Saturday, March 21, 2015

Walking In Her Moccasins

Any modern canoeist longs for the era of the voyageurs. The landscape itself evokes them. When the mist rises on Saganaga Lake, you can almost see the stern of the great canoes vanishing ahead of you in the fog. In the silent dip of the paddle, there is an echo of the rhythm of a song long vanished, yet recognizable as a heartbeat. In the call of wolf and loon, you know you can hear the voyageurs singing.
We all talk to the past. Women who value the voyageur mystique have a particular and dual challenge in seeking to reenact it. Modern, culturally European "woodswomen" identify with both halves of the fur trade split: we are white like the men and women like the natives. When we succeed in achieving this dual vision, it pops the fur trade into stereo.
The story of Daniel and Lisette Harmon has a unique ability to fuse the dualities that have been used for so long to define not only the fur trade era, but North American history itself. Strong, adventurous women long to put ourselves in the picture, to feel personally connected to a history in which we have long been taught we are invisible-or identified as male. When both men and women can identify with both Lewis and Clark and with Sacajawea, with both Lisette and Daniel Harmon, we will have gained new dimensions to the history of our continent and our place upon it.
We choose living history as a means to walk a mile in another's moccasins. I began Lisette's journey in 1988 with a passion for paddling and singing, those twin loves of the voyageur. Lisette has since given me a second language, a second country, three national awards, a major book and a CD, a passport to the past, insight into those not of my race or gender, and an enduring fascination with our great continent and its history of adventurous women. Lisette Duval has become my hero, and I am proud to walk in her moccasins.

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