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Félix Saint-Denis' Commentary on his Travels in Huronia

Clips of "Nous, Franco-Ontariens" (We, the Franco-Ontarians)


In July 1999, I had the opportunity to participate in the shooting of a documentary entitled "Nous, Franco-Ontariens" (We the Franco-Ontarians) for the series Francophonie d'Amérique (produced by Médiatique and shown on TFO in the fall of 2000). I acted as a guide on this trip to help four Torontonians of diverse backgrounds to discover the Franco-Ontarian identity.

Reactions and Explanations

Throughout the trip, we retraced the "route des rivières". It was really the major and only "highway" at the time of Étienne Brûlé, Champlain, the missionaries, explorers and coureurs des bois to cross Ontario and end up in Huronia or Lake Superior where they would create numerous forts and trading posts. From the Rideau Falls in Ottawa, we followed the Ottawa River, took the Mattawa, crossed Lake Nipissing and passed along the French River up to the "Mer douce" (Georgian Bay) to get to the Sainte-Mary-Among-the-Hurons mission.

To travel this same route taken by the Amerindians and the first French people in Ontario, nearly 400 years earlier, is to dive back into a time packed with danger and adventure. I could imagine the endurance and determination needed to spend 16 hours a day paddling against the current and the challenge of the some 50 portages that had to be done with a bark canoe that could weigh up to 150 kg. Each night was a race against the clock to prepare their supper and build shelter before the sun went down. Not to mention the patience necessary to endure the clouds of mosquitoes! Most of all, I understood the extent to which the youth who came from France became accomplished athletes, adventurers full of courage and human beings passionate about the discovery of an unknown people and country. You must remember, at that time, embarking on such a journey would be like taking off on a mission to Mars today!

© ROPFO 2001. All rights reserved.