The canoe is one of my earliest memories as a form of Cree transportation. As a child, canoeing was something I really enjoyed. I remember my parents paddling to our trapline to make smoked fish in summer or in fall, to settle for winter. When my dad would go out hunting, he took the canoe. He paddled to check his traps, snares and even hunt for moose, and I would beg, even cry just to join. He also paddled when hunting for ducks, geese, but the loon was the hardest to hunt using a canoe.
Now 40 years later, being confined to a stretcher due a car accident in 1976, canoeing was something I could only dream of. I dreamt about paddling the route my parents paddled when I was a child, and also to see the land and experience nature up close once again. I mentioned my ambition to my brother Wesley. I discussed my long-time dream with him and, like always without any hesitation, he said he would help me. From then on, my dream looked like it was on its way to reality.
I talked to some youths and found some who showed interest. When hearing about it on Facebook, my cousin Tommy asked if he could be part of the excursion. Isn’t technology great? I was all set, I had my team leaders. I was not the lightest guy around but, they were all willing to help me in and out of the canoe.
Even though five youths backed out at departure time, we still managed to pursue with the excursion, and after spending the night at Km2, on Wednesday, August 18, we set off on our long-awaited, 100-km canoe excursion from Km2 near Barrette-Chapais to Oujé-Bougoumou. The excursion brought us through seven lakes, with one portage.
On day one, we paddled across Scott Lake, Acinitchibastat Lake and Gwillam Lake, where it started to rain, and camped for the night. In the morning, after the slingshot contest we continued along Chibougamau River to Chevrillon Lake where we paddled in the rain most of the day. It was nice to arrive at a warm cabin and a hot meal after a long and wet day.
The next day looked promising for us. After spending most of the calm sunny day fishing on Chevrillon Lake, we finally made it across. Wesley and I slept in the comfort of a canvas tent while the rest slept in a cabin. During the night, two of the boys moved out and slept by the lake beside the bonfire because there was a bat in the cabin.
The following day was “un bon matin”. After the .22 shooting contest, we continued in the hot sun to Rush Lake where a delicious lunch was prepared for us. We then continued to Barlow Lake where the fishing derby ended at Km13. We spent the night at Km13, and in the morning, the gifts and prizes were distributed to the participants. After portaging onto Opemiska Lake, we continued our paddle home with our canoe excursion ending in Oujé-Bougoumou on Sunday, August 22.
With the support of some sponsors, we managed to make it exciting for the participants by scheduling some activities during the excursion. The fishing derby was a hit which made the excursion fun for the participants for they made their first cast not long after departure. There was also a slingshot contest, a .22 shooting contest, storytelling, wiener/marshmallow roasts and loads of fun.
Although, a canoe excursion is something almost anyone can experience, it was one that I will not soon forget. It was an awesome experience which I enjoyed very much.
I had many flashbacks from my childhood, lots of nice memories. Like they say, “All good things must come to an end” – and so they did. Upon arriving at our destination, the youth said it went too fast and the excursion was too short. They felt lonely and wanted to go back. So, next year, we hope to have a 10-day canoe excursion.
On behalf of team leaders Wesley Mianscum and Tommy Shecapio, and also the youth participants Jordan Shecapio, Louis Mianscum, Joseph Mianscum, Derrick Mianscum, Dylan Capassisit and Bruce Wapachee, I would like to thank our sponsors for their support. Thank you very much to Eenou Companee, Oujé-Bougoumou Police Department, Oujé-Bougoumou Tourism, Oujé-Bougoumou Cree Trappers Association, Wellness department, BOC/CREECO, all the volunteers and everyone else who supported the excursion.
And to the participants, I would like to thank them all for making it possible for me to participate, and for their help during the excursion. Without their help it would have been impossible for me to take part, and I am very grateful. Thank You!! Till next time, and I hope very much for a next time. Take care.