Sunday, September 26, 2010
Les coureurs de bois
Folks, I just thought id throw out some additional info about the French Coureurs du bois or "woods runners" in English.
These guys were the Canadian version of the American Eastern long hunter or mountain man of the western USA. These Canadians could live in the woods for extended periods of time exactly the same as their American counterparts.
Don't confuse these men with the Voyageurs or Canoe men of the great north Canoe Brigades, Ill post some info on them at a later date.
anyhoo, here is some info.
Tomahawk - Scouts Out!
Coureurs de Bois: Runners of the Woods
When the fur trade first began, Indian and Eskimo people brought the furs to the trading posts. They would arrive by canoe. The furs would be unloaded and traded for goods such as muskets, axes, knives, blankets, whisky and pots. It was not long before some of the men at the trading posts decided they would go inland and get the fur themselves. These were the people known as the coureurs de bois.
The coureurs de bois learned the ways of the woods from the Indians and Eskimos. They were taught how to canoe, hunt and snowshoe. Canoes were made out of birch bark the way the Natives taught them. They dressed in the same kinds of clothes and ate the same food as the First Nation peoples. A typical meal consisted of pemmican, deer meat and dried corn and peas.
The silver birch tree was the most important resource for life in the woods. It was used to build and repair canoes on the journey. Shelters were built with the branches and the bark. The bark was also good for drawing maps on and for writing messages. The bark could even be eaten if there was no other food!
The coureurs de bois traveled long distances. They left their homes in the spring with their canoes loaded with supplies and goods for trading. They traveled down the Ottawa River to Lake Huron. From there it took another month of paddling more than 12 hours a day to reach their destination. Some of the coureurs de bois traveled as far as 2000 kilometers, or more, from home.
It was dangerous work, so the coureurs de bois sometimes traveled together in groups. They needed each other to help paddle, set up shelter and keep watch for enemies at night. They also had to catch their own food. They would hunt and fish for food along the way.
It was also hard work. The coureur de bois often had to portage their canoes. In the summer mosquitoes and other insects bothered them. They had to hang their food up high away from animals. In the winter they had to keep warm at night. They would dig holes in the snow and line them with cedar branches.