Voyageurs are highly visible today as colourful caricatures in popular culture and history. They adorn the labels of beer bottles, the sides of U-Haul vans, and web sites. Winter festivals in Minnesota and Manitoba commemorate their legend. By placing them squarely in the centre of fur trade and labour studies, Carolyn Podruchny's Making the Voyageur World frees voyageurs from their mystique as picturesque historical cartoons through a detailed analysis of their unique occupational culture.
Voyageur life was shaped by the men's shared roots as canadiens and habitants, as well as their encounters with Aboriginal peoples, and the exigencies of their jobs - they traveled constantly through varied landscapes and social worlds. Voyageurs numerically dominated the Montreal fur trade, formed kin ties with Aboriginal women, and settled in the northwest to raise their families. By examining their lives in conjunction with the metaphor of the voyage, Podruchny reveals not only the everyday lives of her subjects - what they ate, their cosmology, rituals of celebration, their families, and above all, their work - but underscores their resonance in history as well as in the Métis communities they helped found.
About the author
Carolyn Podruchny is an assistant professor in the Department of History at York University.
- Winner, Margaret McWilliams Award
- Short-listed, Sir John A. MacDonald Prize
‘A complete picture of the voyageur, an inventory of his life that is both comprehensive and compelling.’
Active History April 2014