In the footsteps of First Nations (Métis and Inuit)

In the footsteps of First Nations (Métis and Inuit)

Frances Anne Beechey Hopkins (1838–1919),

Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall (1869). (LAC) CC0

In Hopkins’ painting Canadians will appreciate our home-grown paradoxes. There are French, Métis and Indigenous voyageurs, everyone showing healthy goodness and worthy effort, and then one spots two small English settlers, doing nothing much to help the cause as they voyage en route to their destination at Lachine (Hudson’s Bay Company). Edward Hopkins, the bearded gentleman, has a blanket over his knees. The little woman, the artist who symbolically and deftly inserts herself and the feminine into male-dominated paintings, sports a charming aquamarine hat. She holds a water lily. A paddler reaches for another. Represented in Hopkins’ painting – with the various people sitting together in the totemic Canadian canoe – is the sum and total of our national culture club’s bewilderment: the damned, the courageous, the wild, the civil, the droll, and the romantic.

Featured image

Charles M. Russell (1864-1926), The Fireboat, 1918, oil on board, C. M. Russell Museum Collection. Courtesy of C. M. Russell Museum

Befriending First Nations, Russell earned the nickname “Ah-Wah-Cous” for “antelope” because of the buckskin patch on the rear of his wool pants. As settlers swamped the territory, Russell captured the lives of the people. 



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