Thursday, June 30, 1988

UPRIVER REFLECTIONS: Jacques Cartier Provincial Park

Tuesday, June 30, 1988 6:00 p.m.

I'm ensconced in the gamekeeper's lodge at Jacques Cartier Provincial Park, deep in the heart of Québec just north of Québec City. Past both windows runs the Jacques Cartier River, swollen from the last week's rain. Around the bend upstream, I know, unfolds a glacier's causeway of sinuous valley, guarded by slate-blue cliffs with their secret hoods of mist. This secretive valley leads your mind's eye upriver into the boreal forest, wild rapids and lake-studded plateaux of the Canadian Shield. Heritage River indeed! The Jacques Cartier is what it's all about.

Yesterday we canoed this nominated Heritage River with Dénis Tremblay, Chief of Visitor Services. Oh, la belle rivière! Glossy in the brilliant sunshine after three days of rain, she was glorious, brimful, the ride of the summer. It was my first real taste of the voyageur's life this summer -- the reason I'm here singing about rivers. This is why they left their Québec farms and shipped out with La Compagnie: to run rivers like the Jacques Cartier. To ride a red canoe down the gullet of a blue gorge with your eyes filled with sunshine and spray, ears filled with thundering rapids and still pools of birdsong, lungs filled with fresh pine, fresh wind, fresh water. To feel the river lift you, toss you up and over each bright wave; to feel the paddle hard in your wet hand, the only thing keeping you (AAAUGH!) from that rock straining up through the beer-brown foam of the river.

"A gauche! A gauche! Pad-del toute straight! NOW!" yells Dénis fluently, and fluently we're through it and tingling into the runout, shaking water from our eyes and hollering "Yee-HAH!" in any language. Now that can make you understand the voyageurs.

LEFT: Looking upriver into the fault-block valley of Jacques Cartier Provincial Park, surrounded by the Laurentides Wildlife Reserve.
PHOTO: Lynn Noel
RIGHT: Alain Meunier and Teresa Garen examine the specially designed "passe migratoire" that allows returning salmon to bypass the warm, still waters above the Domtar hydroelectric dam at Donnacona, PQ, to reach higher oxygen and lower temperatures upriver on the Jacques Cartier. PHOTO: Lynn Noel

At Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Alain Meunier (right) and Teresa Garen (bottom right) help "rainmakers" experiment with a watershed demonstration from the WaterWatchers education kit, loaned by the Massachusetts Water Resources Council in co-operation with the Boston Museum of Science.

Wednesday, June 01, 1988

GOING UPRIVER: EE Essay by Alain Meunier


personal comments by Alain Meunier

GOING UPRIVER provided insights on the role of outside educators coming into communities for brief stays. What can the role of these outsiders be in the local context? This essay outlines some of our experiences with GOING UPRIVER.

Over the course of the summer, we identified several issues of local and regional interest: drought, heatwave, acid rain; decline in salmon population; sea lamprey and bird migrations; water diversions, water levels, shoreline erosion; water quality, ground water pollution, "beaver fever" (or schistosomiasis), and water treatment. We also identified several ongoing themes or areas of experimentation within our program: the relationship between local and regional environmental institutions; program content and program format; legitimizing the local view and insiders' work; high profile vs. low profile programs; promotion of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System within QLF/Atlantic Center's philosophy and guidelines; and the relationships between cultural and natural history. However, most of our learning focused on the philosophical issues of environmental education and awareness.

There are, of course, many different definitions of environmental education and awareness. I would like to highlight a nuance between these two themes. The word "education" usually evokes a teacher-student relationship: a person who has knowledge teaching someone who does not have it. In contrast, environmental awareness does not necessarily involve a knowledge transfer but rather focuses on something that we may know already but which is outside of our attention. The relationship is one of facilitator and participant. The dimension of "knowing" and "not knowing" refocuses on perceptions and sensitivity, with a greater involvement in the learning process. The choice of method along the education-awareness learning spectrum will depend on the participants involved as well as the content of the learning.

In the context of this summer, we have dealt with both ends of the spectrum. Let me share with you one brief situation. At the beginning of the summer, in New Brunswick, a Park employee working at the gate of a provincial campground came to chat with us about what we were doing around here. Since we were at the campground for a week, without fees to pay, we were certainly a curious bunch to him."Environmental education," we said. "We teach people about the environment." Well, that didn't go over easy. He started firing questions at us, such as "how many tributaries are there in the Saint John River?" to teach us a lesson. He had been living in the area for a long time, and felt that he didn't need to be taught by some young kids who knew practically nothing about the area. This very antagonistic relationship was not appropriate for learning about our environment. The teacher-student relationship was not appropriate for the park worker and certainly not for us either.

In some situations, if the learning contract is very clear (when people know what to expect of the program), adults can function positively in a teacher-student relationship. In her program, Lynn introduces many ideas and historical data, but songs and stories make the process lighter and the teaching relationship practically without tension. Songs like "Topophilia" focus more on awareness and sharing than on actual historical data. The
public generally reacts very well to this song for this reason. Our work with children also employed the teacher-student relationship with an awareness theme. Using games as a pedagogical method is fun for children, so they do not associate programs with school.
There are serious limitations in using an awareness-based approach to learning. As a group coming from the outside linking up with a local organization, GOING UPRIVER must offer a specific service for which locals (insiders) see a need. Awareness can be rather vague in its presentation and may well be harder to "sell." (see note)

"Outsiders" and "Insiders" dynamics are central to our work this summer. We are on a regional tour, and it is important to bring a message which is relevant to the local community we are visiting. At the same time we are not from the area and we do not have the local knowledge required to make presentations on local issues. Our very brief time in communities did not allow us to research local themes in depth. However, regional themes are more appropriate to the work we are doing, as such themes are managable for outsiders to research. Local groups may also need to know what is going on at a more regional level. Fostering this awareness, rather than "educating" on specific local issues, was the purpose of GOING UPRIVER.

(Editor's note: Awareness-focused programs also often beg the question of how to address specific environmental issues. Extensive research in environmental education has exploded the myth that increased aware-ness leads necessarily to changes in behaviour. Research does, however, support the role of awareness programs as a positive first step.)
Evaluation of education programs is a challenging task: "results" are long-term, qualitative, and intangible. GOING UPRIVER compounds this task with the need to evaluate three distinct nonformal education programs (CROSSCURRENTS, WATERWATCH, and the CHRS exhibit) within the context of an international tour. We developed a two-tier system for gathering response data from audiences and sites (external methods) and recording our own activities and responses (internal methods).

GOING UPRIVER: About the CROSSCURRENTS concert series

"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:
  • 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
  • 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 latter was the first in the 1988 series, exploring eras in Great Lakes/St. Lawrence resource use and transportation: from the fur trade to lumbering (PINERY BOYS), canalling and westward homesteading (E-RIE TO O-HI-O), and the age of "steam and steel" in Great Lakes shipping (SWEET SEAS). The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently honored the original 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.

On Fiction and Folklore

"When you become as accomplished a liar as I am, then you become troubled by inaccuracies in your lies. Because, you see,the reason that you tell lies about a wonderful place, is that you believe that if you get every detail right, absolutely right, and every character in that story has as many hairs on his or her head as she's supposed to have, or him -- that if you get it absolutely perfect, then you will be lifted up out of this life and you will be set down in that wonderful place that you told lies about, and all your lies become true. Now you see, what you don't realize, many of you, is that not only is Lake Wobegon made up -- but Minnesota is made up too."

-- Garrison Keillor, "Fiction," in News from Lake Wobegon, Minnesota Public Radio

The "concrete dimensions of the land" are the essential physical touchstone for the human landscape. It is the stories we tell, and the songs we sing, that tell us what that landscape means, what it "precipitates." It lies within our power to create the Great Lakes -- in landscapes of vision, and in real places with clean water and fresh air and free-running rivers. What a tragedy it would be if someday, the touchstone had vanished, and only way we could reach that place was to lie about it.

GOING UPRIVER: Interpretive Programs

GOING UPRIVER consisted of three main interpretive components: the CHRS exhibit, the CROSSCURRENTS concert series, and the freshwater ecology program WATERWATCH, as well as two training workshops. This chapter describes each component, and also includes an essay on the role of "outsiders" in environmental education.


"5O Canada! Where pines and maples grow,
Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow...

Canada is a land of rivers. Ice-blue streams sculpt the highlands of Newfoundland and Cape Breton. Rushing cataracts thunder over the Niagara escarpment. Silver ribbons thread the forests with the traces of voyageurs. Broad fertile valleys nurture wheatfields and prairie flowers. Mighty torrents carve the Yukon tundra into highways for goldseekers and salmon. Rivers run deep in our consciousness, and we harness them to light our houses and run our factories.

We have channelled, controlled, diverted and developed many of North America's rivers, often without full thought to the consequences. In recent years, both Canadians and Americans have begun to realize that this priceless natural and cultural heritage can be permanently lost.

The Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS) is a co-operative program of the Government of Canada and, to date, eight provinces -- Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan -- and the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The objectives of the CHRS are to give national recognition to the important rivers of Canada and to ensure long-term management that will conserve their natural, historical and recreational values for the enjoyment of Canadians now and in the future.

The main activities of the CHRS are the nomination and designation of Heritage Rivers, provision of funding and technical assistance with systems (provincial-level), and background (individual river) studies and management plans, and public information. This last is accomplished primarily through a touring exhibit which made its début at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta.

This exhibit, which provided the focus for the 1988 GOING UPRIVER tour, is a series of silver and blue fiberglass panels (7' high x 10' deep x 20' wide) displaying full-color enlarged photographs (up to 24" x 36") of Canadian Heritage Rivers, the award-winners from a recent national river photography contest. A video unit offers an 8-minute continuous loop of CHRS public service announcements, featuring some spectacular footage of Bill Mason, the Nahanni River Gorge, whitewater kayaking and wild birds in flight. The display is complete with a map stand and visitors' book; a freestanding prism-shaped kiosk with top-mounted track lighting; and a freestanding literature rack holding CHRS brochures, pamphlets, fact sheets, and a Frances Ann Hopkins poster of the voyageurs, the CHRS symbol. GOING UPRIVER distributed 5000 of these posters along with other informational materials en route.

For further description of the exhibit tour, please see VISITOR RESPONSE on page 24...
We received 816 signatures in the visitors' book, approximately 16% of our estimated visitation. Signatures are not an accurate measure of visitation; our totals were obtained by averaging hourly counts and from total visitation estimated by our site hosts. Signatures do suggest, however, that the exhibit reached both local and international audiences.


Costa Rica
El Salvador
France (11)
Germany (4)
New Brunswick 89 (11%)*
Quebec 117 (14%)
Ontario 142 (17%)
Ohio 87 (10%)
Wisconsin 181 (22%)
Other U.S. 90 (11%)
Other Canada 34 (4%)
International (19 countries) 40 (5%)
Unidentified 36 (4%)
* = % of total signatures


"The singing wilderness has to do with the calling of the loons, northern lights, and the great silences of a land lying northwest of Lake Superior. It is concerned with the simple joys, the timelessness and perspective found in a way of life that is close to the past. I have heard the singing in many places, but I seem to hear it best in the wilderness lake country of the Quetico-Superior, where travel is still by pack and canoe over the ancient trails of the Indians and voyageurs."

-- Sigurd Olson, The Singing Wilderness

GOING UPRIVER was an exercise in double vision: a search for the soul of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence, if you will. Within the industrial voice of the heartland, there are still undertones of the singing wilderness along the "Voyageur's Highway" that leads up the St. Lawrence toward the NorthWest Territory. These special places, many of them national or state/provincial parks and wild rivers, had the power to crystallize the spirit of place in moments of reflection. The search for the singing wilderness, for the moment of alchemy that turns the land into a landscape of meaning, is an inner as well as an outer journey.
"Even the search," said Olson, "is rewarding, for somehow in the process we tap the deep wells of racial experience that gives us a feeling of being part of an existence where life was simple and satisfactions were real." 

In celebration of the inner journey, I offer several selections from personal journals (my own unless otherwise noted) and from field reports that captured the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence for us. We became voyageurs in time, this summer, and in the timeless music of the river we were privileged to tap the deep wells of the region's heritage. These REFLECTIONS are the river's gift: voices from the singing wilderness, offered here as a reminder of the common face of our humanity reflected in still water.