Coureur de bois ( Runners of the woods) in the early days of the first French colony in North America were those young men who evaded the rules of church and state and wandered off into the wilderness to live with and learn from the Indians whose land the colony had invaded. What an amazing opportunity for them to be the transitional figures between the rigid European Colony and the land and it indigenous peoples. For a while at the beginning, in what would eventually be Eastern Canada, just as in The Thirteen Colonies to the south there was an opportunity to begin a relationship of equality and respect here on native land. It did not work in the end of course, we are all familiar with the blood and destruction, the building of attitudes that exist and power our national attitudes to this day. But, ‘for one brief shining moment...’ there were the Coureur de bois and others who came in wonder and wandered within the spirit of the land.
So have a good look at these young men, that Indian in the bow, showing the way to his friend and sharing his adventure. That determined fellow in the stern with feathers in his hair, concentrating on this moment in history. He can still speak French, probably two Indian languages, hunt, build a canoe and is no longer certain what he is in terms of culture. They are very small in my little stream, as though, as in perspective, the farther back in time, the smaller is our view of them. I think though that they can still live in and activate our imaginations.