This is a fireside story about canoes: the crucible of our land’s multicultural heritage, as well as a vehicle for nature connection, and communication across difference.
Patrons – Craig Brant, Hannah Davison, Curtis Elliot, Rob Howard, Ryan Lamoureaux, Marie Lumiss Paul Smith, Dave Wilfong
Inspired by Caleb Musgrave and Bruce Hawkins
Written and performed by Bretton Clark
Sound and Vision by What’s Good Next
I was born in a mid-July snowstorm
Under Finger Foot Fang Falls on the west bank of the River Dumoine.
My own sweet mom was evacuated on a float plane alone
While the locals shot rapids to bring her baby boy home.
Nah I’m just playing: I’m from Mississauga.
I’m a wilderness guide straight out the GTA.
Yeah I played Duck Hunt, Mario Kart and Goldeneye, okay?
Suburbs verbs like playing video games,
A little road hockey, hit the mall: today was a good day.
You wanna know about the boy growing up in the Six?
The Credit River’s where I learned my first few tricks.
Some massive salmon run hella fun size of your leg
Out Lake Ontario, Atlantic, coho what a lake!
My formative years: bumper boats in South River.
Eagle Lake, Mikisew learning how to just give’r
Hog: hike the bogs northwest of Algonquin –
There’s a moose on the loose: swamp donkeys are charging.
Scare bear left the lair without a care
Nosed the rare steaks on the barbeque, delish to be fair.
Come bumbling, humbling, campers egos crumbling
Running inside mumbling I just seen a bear!
Now my life’s dedicated to our home and native craft.
It’s a boat that won’t quit from the fore to the aft,
Bow to stern. Lesson learned – I’m about to drop science:
For the path to wellbeing use canoes for guidance.
Canada one five oh – this is the edge of the wedge:
The canoe’s the crucible of our nation’s heritage.
When you navigate the glassy face of a granite lake
The sundown makes the shadow’s trace
Of an eastern white towering pine
Imprint on your mind you know it’s a sign
Of the true north strong And the true north free.
Canoeing Canada is the place to be!
But props to The Hip and my man Gord Downie:
While this year may be about Canada one fifty,
It’s really Anishnaabe fourteen thousand fiftythree!
So sit back my friends let’s hear the real story of
Turtle Island, it’s winding with rivers and lakes
From the land of the Haida to Mi’kma’ki;
Haudenosaunee in the south to the Inuit way up north.
The land called out and paddle craft were brought forth.
Tobacco offered up Great trees brought down
Raw logs hewn canoes dug out,
Or bark peeled off then stitched back together,
Seals harvested for skin boats of drum-tight leather
There’s a reason this season sees me in the stern with
My paddle gripped and my loose hips
A few boat tips, that sun hits and my mind flips
And four hundred years unwind to a pre-colonial time.
Then the Recollet priests ride in.
French and English lying. Drawing the lines and cutting the pies.
Treaties are signed then thrown in the fire.
The Beothuk die and the First Nations cry
There was a genocide. A Canadian genocide.
Right there is an easy place to get stuck
For all Canadians with European ancestors
Who’ve been stumbling, fumbling for a way to fix it
Prefer to draw a line through time betwixt their
Royalex prospector sixteen foot sixes
And the voyageur freighter canoes
Movin’ the fur and making it work
The Ottawa, Mattawa straight down the French River,
Hit Georgian Bay and the Great Lakes Stretch on forever.
Rocking a ponce de leon and a ceinture fléchée.
Upholding a venerable forty-plus per minute stroke rate.
Smoke a pipe, sing all night and sleep under the boats
Dream of Chasse Galerie and one day making it home.
But listen to me: unfortunately that’s a massive cop out!
Eventually there is going to be an electric pow wow.
If we heed the sacred prophecy the Seventh Fire won’t go out,
But there’s tension at the mention of this history right now.
You can feel, try to heal it but there seems no way out.
When this reality we’re all thrown in has me hopeless and screwed
I can unplug from those sources and plug into what’s true:
There’s a natural connection and it’s available to you
One way to do this is to connect by canoe.