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Grace Lee Nute

Publication Year: 1987

The Voyageur is the authoritative account of a unique and colorful group of men whose exploits, songs, and customs comprise an enduring legacy. French Canadians who guided and paddled the canoes of explorers and fur traders, the voyageurs were experts at traversing the treacherous rapids and dangerous open waters of the canoe routes from Quebec and Montreal to the regions bordering the Great Lakes and on to the Mackenzie and Columbia Rivers. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, explorers and fur traders relied on the voyageurs to open up the vast reaches of North America to settlement and trade.

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

It is time to write the story of the voyageur. His canoe has long since vanished from the northern waters; his red cap is seen no more, a bright spot against the blue of Lake Superior; his sprightly French conversation, punctuated with inimitable gesture, his exaggerated courtesy, ...


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-10

The term voyageur, a French word meaning "traveler," was applied originally in Canadian history to all explorers, fur-traders, and travelers. It came in time to be restricted to the men who operated the canoes and batteaux of fur-traders, and who, if serving at all as traders, labored as subordinates to a clerk or proprietor. ...

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pp. 11-33

My man dressed himself in the habit of a voyageur, that is, a short shirt, a red woolen cap, a pair of deer skin leggins which reach from the ancles a little above the knees, and are held up by a string secured to a belt about the waist, the azion ["breech cloth"] of the Indians, and a pair of deer skin moccasins without stockings on the ...

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pp. 21-32

Without the birch-bark canoe the history of inland North America would have been altogether different from that which is on record. Dugouts, batteaux, rafts, and other clumsy craft could have replaced the canoe in many instances and on may waterways; but dugouts cannot be carried easily on men's shoulders over the ...

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pp. 33-74

To understand the voyageur completely one must accompany him on one of his trips from montreal into the pays d' en haut, as he termed the Northwest. Thereby one learns his numberless little customs, his superstitions, his method of handling a canoe, and a thousand other phases of his mercurial nature. ...

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pp. 75-100

The first duty of voyageurs on reaching their wintering ground was to erect a fort, unless, of course, the post was already established and supplied with buildings. A consultation was frequently held with the chief Indians as to the best site. When this was determined, a clearing was made, trees were cut and hewed in proper lengths, ...

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pp. 101-156

Moore was not the first - nor the last - to enshrine in verse the appeal of the voyageurs' songs, but probably this poem has done more than any other bit of writing to preserve the memory of an almost forgotten class of men. Scores of writers have recorded the impressions made on them by the haunting melody of these folk ...

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pp. 157-174

Among the services rendered by voyageurs was that of the soldier. During the American Revolution it is certain that they played a not inconsiderable role in the country lying between the Appalachians and St. Louis and about the Great Lakes. As they were usually mentioned by some other epithet than that of their calling, ...

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pp. 175-224

Our picture of the voyageur would be incomplete without a representation of him in the role of a member of a frontier community. Many a voyageur lost his life in his hazardous calling; others remained about wilderness posts till death overtook them; not a few returned to spend the twilight of life in their native hamlets on the ...

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pp. 225-264

Probably the greatest contribution of the voyageur to the development of the continent was the knowledge of the wilderness and its ways that he put freely and with no hope of recognition at the disposal of the great explorers of the West and North. It may be said without fear of gainsay that practically every exploring trip in ...


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pp. 265-282


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pp. 283-289

E-ISBN-13: 9780873517065
E-ISBN-10: 0873517067
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873512138
Print-ISBN-10: 0873512138

Page Count: 289
Illustrations: Illus.
Publication Year: 1987

Edition: 1