A Freedom Almost Forgotten

Sigurd Olson, The Lonely Land (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1961):

The movement of a canoe is like a reed in the wind. Silence is part of it, and the sounds of lapping water, bird songs, and wind in the trees. It is part of the medium through which it floats, the sky, the water, and the shores. A man is part of his canoe and therefore part of all it knows. The instant he dips his paddle, he flows as it flows, the canoe yielding to his slightest touch and responsive to his every whim and thought…. There is magic in the feel of a paddle and the movement of a canoe, a magic compounded of distance, adventure, solitude, and peace. The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness and of a freedom almost forgotten, the open door of waterways of ages past and a way of life with profound and abiding satisfactions.

J. E. H. MacDonald, The Solemn Land (1921)

This book led me to several accounts of the North-West fur trade that remain untranslated, such as Benjamin Sulte’s Les coureurs de bois au lac Supérieur, 1660 (Ottawa: Societé Royale du Canada, 1912) and Nicolas Perrot’s Mémoires sur les moeurs, coustumes et religion des sauvages de l’Amérique septentrionale (Paris: A. Franck, 1864). I’m a little surprised that some publisher hasn’t picked up Perrot’s memoir, which looks like an important primary source. I am busy plucking artists from the fast-running waters of Lethe, so I am not sure when or if I will be able to rescue the voyageurs…