for cover. The ministers are coming, they are closer, they are here…GO! Paddles swirl and heads duck as we back out past the deadfalls, and the old song rings across the water to the rhythm of the paddles. "C'est l'aviron qui nous mène, qui nous mène, c'est l'aviron qui nous mène en haut." Doug, the gouvernail (sternsman), leans to his paddle in solemn joy, his years at Old Fort William carved into the contours of his bearded woodsman's face. Will from the District Office grins as devilishly as if he were paddling the chasse-galerie, the flying canoe that made a Devil's bargain with lonely voyageurs to transport them back to the bright lights of Old Québec from the bleak midwinter wilderness. Our barefoot milieux are doubled over in unholy glee; Jeff and Ky paddle as if their careers depended on it. Perhaps they do. 

Six-foot John is a study in pansy dignity as he drapes his lacy wrists self-consciously over his woolen knees. His discomfort reminds us why the most valued voyageurs were short, stocky men; his lanky frame is folded onto his narrow perch as ungainly as a great blue heron. Beside him, I trail a finger in the swirling water and chuckle inwardly. They were right. Jean-Guy does look like Papa Smurf.

Sweat is trickling down my bodice and my voice seems no longer my own as it bends the men to their paddles. Our chant rings across the water to the waiting crowd, seemingly composed entirely of cameras. "C'est l'aviron qui nous mène, qui nous mène, c'est l'aviron qui nous mène en haut." As our only French-Canadian, Jean-Guy calls the salute from the bow. "Preparez le sal-UUUUT!" You can hear them count the strokes. One, two, three…UP! go the paddles in a gesture at once strange and familiar, ragged and ancient as the singing. It's the paddle, it's the paddle, that leads upstream. And it's the paddle that turns us now, as the gouvernail steers us away from the low August rapids and straight across to the waiting bank.

"C'est l'aviron qui nous mène, qui nous mène, c'est l'aviron…" CRUNCH! Damn! Did the real voyageurs ever run aground during a salute? This is what comes of not practicing. But Jeff and Ky leap out as nimbly as fish, and, still singing, we are dragged into the shallows. No whoops and hollers from this crew, no jovial cursing and badinage -- pinned like moths under the clicking cameras, the men concentrate on the embarrassing task of getting everyone out of the canoe. There are some moments of awkward silence --perhaps English would spoil the realism -- and then Ky lurches and almost dangles John's long legs in the water. "Hey! Watch it!" and we all relax into honest laughter. It's my turn next. We manage it together, Jeff and Ky and I, and deposit me, dry-moccasined, on the bank where the cameras close in. The canoe is dragged up on the bank and the brigade (that's us!) stands at attention. John stiffly offers me his arm and we take our place in the proud, stiff line. Smile, everybody.

For a moment the dissonance is audible, the thin whine of anachronism as grating as unmeshed gears. Then the clicking of cameras takes over, and on one level we are actors at a media event, a short, frozen moment of plaques and politicians and speeches as stiff as a photograph. But behind our backs the river swirls, and in the silence beneath the words I can catch some of its music. It sings to me in its ceaseless motion, sings of fish and green herons and paddles and the smooth, uninterrupted movement of fluid life. Time flows, broken and jagged as the rapids of events and deeply and smoothly as our deep pools of habit and custom and tradition. Time sings, as fluidly as the river, as rhythmically as a paddling song. "C'est l'aviron qui nous mène, qui nous mène, c'est l'aviron qui nous mène en haut." Time runs like water, slows, pools into silence. The river remembers.

The river remembers, if not these words, at least the language with which I have chosen to begin the national anthem. "O Canada, terre de nos aïeux, ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux." And here are those ancestors, this proud canoe brigade wreathed not in glorious flowers, but in sweat and bright woolen caps. Their ancestors sweated and cursed and portaged over this trail where we stand, to safeguard the precious, fragile birchbark canoes from the teeth of those August rapids. They camped and drank and raised hell around campfires whose ashes could lie beneath my feet; I curl my toes in their manufactured Wisconsin moccasins against the boards of the ceremony platform as if I could feel the heat from below. They made the ocher cliffs of the Mattawa ring with their haunting, lusty, rhythmic songs of courtly love ("M'en revenant de la jolie Rochelle/j'ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles") and poignant loss ("j'ai perdu ma maîtresse/sans l'avoir merité/Pour un bouquet de roses/que je lui refusé").

Where are their descendants today? This rich culture is so totally erased from my own United States that I grew to adulthood knowing nothing of New France and the blended, dissonant, struggling culture of French, native and English that dominated the Great Lakes for most of recorded history. How can I, an American, pay tribute to a country that has adopted two national languages? By recognizing that plurality and striving toward bilingualism -- or modest fluency -- myself. By preparing, and leading the children in, the singing of an O Canada that celebrates the French roots that twine as deeply in my own country's heritage as theirs. And by delving more deeply into unwritten native history, that may come to change my ideas of how we use history.

The river remembers. My wish for the children, on this day of recognition for the Mattawa, is that they will bring their children here to find the river unchanged. I would wish that they too will hear the river's song, and find the fluid magic of time in the heron and the fish and the paddle. May they too paddle upriver to touch the past as a reminder of where they have been, as the current carries them into a future that will always include the serene flight of the green heron on the green bank.

PHOTOS

LEFT:"Lisette Duval" (Lynn Noel) and her "cousin Pierre" (Alain Meunier) trade tunes of old Québec at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin's Villa Louis. PHOTO: John Kraniak
LEFT: Audience "voyageurs" celebrate their return to old Québec with a chanson à boire at Minnesota's Wild River State Park. PHOTO: Jeanne Danielsss
RIGHT: "Shoot the duck!"cries Pierre's faithful chien Fido (a.k.a. Ken White, Villa Louis' site manager) in a reenactment of a voyageur's tall tale. Audience participation is a key element of CROSSCURRENTS programs.
PHOTO: John Kraniak

Saturday, July 16, 1988

REFLECTIONS: Saint-Marie Among the Hurons

July 16, 1988 7:30 pm, Penetanguishene, ONT


Walk through the gate at Sainte-Marie-Among-the-Hurons and you enter New France. You enter the year 1639, within the dream of the Jesuits and fur traders who struggled in this strange land to recreate their home at this mission. Nowhere did I feel the power of vision more strongly than at Sainte-Marie: that vision that fueled the European drive to conquer inhumanly difficult conditions and spiritual isolation. But it was in the longhouse at the native compound that vision held me frozen in its smoke.

The longhouses are huge Quonset huts of bark and branches, cunningly woven into interlocking arches. A sleeping shelf runs the length of each side. Sunlight pours through the smokehole in the ceiling, shafting through the white smoke that fills the house with the pungent magic of the spirit world. The wealth of the land hangs from the poles: pelts, tobacco, corn, herbs, all parched and permeated with the power of the smoke. A woman in buckskin tends the fire, her round moon face as tanned as tobacco. She belongs to this world; she has inherited this longhouse and its contents as surely as she owns her corn-copper skin and coal-black hair. Suddenly, a young man rushes in, staggering under the weight of the broken girl he carries in his arms.

She burns, he says, your daughter burns hot as the fire with the evil sickness. You must call the medicine man to cure her with his herbs.

But hot on his heels follows the priest, his black robe flapping over his spare body in scarecrow contrast to the bronze, muscled torso of the young warrior. Your daughter will soon depart to the spirit world, he says, and if you do not let me baptize her she will burn forever in the flames of hell.

No! cries the young man. It is the black robes that have brought us these diseases, as they seek to poison our hearts and deny us our traditions. What have they brought us except evil?

But you are a Christian, the priest urges the woman, you have looked into your heart and know that in Christ is your only salvation. How can you deny this peace to your daughter?
How can you deny the teachings of your people? says the young man.

The woman stands frozen in the smoke, frozen in the choice between two cultures. It is the choice that comes to every native people in contact with Europeans, a choice that is as starkly, poignantly bitter today as it was three centuries ago. It is not simply the exchange of one material world for another, but a choice between two spirit worlds: the world of the chapel with its bare scrubbed boards, its incense and embroidered icons, and the world of the longhouse, the pelts, the tobacco, the herbs and the smoke.

The scene ends unresolved. In the applause that breaks the spell I hear the crashing of centuries and the repercussions of her unmade choice. Was it ever a choice freely made? Could it ever have been a wise choice? Could there have been a way to blend the two worlds, to find common ground between the incense and the smoke? Under that fervent applause I hear the white, European audience asking, "what have we lost?"

Then the years dissolve, the audience disperses, and a young woman in machine-stitched buckskin sweeps ashes from the dirt floor of an empty longhouse. She is a student at an Ontario university, an Ojibwa who finds this an interesting way to learn about her heritage through a summer job. As I turn to leave, the late afternoon sunlight slants through the smokehole, catching that serene moon face in an ancient smile. She bends over the fire for an instant caught out of time, frozen in the smoke.

Sunlight pours through the smokehole in the ceiling, shafting through the white smoke that fills the house with the pungent magic of the spirit world. The wealth of the land hangs from the poles: pelts, tobacco, corn, herbs, all parched and permeated with the power of the smoke.

TOP: Cleveland kids learn to make a pet "frog" with fingerplay songs about water critters at the Cleveland Children's Museum.
PHOTO: Museum staff
CENTER: Historical maps and folksongs tell the story of westward migration to Ohio Valley lands like the Aullwood Farm, now Aullwood Audubon Center , in Dayton.
PHOTO: Lynn Noel
BOTTOM: GOING UPRIVER staff Teresa Garen and Alain Meunier interpret the Canadian Heritage Rivers exhibit to visitors at the Old Arcade, Cleveland, OH.
PHOTO: Lynn Noel
RIGHT: Voyageurs-in-training practice with miniature paddles courtesy of the Charles River (Massachusetts) Watershed Association. PHOTO: Jeff Andersenn
CENTER: Most voyageurs routinely carried two pièces, or packs, of 90 lbs. (40 kg). Only the legendary attempted three! Fortunately for Will Kershaw (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources), these are lighter demonstration pièces. PHOTO: Teresa Garen
LEFT: Vince Kerrio, Ontario Minister of the Environment, opened the dedication ceremonies for the Mattawa River by unveiling this official plaque commemorating the Voyageur's Highway.
PHOTO: Teresa Garen