The Traders – KI Paddlers Update – September 2nd, morning

Terry pulls his canoe over to the left bank unexpectedly. We follow him up the steep sandy bank to find a dark stone with white writing.

The six white lines symbolize six boats (Cheman) and the double sided arrow marks a return trip. The stone was marked by the men paddled, poled, and lined supplies up the Fawn River in large york boats for the Hudson's Bay Company, and brought furs from Big Trout Lake down to Fort Severn on Hudson's Bay.

Fort Severn, the northernmost community in Ontario, became a fur trading post in 1689, making it one of the oldest in the oldest in Canada. As recently as as 1947 this was the primary way outside supplies arrived in KI, and the sustainable fur trade was the primary source of cash income for KI families. Terry's grandfather and uncles worked on york boats, as did many of the men in their generation. Brandon's grandfather and grandmother raised him and four siblings on the food and income generated from their trapping. Brandon is eagerly anticipating his upcoming 18th birthday when he will inherit his late beloved grandfather's cabin.

When big ships arrived in Fort Severn the local people would paddle the supplies up the Severn River up to the confluence with the Fawn. They left the supplies in a stone storehouse near a creek at the confluence and then KI people would bring them the rest of the way against the strong current. We are finding the downstream voyage seriously challenging and we marvel at the strength and endurance the upstream voyage laden with trade goods would demand.