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Haig, Bruce.

Calgary, Detselig Enterprises c1984. 95pp, paper, $10.95, ISBN 0-920490-36-0, (Following Historic Trails) CIP

Grades 6 and up
Reviewed by Mary Fallis

Volume 13 Number 3
1985 May

The author of this work is a Lethbridge teacher known for developing the Trek program that gave students the opportunity to follow historic trails as part of their curriculum. This is the second book in the series Following Historic Trails. The first book James Hector: Explorer* followed Hector's route through the Kicking Horse Pass in 1859.

There is a place for this book in any library for readers of any age. It contains information about an exciting time in Canadian history that is not generally known. It follows the only route (in Canada) through the mountains to the coast from 1824-25 until 1885 when the CPR was completed.

The book gives an account of a journey taken by the Canadian painter Paul Kane who was determined to cross Canada to the west to paint the Indian people as he saw them and the country as it was in 1846, '47 and '48. He interested George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, in his project and was permitted to travel with the fur brigade.

He would travel through the mountains to Athabasca Pass and the Committee Punch Bowl, then take the steep track down from the pass and, after fording numerous icy streams, reach Boat Encampment at the Big Bend of the Columbia River.

The modem author takes his party to the Committee Punch Bowl but does not recommend that the modern traveller go further. Kane's party travelled in winter when the streams were low in order to effect icy river crossings. Today the upper reaches of the Columbia system have been flooded by a hydro dam.

Paul Kane continued to the mouth of the Columbia, returned over the pass and to Jasper House again in severe weather, eventually crossing the Prairies and journeying back as far as Sault Ste. Marie with the fur brigade. All the while he had encounters with the Indians and obtained their co-operation (they regarded his work as magic) in doing his sketches. On his return to Toronto he completed a hundred paintings and later wrote Wanderings of an Artist Among the Indians of North America, which was an immediate success.

Haig's account is based on Kane's daily record, which is quoted from in condensed form. Alongside the diary entries are comments about the subsequent history of an area and about today's access. There are reproductions of Kane's sketches and paintings that match the observations in his journal, and six of these are in colour. As Kane sensed, his paintings provide a record of what the western territories were like and how the Indians lived, still able, in Alberta, to hunt vast herds of buffalo in the 1840s.

Of particular interest are the observations, both of Kane in the 1840s and of Bruce Haig in 1984, about the Athabasca Pass route and the traditions that grew around the Committee Punch Bowl. From David Thompson's first trip through the pass this has been a legendary site with innumerable occurrences adding to the saga: here David Douglas made the first recorded ascent of a North American mountain and also miscalculated the height of the two mountains Brown and Hooker, to be known later as "The Glittering Peaks." The first ascent of Mt. Kane by mountaineers was unusual. The survey party completing the boundary line on the borders of British Columbia and Alberta would add more unusual details to the story.

The account is provided with a number of maps of fur trade routes; it has an interesting bibliography and a useful index. Highly recommended.

Mary Fallis, Prince George, B.C.

*Reviewed vol. XII/5 September 1984 p. 197.

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