CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 21 . . . . June 21, 2002
In 1867, a Hudson's Bay Company employee and diarist, Isaac Cowie wrote about his two month journey from Fort Gary to York Factory in a York boat. The 1,225-kilometer trip was a backbreaking ordeal for the York men; however, the proud young highland lads labored ceaselessly from dawn 'til dusk. Day after day, the trip-men rowed the 900-kilogram York boat under horrible and dangerous conditions. At any time the pain and tedium could turn into a life-threatening situation as sudden squalls developed on the once tranquil Lake Winnipeg. The famous explorer Sir John Franklin once described a York boat journey as "unending toil broken only by the terror of the storms." Later, the backbreaking portages on northern rivers or the rapids of the Hayes River could easily bring injury or death to the York men. All this for the low wage of six English pound a season and a diet, Cowie wrote, "civilized people would say was not fit for dogs."
the success of the first-rate production of Pioneer Quest (2000),
Quest For the Bay is Winnipeg's Credo Productions second venture
into replicating significant historical experiences in nineteenth century
Western Canada. In Pioneer Quest, the participants attempted to
duplicate the lives of Manitoba pioneer settlers. In this production,
the adventurers were forced to face the daily tedium and danger the
York men experienced, using only a historically accurate York boat,
tools, tents, and clothing, and eating a vile concoction of buffalo
meat fat and blueberries known as pemmican. The eight young Canadians
who signed on began their quest on a warm sunny Canada Day in the summer
of 2001. However, after a few short kilometers rowing down the Red River,
the excitement of the adventure's beginning turned into the bleak reality
of the York man's life, and modern day viewers are treated to a fascinating
historical adventure that tests the octet's strength and determination
to succeed. As the trip progresses down the muddy Red River and into
Lake Winnipeg, the novice York men, faced with a chronically leaky boat
and hordes of mosquitoes, come to the realization that their makeshift
planning is a sure path to disaster. Luckily, the journey up the mighty
lake to Norway House is calm, and they are able to hone their skills
and strengthen their rowing muscles before facing dozens of laborious
portages and the deadly rapids of the Hayes River. After 61 days of
agony, they reached York factory on the coast of Hudson's Bay. The modern
York men's historical journey takes them through untrammeled areas of
Manitoba. Seeing and experiencing the majesty and the beauty of the
province's land and the power of its great northern rivers is an inspiring
experience. As they rowed and struggled and rowed some more, the character
strengths and flaws are revealed in every individual, just as they would
have been in the Highland lads, who laboured 150-200 years ago. Quest
For the Bay is a powerful re-creation of the York man's life. Students
will come away from viewing the documentary with a greater understanding
and respect for the fur traders of Rupert's Land. From a dramatic point
of view, it is superior to Pioneer Quest, and as a teaching tool
it is equally valuable.
Quest For The Bay: Teacher Resource Guide.
Yolanda Hogeveen and Jennifer Janzen, the creators of the teacher resource guide for the Pioneer Quest video, have again produced a superlative comprehensive guide for Quest for the Bay. This resource guide alone will provide teachers with sufficient ideas, activities, book and website resources to teach complete units in fur trade history at the elementary, middle, and senior levels. Its numerous and varied activities take students through the history of the fur trade, the roles of men and women, involvement of First Nations and the Metis people, wilderness survival, and Canadian geography. The guide includes a synopsis of each of the four episodes, along with pre-viewing, viewing and post-viewing questions. In addition to dozens of black-line masters of charts and maps, background information sheets are included to provide concise content knowledge for teachers and students.
Ian Stewart, a teacher with Winnipeg School Division #1, is a regular contributor to CM and the book review pages of the Winnipeg Free Press.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.