Saturday, June 9, 2007

Canoe Nation

The flooding of the Skeena was difficult to see from Prince Rupert. We had to watch it on t.v. We saw some people in Terrace who couldn't keep their houses from flooding. In some places, the only way you could get around was by canoe.

The flooding has now reached its peak and we can expect to get our highway reconnected soon. This has also been the year of landslides with one cutting off power to Prince Rupert and the other killing two motorists.

I've been watching the local cbc news to see coverage of the floods and I happened to watch “The National” and saw a program about “The Seven Wonders of Canada”. Out of thousands of entries they had to choose seven. I was amazed that Haida Gwai turned out to be the eighth wonder, just missing the cut. Hey, I thought of Haida Gwai when I first heard about the seven wonders.

There were the obvious wonders: the Rockies, and Niagra Falls; the sublime - “prairie skies”; the “geographically correct”: Old Quebec City, and Pier 21 in Halifax. And finally there were two wonders that I wouldn't have thought of: the canoe and the igloo. So Canadian and so life sustaining. Personally, I prefer kayaks to canoes. But when you think about it, the canoe makes better sense. I bet you that there are many people in Prince Rupert who were proud to hear that the canoe was chosen to be one of the seven wonders of Canada.

Long ago the canoe was the main means of transportation in Canada. When the French and English first came to Canada they used canoes out of necessity, the way we use automobiles now. The Hudson's Bay Company depended on the canoe, the voyageurs, and the first nations people for the development of the fur trade. First nations people invented the birch bark canoe – a beautiful example of gracefulness and simplicity.

For most of our history the canoe was the only way to get from one part of our huge country to another. That is something that our three founding cultures share together. Even today the canoe has rich significance for many Canadians. Some see the canoe as a living part of their traditions. Some see it as a way to keep in touch with the Canadian wilderness. As English, French, and First Nations, we may be cut off from each other, but the canoe is one thing that unites us all.

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