Saturday, October 23, 2010

"The Tree of Canada"

The above photo is one of my favourites from the Brûlé  event in Orillia Saturday October 16th/10 - thank you Peter Davis for the photos of that day and Gary Dubeau for the flag tree. The flag tree and Brûlé's talk at the foot of Champlain's monument had me reflecting on "the tree of Canada" as it has grown over the past 400 years.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Orillia newspaper report of Brûlé visit

Past comes back to life at lakeside park


HISTORY: Actor portrays Etienne Brule, Orillia's original European tourist,who came to the region 400 years ago


Monday October 19, 2010

Orillia's original European tourist made his first appearance in 400 years at the foot of the Samuel de Champlain monument in Couchiching Beach Park on Saturday.

Etienne Brule, the French adventurer and indentured servant of Champlain, first arrived on the shores of Lake Couchiching in the fall of 1610 with the Algonquin Chief Iroquet and his people from the Ottawa Valley.

The character of Brule, played by actor Hugh Barnett, was interviewed by Kevin Hammond, the artistic director of the Humber River Shakespeare company, about his experience in our area four centuries ago in front of an audience of approximately 20 people.

"It was far more marvellous than I ever anticipated," Barnett, as Brule, said. "Life was difficult, but at the same time peaceful."

It was the custom of the Iroquet's people to travel to Huronia and spend the winter with the Rock Nation of the Wendat, who were part of the Huron Confederac y that lived between lakes Couchching and Simcoe to the east and the Coldwater River to the west.

Brule also spoke of his experiences wintering in Quebec, learning the languages and customs of the indigenous people, the relationship he had with the First Nations and his impressions of Champlain.

In order to get into character, Barnett said he scoured a lot of primary source materials written by Champlain and the Jesuits about Brule. From there, he said he filled in the pieces of what kind of character he thought Brule would have been.
"I look at Etienne as a symbol of the first Canadian. He very quickly seemed to be able to cut off that idea of himself being a European. It's that blending of the cultures," Barnett said. "I really appreciate that Etienne took the time to learn the language, learn the customs and become a part of their community."

The interview skit came after a presentation of five flags -- Canadian, Province of Ontario, City of Orillia, Metis and Franco-Ontarian -- secured at the base of the Champlain monument recognizing Orillia as the original meeting place of nations.
John Raynor, the president of the Huronia Chapter of Ontario's Archaeological Society, presided over the ceremony, which also included musical performances by his wife, Marg Raynor.

"History soon gets overwritten and forgotten just like the archaeological sites in the earth. Every time we tell (stories) if we don't touch base with the primary source the stories get expanded," Raynor said.

He organized Brule's return visit to Orillia as a precursor to a larger celebration slated for 2015, the 400th anniversary of Champlain's inaugural visit to Orillia in 1615.

Raynor hopes that Saturday's event encouraged Orillians to "look to the past, not just ignore it" and to become more involved in their heritage community.

With 30 native sites in Orillia and 600 more in between Orillia and Midland, including villages and ossuaries, Raynor said we need to do more to preserve our rich history.

"We are losing these sites through the development of subdivisions, condominiums and even single family homes," he said. "It doesn't mean we have to save every one, but if we had the chance to examine them at least we can learn from them."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Étienne Brulé - October 16 and 17 - Orillia and Midland welcomes

[Note: photos of the Orillia event will be posted later this week]

Étienne Brulé  was welcomed at the Huron Village at the Huronia Museum in Midland, Ontario this afternoon.

Midland welcome : OAS Huronia Chapter member, Hugh Barnett, portrayed Brulé 

Midland Welcome: OAS Huronia Chapter President John Raynor greets Bruce Stanton MP at the Welcome Brulé event

Council Member Stephan Kramp welcomes Brulé. Kramp is running for Deputy Mayor of Midland.

Midland Welcome : Brulé interviewed by Kevin Hammond, Artistic Director Humber River Shakespeare Theatre Company

Midland Welcome : OAS Huronia Chapter Secretary Marg Raynor greeted Brule on behalf of the Metis nation and sang two songs at the Welcome event.

Huronia Museum Curator Jamie Hunter (OAS Huronia Chapter Treasurer) thanks the crowd for attending the Welcome Brulé event at the Huronia Museum.

John Raynor addresses the crowd at the Midland Welcome

photos by W.J. Gibson taken at the Huronia Museum, Midland, Ontario on Oct. 17, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

So was his name Brûlé or Brusle?

Like many "facts" in history there are many interpretations of the truth.
As to the names of many of our historic figures there are many understandings as to the correct spelling of their names - Brûlé (as I refer to him) is no exception. The important thing is that we are clear as to whom we are referring.
The following article appeared in the Midland Free Press last week (thanks to Jamie Hunter) and refers to Huronia's first European visitor as Brusle. While it is clear to the historian as to whom we are talking about - is it clear to the public - does it matter?

History set to come to life



Posted 7 days ago
In the fall of 1610, Etienne Brusle arrived in the Huronia from France through a fateful exchange' that impacted the history of the area. In the years to come he became well known to the Huron people of the area and across the region.
On Sunday, Oct, 17 Huronia Museum in Midland is hosting a celebration of this historically significant Frenchman, who was the first tourist to Huronia.
Between 1:30 -4 p.m. interpreter/ actor High Barnett will portray Brusle in a special presentation that will last one hour, sharing the story of his life and times as an explorer, communicator and adventurer 400 years ago. The story is a well known one to residents, historians and scholars of the area.
"This is actually the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first European tourist," said museum curator Jamie Hunter.
"Brusle is the 18-year-old boy that Champlain exchanged for Savignon' a native boy representing the Huron and Ojibway people to take back to France. Eitenne Brusle eventually became a truchemont' or company man, whose responsibility was to encourage all of the Huron and Ojibway from the upper country to trade exclusively with Champlain and his various trading partners.
"This was because they knew there would be competition at Quebec and Tadoussac to trade with French and European trading companies," said Hunter.
"Champlain wanted to cover the market allowing no one else in. This formed a relationship with Brusle that lasted 22 years before he was murdered by Huron for establishing connections with other Indian groups in the Great Lakes to which the Huron had obtained a monopoly for European trade goods."
Hunter said some say Brusle was murdered because of his sexual indiscretion with native women but that it seems unlikely since that was never been a reason for murder of anyone in the past.
"Brusle worked for anyone who would pay him the same money and this really upset Champlain even through Champlain was not always in control of the fur trade from the European perspective or the native perspective," said Hunter.
"Brusle's life among the Huron was extremely important and we are going to honour his presence with this presentation at the museum."
Brusle had learned Huron language and their customs which helped the colonists learn to understand their Huron neighbours.
He was an excellent scout, or pathfinder having gone on many expeditions for Champlain and the fur traders.
Brusle explored the land west of Quebec travelling through uncharted wilderness and learned how to survive from the First Nations peoples.
When he arrived in Huronia, little did Brusle know he would lead the way for millions to follow.
Over the years, the beautiful North Simcoe site has become a sought-after vacation destination' for people around the world and a place where day-trippers escape from the city.
Also taking place at Huronia Museum on Sunday, Oct. 17 between 2 -4 p.m. will be three book signings.
On hand that day will be Bill Northcott author of Thunder Bay Beach & Islands, Gary French author of Axes of Ontario and author Heather Roberson who wrote Toronto Carrying Place.
Each author will give a 10 to 12-minute summary of their book, its research and how it may be useful to people who are interested in local history.
"The authors are all local and will be happy to sign books which would make excellent Christmas gifts," said Hunter.
For more information on these events email: or call the museum at 526-2844.

Article ID# 2787583

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Brule to arrive in Huronia - Oct. 16 Orillia, Oct. 17 Midland

We have been notified via the moccasin telegraph that Brule will be arriving with Chief Iroquet and his people within the next week and a half. Iroquet has set off from his Algonquin homeland in the lower Ottawa valley for the fall hunt and plans to follow through to winter with the Rock Nation of the Wendat somewhere near the Narrows at the current city of Orillia. Iroquet will be accompanied by Champlain's young servant Etienne Brule.

We have responded to this notice and have arranged for a couple of receptions for the earliest European tourist to visit our region.

The first event will be held at the foot of the Champlain monument in Orillia shortly after 1:00 PM on Saturday October 16th.

The second event will be hosted by the Huronia Museum in the Huron/Wendat Native village longhouse in Midland shortly after 1:00 PM Sunday October 17th

As the museum will be open during this event those wishing to attend will be required to pay the normal admission fee at the gate unless Jamie can secure a special deal for members of the Huronia Chapter.

Come and help celebrate the 400th anniversary of Brule's arrival and raise the awareness of the local community to its rich history.

Etienne Brule came to New France as a teenager in the employ of Samuel de Champlain.  He volunteered to go and live with the natives to learn their language and customs.  He lived among the Hurons for most of the rest of his life.  He is the first European to visit Huronia and is believed to be the first European to see all of the Great Lakes. Sadly he left no written record of his travels and experiences.  Our view of him is only through the writings of Champlain, Sagard, and Brebeuf.  The picture portrayed of him in the Jesuit Relations is not especially flattering and has sadly coloured much of the subsequent history of this early explorer.

The Brule events are sponsored by the Ontario Archaeological Society’s Huronia Chapter and the Huronia Museum.

Orillia Program Details


Brule reception - Orillia – Champlain monument – Saturday October 16th 1PM

(background  - drum and 17th century flute music (Marg & Laura Bolton from Orillia Folk Society)
MC – John Raynor

1:00 PM – flag ceremony and greetings to Brule (various flags presented & tied to common pole)
 1 – Rama – welcome to their traditional territory (Rama Chief or designate)
 2 – Wendat – welcome to their ancient homeland (statement from Grand Chief of Wendake, flag presented by Adrian)
3 – The Crown – welcome to Brule as intrepid explorer of Canadian frontier.(Bruce Stanton MP)
4 – The Province – welcome Brule as Ontario’s first foreign visitor. (Garfield Dunlop MPP
5 - City of Orillia – welcome Brule as Orillia’s first tourist. (Mayor or designate
6 – Metis Nation - welcome Brule with statement re birth of a new Nation (Marg Raynor or designate from MNO.) – followed by a Voyager song by Marg.
7 – Brule (Quebec flag) as a gift to his hosts.

1:30 PM – feature – Brule scripted interview – Hugh Barnett
2:00 PM – song – “Earth Beneath Our Feet” – as segue into archaeology. (Brule interviewed by Packet & Times as this goes on.
2:15 PM – Importance of archaeology as the forensic science of history – Orillia’s obligation to identify, set aside and protect these sites as icons of it’s ancient past and rich history. Intro of Champlain project and 2015 anniversary (John Raynor)
2:25 PM – Thanks- you for attendance & invite to inquire further (Huronia Chapter pamphlet) – wish Brule well on his 12 leagues or 48 km trip to Midland. – flags would be retired at this time.

This is a tentative schedule and some minor changes may take place on the day.

Further reading:  
Etienne Brule, Immortal Scoundrel, by James Herbert Cranston 1949, is the key book available about Brule.