Several renowned artifacts belonging to Pierre Elliott Trudeau will be on display for the first time when Canada's national Canoe Museum opens an exhibit profiling the late statesman and his thoughts on paddling.
The exhibit "Reflections: The Land, The People and The Canoe," commemorating the canoe's role in the lives of twelve respected Canadians, will be launched around the first anniversary of Pierre Trudeau's death. His family has generously loaned his canoe and famous jacket to the young museum, which already houses the world's largest collection of canoes and kayaks. Prime Minister Trudeau was pictured canoeing wearing the buckskin jacket on the cover of his Memoirs. Also on display will be one of his favourite paddles, made by the Peterborough Canoe Company, and a beautiful pair of beaded buckskin gloves.
The canoe played an important role in Trudeau's life and that of other notable -- and less recognized -- members of all Canada's cultures. Its legacy continues to serve as a unique but unifying Canadian experience.
Prime Minister Trudeau's view was that one can achieve balance through paddling: balance between physical and mental pursuits, nationalism and individualism, passion and reason, wilderness and society, past and present. The Canadian Canoe Museum exhibit featuring the Trudeau memorabilia will be housed in a significant main-floor space that will convey a sense of Canada's river panoramas, landscapes, wildlife and other character-influencing aspects of our environment.
"Reflections" will also highlight the aboriginal voices of Matthew Coon Come, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, William Commanda, respected elder of the Algonquin nation, Rick Beaver, Ojibwa artist and the late Haida sculptor Bill Reid. Canoeing icon Bill Mason, known for his films, paintings and books, is also given a special place in the new exhibit along with Eric Morse, the Dean of Canadian Wilderness Canoeists along with wife Pamela. Paddlers who are artists, voyageurs, families and women will also be showcased.
The permanent exhibit was launched at a special public event on October 12 at the Canadian Canoe Museum with Sacha Trudeau and other family members of those featured in the exhibit in attendance.
The Canadian Canoe Museum is in Peterborough, Ontario, the world's canoe-building capital for more than a century. "Reflections" will complement other dramatic exhibits that tell the story of Aboriginal, French and British cultures.
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Eighty-seven days after setting out from Reindeer Lake in northern Saskatchewan, the four members of the Arctic Canoe Expedition reached their goal: Chantrey Inlet on the Arctic Ocean. Luke Manger-Lynch, Sam Moulton, Brook Yeomans, and Mike Wolfe paddled and portaged their way roughly 1,600 miles across Northern Canada via fourteen rivers and innumerable lakes.
After a year of planning, ACE 2001-- a major adventure fundraising expedition for Camp Manito-wish in Wisconsin with 15 corporate sponsors-- proved its hypothesis: that it was possible to start at Southend and reach the Arctic Ocean in a single season. Though other canoeists have paddled most segments of their route, to their knowledge no one had strung them all together in one continuous journey. The group began near where the roads end in the small Woodland Creek Indian community of Southend, Sask. Due to reports of lingering winter ice, they began their trip in true expedition style-- rerouting onto smaller bodies of water to bypass the larger, ice-choked expanse of Reindeer Lake.
Though they skirted ice for two more weeks, they were fortunate to paddle in ice-free conditions for the remainder of the trip. From Reindeer, the expedition slowly pieced their way north for the next three months-- alternately walking, lining, paddling and poling their way up some rivers, negotiating big downstream whitewater on the Fond du Lac, and linking together small, unnamed river systems and expansive lakes. When bodies of water did not connect, they portaged. Making three trips per portage over difficult terrain with heavy packs, it was a slow process through a wind-swept, bug-dominated world.
Relentless swarms of black flies and mosquitoes made the group deranged, and gale-force winds often kept the expedition pinned on shore for days at a time. Heading both up and down stream over varied terrain, in late June they began to traverse the transitional zone between boreal forest and tundra via the Elk River. For weeks they saw no one. In early July, the group entered the treeless tundra and eventually reached the Thelon River. Getting there required crash-portaging, shooting technical whitewater, and creative route finding and map work; the group navigated by maps where one inch equals four miles and carried no GPS.
Once on the Thelon-- the superhighway of the Far North-- they retrieved their sole resupply of 500 lbs. of food and 40 lbs. of fuel (flown in 55-gallon steel drums by floatplane from Yellowknife, NWT) and saw the only other canoe groups of the expedition (outfitters fly groups in and out). Here they were were also charged by four Barrenland Grizzlies in their campsite and were lucky enough to mill about with a caribou herd of thousands. After paddling over 400 miles down the Thelon, the group's major task was switching watersheds: leaving waters that drain into Hudson Bay and obtaining the rivers that run to the Arctic Ocean. After the river they had planned to travel up ran out of water (the Tibelik River), the expedition backtracked, making a substantial reroute via the Meadowbank River which flows into the mighty Back River.
The Meadowbank brought the group north under worsening weather conditions. Temperatures began to drop well below freezing and predominately northwesterly winds made canoe travel slow and exhausting. Once on the Back they crossed over the Arctic Circle, and, on August 24th, the expedition reached Chantrey Inlet
The expedition has now raised over $40,000 to send kids to Camp Manito-wish, a canoe tripping camp in Northern Wisconsin where three of the expedition members were campers and all four worked. Visit http://www.arcticcanoe.org for a city in your area and more information on the expedition and how to donate.
This article first appeared in Che-Mun Outfit 106 in 2001.