Canadian Canoe Routes

Ray Mears' Northern Wilderness Series:
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Author:  HOOP_ [ March 21st, 2010, 10:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Ray Mears' Northern Wilderness Series:

Ray Mears' Northern Wilderness Series:

This weekend, I was fortunate to be able to watch all of the episodes of Ray Mear's multi-part BBC "Northern Wilderness" series. If there are school teachers and curriculum development people reading this, you might be interested in reading on, for great material to build history courses that literally come alive on the screen, and might just change the life of young students.

All the episodes are posted on YouTube (for free viewing), by username "familiyphotoshoot". The 5 main parts are, in order: The Forgotten Forest (about the boreal forest and northern Canada); The Company that Built a Country (about the fur trade and the Hudsons Bay Company, and Northwest Company); The Unknown Explorer (about Samuel Hearne's journey and his influence on the history of Canada); In Arctic Footsteps (about Dr. John Rae, one of the greatest northern travelers, explorers, and surveyor in history); Koo Koo Sint - The Stargazer (about David Thompson, the greatest land surveyor, geographer and map maker who ever lived, mapped much of Canada, and hard core bush traveler (along with wife Charlotte), like Rae); and Journey's End (an epilogue and profile of the rich pacific west coast landscape and history). And most importantly, an underlying theme throughout all episodes is the continual partnership with the aboriginal peoples, and the integration of their bush skills and knowledge into the successful travels of the heroes of history. This underlying theme was often absent from my education. Some neat bush craft skill footage is sprinkled throughout, in trademark Mears style. Often this is in partnership with a local artisan. Each of the main episodes are posted in 6 parts, 10 minutes each, so be sure to mind the order if you are watching.

For a commercial TV series, I was very impressed with the scholarship and footage. While much of it is about the host Mears and his bushcraft schtick (after all this is how he makes his living, and he is good at it), I have to give Mr. Mears major credit for doing a fantastic job at bringing to life our amazing history, centralizing the role of the canoe, and elevating to the top the heroic Hearne, Ray and Thompson. There is also great aerial and ground footage across all the major regions of our country where the canoe was king, and where these heroes of history actually camped and stood – many places most of us will never see, but should see at least on film, and the Brit Mears is right there. To my knowledge there is not a comparable film or TV series made in Canada by Canadians. Kudos to the Brit to remind us about ourselves and how great our history and landscape really is. And of course these heroic figures names above were Brits by birth, so its a shared heritage (as of course all human heritage is).

I never learned any of this history in my school days, and certainly never saw it on film. It goes to the core of explaining who and what we are. Mears emphasizes how much Canada is the country that was established by the canoe. Our own Kevin Callan has a cameo, where he states the case well about the canoe culture being at the heart of what much of this country is about. It has only been later in my adult life, getting in my cultural life as a wilderness paddler and (very) amateur historian that I discovered the literature about Hearne, Ray, Thompson and some of the more detailed history of the HBC and NW company. A shame that this is not core curriculum throughout elementary and secondary school in Canada. While the human figures make the stories, its really all about the landscape, lakes and rivers, and how the landscape is responsible for how we live.

I like one of Mears' quotes: "This is a fabulous country built on bushcraft..."

In terms of video legality, I am not sure how long these will be available for free viewing on YouTube. They were up on the BBC for free viewing for a limited time, but are now gone. Mears website sells the DVD full series compendium for a very good 20 Pounds Sterling, or about 30 dollars Canadian – a deal for this high quality series. Normally I would buy the DVD to support the makers of this fine series. But the website warns that the DVD is All-Region format coded in PAL, which is the European standard format, as well as other countries, but that Canada and the US use Region-1 coded in NTSC format DVD players, may not be able to read and play the PAL DVD’s??? (or something?). So I did not feel guilty watching the freebies posted on Youtube. I would buy the DVD and support the producers of the series if the format could be played on my home DVD. (aside: Hey DVD powers that be: get a world DVD standard, will ya!).

This will get you started with part one of the six 10 minute parts of episode 1: The Forgotten Forest:

All the links of the 6 parts for each on the main episodes listed above, should be found in the right side related videos on the web page.

So a heads up to view the series while you still can. You get about 5 hours (in 10 minute segments) for free on YouTube.
Teachers: You may want to look purchasing the series for your schools.

Canadian curriculum developers: Hey why is a Brit in the 21st century telling our Canadian story in our geography better than we can? Get off your butts and get going! (I wonder: How many of our history teachers are canoe trippers?.....) :D

Author:  Watersong [ March 21st, 2010, 10:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ray Mears' Northern Wilderness Series:

(I wonder: How many of our history teachers are canoe trippers?.....)

I am !!!!!

and yes, my Canadian history course is a little voyageur/fur trade/ canoe heavy....

I also run a "voyageur" club ( camping and canoeing) at school... we are in our 6th year, and will be taking a group to the Canoe Museum this coming April 10th....

Author:  Erhard [ March 22nd, 2010, 8:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ray Mears' Northern Wilderness Series:

Watersong wrote:
I am !!!!!
and yes, my Canadian history course is a little voyageur/fur trade/ canoe heavy....

:clap: :clap: :clap:

Author:  idylwyld [ March 22nd, 2010, 11:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ray Mears' Northern Wilderness Series:

“To imagine is the first step in creation. To catch oneself off balance is the second step in a process of alteration. To reposition oneself is an act of change. If done well, it is art: as action, as intervention, as a move towards an end result. A vehicle to transfer energy and information through time. A response that goes beyond the ... self and into the space of the other. A constant state of becoming. Through it all my relations take on new meaning and become all that is.”

- Edward Poitras (SK)

Yes, looking at history ... one could argue it wasn't the canoe (an impersonal but compelling object indeed), but shared commercial interests in the trade and exploration of western Canada by HBC traders and aboriginal entrepreneurs that gave rise to the country (see especially Ray - "Indians in the Fur Trade"). The numbered treaties gave expression to this long standing relationship, partnership and willingness to reach out to each other with respect, mutual self-interest, and as brothers, until settlement would ultimately overrun the good intentions of a lucrative relationship, re-write self-interest, bring out new aspirations in Kingston/Montreal/Toronto/Quebec City/Ottawa for control, and ultimately change the nature of the game.

I've watched a few of the clips on YouTube … and it doesn't surprise me the British passion for Canadian history and the noble days of the Company (the oldest in the world), and the lucrative adventure for trade and exploration throughout Rupert's Land, the Northwest Territory, and British Columbia. George Simpson was not a particularly enlightened administrator of the company, and David Thompson, Samuel Hearne and John Rae tell a much more compelling story. The foundations of Manitoba and the rebellion at Red River have just as much do do with the early foundations of the Canadian idea as British holdings … and this story is a complicated one indeed.

I can't wait to see the full episodes of the series. The media companies have to get a clue and put these on iTunes or something, or even stream them on the web with their own ads. You can play PAL DVDs on a computer (BTW). But I really think there are other fine works out there that do some of the same as tell the story of the country, the essential challenge of lands and resources, and the important founding dimensions of the partnerships between aboriginal people and early settlers.

John Walker tells the story of John Rae in the film "Passage," which features Nunavut MLA and Inuit historian Tagak Curely and is based on the book by Ken McGoogan, Fatal Passage. I'm a huge fan of the films of Alanis Obomsawin and especially Zacharias Kanuk (and his incredible film company out of Igloolik and Montreal), and the many other generations of aboriginal filmmakers featured on the NFB/ONF website. And for more contemporary works, how about "Being Caribou" (the Heuers), Cape Dorset filmmaker John Houston, less conventional productions like the Opera "Frobisher" by John Murrell and John Estacio (who also produced the poignant "Filumena" about an Italian immigrant woman in the bootlegging trade in Alberta in the 20s), and I could go on. The incomparable works of Bill Mason are also foundational in this regard.

Ray Mears is definitely good (and this looks like an excellent series), but I'm itching for more and also serious attention to other perspectives and as yet "untold" stories (from today, yesterday, and those being written now about a hopeful future). I get very excited about Canadian cinema and history, there are a great many stories out there that I celebrate and cherish (and enrich my life with their vision and passion for Canadian history and culture), and I discover something new every day. Education should definitely live up to its responsibility, and teaching critical thinking and independent thought is the most noble of ambitions (and there is no universal way to do this). Might as well be fur trade history of the West, environmental geography of Canadian shield or boreal forest, the challenging contradictions of Quebec nationalism, Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, Saul Ralston, Charles Taylor, and other intellectual luminaries of Canadian philosophy, great artists like the Group of Seven, Edward Poitras, Norval Morrisseau, Bill Reid, Michael Snow, and many more. You obviously see where my interests reside, and we all have a great deal to contribute. There is no one person telling this story, but many.

Author:  tgneal [ March 26th, 2010, 2:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ray Mears' Northern Wilderness Series:

Actually you can buy the DVD series in the ALL-REGION format. It will work in every region of the world. I purchased the series when it was first available and have watched it many times on my DVD player.


Check out this link for ordering;

Ray Mears

Author:  mikemxyzzy [ March 26th, 2010, 7:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ray Mears' Northern Wilderness Series:

There are two things: the region code and the video encoding. They are all-region, but the video encoding is PAL (i.e., European standard) and not NTSC. Many US DVD players will only play NTSC DVDs, although there are some that play either PAL or NTSC. I have the DVD set and can play them through my computer. My TV has a PC input so I get the same picture quality as the DVD player.

It is a great series. Just be aware of the technical details of DVD compatibility.

Author:  Sam82 [ September 8th, 2010, 11:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ray Mears' Northern Wilderness Series:


I just watched one of Ray Mear's Northern Wilderness episodes on the documentary channel...what a great series. I have seen many of his episodes and think that he has some very valuable information...hard to come by these days while growing up in cities and suburbes.

I plan on practising some of his fire starting techniques on my next trip...good stuff!

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