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Voyages and Travels

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John Long Sample
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    In 1768, John Long set out from Gravesend in England, bound for Canada and a position as an articled clerk. Quickly developing an affection for the First Nations people he encountered, he determined to learn native languages and thereby make him useful in the 'Indian Trade' living first among Mohawks at Cahnuaga (Kahnawake) and later, among Ojibwa and Cree people north of Lake Superior. 

     Long's journal provides a thrilling depiction the life of a fur trader in the late 18th century. It is a dangerous world, where starvation, torture, murder, war, disease and misfortune are constant threats.

     Although clearly writing for a contemporary English audience, with all the attitudes and sensibilities that required, Long's affection for and comfort with the First Nations people with whom he lives and works comes through strongly - indeed, even when offered comfortable accommodation within the officers quarters at Michilimackinac, he prefers to continue to live outside the fort with his First Nation friends and partners. The stories he tells about life on the fur trade frontier and the hazards and dangers he encounters are described with frankness and humor, neither aggrandizing his own achievements or diminishing those of others. 

     While Long's Voyages and Travels has been republished a number of times. it is still not well known. This is a tragedy, as few other works provide as clear and engaging picture of life on the fur trade frontier.

Alexander Henry's

Travels and Adventures

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Alexander Henry Sample
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     Alexander Henry is one of the giants of the 18th century fur trade in the Great Lakes region, and his journal has been reprinted many times since it was first published in 1809. With the defeat of the French in Canada in 1760, the interior of the continent was suddenly accessible to English traders. Henry set out for the west with goods for the Indian trade, into a land where the First Nations were deeply hostile to the English. These two volumes, Adventures in Michigan 1760-1764 and Lake Superior and the Canadian Northwest 1765-1776 were compiled by Henry towards the end of his life and together have become an adventure classic.

     The Great Lakes region was in turmoil in the 1760's when Henry embarked upon his trading mission. The great First Nations leader Pontiac had engineered an uprising against the British Forts and Posts in the region with the intention of driving the British out. It was a time of violence and danger - and Alexander Henry was caught right in the middle of it, frequently experiencing hardship, hunger and abuse - while managing to retain his optimism and courage.

     The accounts of his experiences are at times harrowing, while at the same time providing an almost unparalleled description of First Nations life in the lands surrounding the Great Lakes and in the Canadian Northwest.

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Or, The Prophesy:

A Tale of the Canadas

Audiobook narrated by Nick Adams

     Wacousta, by Major John Richardson, is set at Fort Detroit and the surrounding country during Pontiac's rebellion of 1763. The mysterious warrior Wacousta has aligned himself with the First Nations forces who are besieging Detroit and Fort Michilimackinac on the extreme western edge of the British North American frontier. Pontiac is determined to stop expansion into the region, by any means. Wacousta is a great friend of Pontiac but has his own agenda - revenge against the British Commander at Detroit, Colonel De Haldimar. The story begins with Wacousta stealing in to the secure fort and whispering something in to De Haldimar's ear. Only later to we discover the nature of his message. Meanwhile, Pontiac designs a clever scheme to break the siege at the well-defended fort - a scheme so cunningly designed as to have every chance of success.  

     This book was written in 1832 and incorporates all the attitudes and perspectives of class, race, and culture prevalent at the time. Some of the terminology is now considered offensive but was common in the 19th century. I have only removed a single word, which I will not say, but have left all others intact. The style of writing is extremely convoluted and complex. Sentences often run on for a page or more and extracting the meaning and flow from the text is a challenge; I hope hearing it helps.

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