The Voyageur's Paddle

Sleeping Bear Press   |  2007  |  40 pages

Bank Street College of Education Honor Book

Voyageur is the French word for "traveler," but in the Great Lakes region during the seventeenth century it described those men who made their living trading furs and goods along water routes. Traveling by canoe, these voyageurs helped to establish north woods trading posts and settlements, opening up the West to future exploration. 

Young Jacques's father is such a voyageur. He works long hours in bitterly cold weather, absent from home for weeks at a time. As he awaits his father's return from a season of trading, Jacques dreams of the day he will hold the canoe paddle and join the ranks of voyageurs. 

News Note: La Rame du voyageur

Now translated into French by Scholastic Canada!

Read An Excerpt:

...On trading days, Jacques would ask the company clerk for permission to enter the store. Here, native people and free trappers brought hides to exchange for goods they needed, such such as guns and boots, tobacco and kettles, and axes and cloth. Sometimes Jacques helped count hides, and never made a mistake when he did.  Two beaver hides for a lace cap, three hides for a good ax, and one hide for a colorful plume. Jacques liked being near the other voyageurs, and he would often sing as loud as he could.

"One red paddle, swift and light, 

in the water lifting bright,

True love waits upon the shore,

and calls me home forevermore."

Awards & Honors

Bank Street College of Education--Best Book of the Year List, Short-listed, 2007

Finalist 2007 NEMBA Awards


The Voyageur's Paddle is often cited as a Resource for Fur Trade Era Activities. If you would like to explore new pathways with your team, please visit these links for activities, inspiration, and connection.

University of Minnesota Intersecting Ojibwe Art Curriculum

Fort Whyte Le Voyageur Program for Grades 5-8

National Park Service Grand Portage Monument

Wyalusing State Park Wisconsin Read to Lead Program

Michigan History for Kids by the Historical Society of Michigan


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