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These Métis Youth Are Paddling Their Way Across Ontario To Retrace Their History
July 4, 2014
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(Photo: Métis Nation of Ontario)

On May 26, a group of Métis youth set out from Mooney's Bay in Ottawa to kick off an epic 2,000-kilometre canoe journey across Ontario — all while dressed in traditional garb of the 18th- and 19th-centry fur trade era (supplemented, of course, by life jackets). By August 22, after 90 days of paddling 50 strokes a minute, they're aiming to reach Chippewa Park in Thunder Bay in time for the Annual General Assembly of the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO).

Along the way, the modern-day Voyageurs are stopping in 23 different communities to share their culture and heritage.

The expedition is a program of the MNO to train the next generation of Métis leaders and allow them to connect with their history. "These young people will learn valuable skills that will help them throughout their lives, experience the life of a Métis voyageur and at the same time will teach people across the province about Métis heritage, culture and our contributions to Canada," said MNO President Gary Lipinski in a release.

The eight Métis youth have been paddling up to 10 hours a day on their journey and camping along the way. "It was a little bit strange at first because it was a lot of urban paddling and a lot of houses everywhere, but we are getting into more of the wilderness camping now, which is really nice," Emily Ingram of Sault Ste Marie told CBC News.

The expedition is a mix of old and new: while they're wearing traditional outfits, they're also carrying their phones, which allow them to share their progress on social media as they go:

(Still, one of the team members admitted to the Globe and Mail she's eagerly anticipating the portion of their journey when they finally escape the grid: “Once we hit the north shore of Lake Superior, it will be pretty secluded and our cell reception will be gone. I’m looking forward to that.”)

The crew of eight are being accompanied by two more youths in a van, who are providing ground support.

If you happen to find yourself between Parry Sound and Thunder Bay this summer, here's where the intrepid canoeists will be:

And here's a trailer the MNO created about the trip:

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