From a small town First Nations girl to an international celebrity and promoter of wilderness conservation, Anahareo was someone who followed her own mind.
Growing up Gertrude Bernard, an Algonquin/Mohawk girl in a small Ontario town in the time around the First World War, Anahareo was more at home climbing trees and swimming in the river than playing with dolls or sewing samplers. When she was nineteen she convinced her father to let her go and work at Camp Wabikon, a vacation spot for wealthy New Yorkers hoping to experience the wilderness first hand. There she met the handsome and magnetic trail guide, Archie Belaney, who with his long hair, buckskin pants and Hudson’s Bay belt, symbolized everything she desired--an adventurous man of the wilderness. The attraction was mutual and Archie wasted no time in inviting the young Gertrude to visit him at his traplines in the bush. Her decision would change her life.
The essay Kristin wrote on Anahareo, "Blazing Her Own Trail: Anahareo's Rejection of Euro-Canadian Stereotypes" appears in Recollecting: Lives of Aboriginal Women of the Canadian Northwest and Borderlands, edited by Sarah Carter and Patricia McCormack and published by Athabasca University Press. The publication has won the Canadian Historical Association's Aboriginal history book prize for 2011 and three other prizes.
Published by Fireship Press.
There is a website on Anahareo now: http://www.anahareo.ca
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The rivers and lakes of the Quebec bush were frozen over and the snow was thick on the ground. Clad in snowshoes and breeches, her parka hood pulled up over her stylishly bobbed hair, Anahareo, an Aboriginal woman, strode behind Grey Owl in the wintry landscape with confidence, determined to maintain the silence he required. Eventually the pair arrived at an ice-covered creek. Knowing that any current makes ice dangerous, Grey Owl cut a pole to test its firmness. With the snow on the ice only a few inches deep both he and Anahareo removed their snowshoes and Anahareo carried them, leaving Grey Owl free to take the axe and the test pole. In a firm voice Grey Owl instructed Anahareo to keep some distance behind him so that the areas of ice would not have to bear both their weights at once, then slowly he led the way, lifting the pole and letting it fall while he listened intently for the hollow sound that would indicate the ice was too thin for walking. The cautious tapping slowed their pace and appeared entirely unnecessary to an impatient Anahareo. After what seemed an age just creeping forward Anahareo could contain herself no longer and strode out to pass Grey Owl, who shouted at her furiously. Suddenly, the ice broke under her and she fell into the frigid water.
Grey Owl sprung into action and dropped to the ice, then carefully, with the pole outreached, he crawled towards Anahareo until she could grasp it. Once she had a firm grip, Grey Owl pulled her slowly out of the water to safety. Quickly he led her into the woods and set about felling a tree to make a fire. After a time spent warming herself before the crackling flames, Anahareo felt she was dry enough to make it back to camp as she was. Grey Owl agreed but told her to run fast to keep warm. She strapped on her snowshoes and off she went at a rapid pace, certain she would make it without a problem. When she emerged from the woods out into the open, however, a strong wind cut through her and caused a thin layer of ice to form on her clothes. She struggled on but the ice only thickened everywhere, including the knees. All ability to run had vanished and she could only manage a stiff-legged shuffle as she made her way back.
She finally arrived at the cabin door, tripped over the threshold and fell headlong inside. With some effort she gathered herself up and started to strip off her clothes. She began with her moccasins but discovered that they were frozen solid and impossible to remove, a problem that only standing in a pail of cold water could resolve.
The rest of her clothes presented a similar difficulty. After a heroic struggle out of her parka that found her once again on the floor with the bucket of water upturned, she attempted to pull off her breeches and saw that some of her skin came off with them. After more struggle she was able to remove her remaining clothes and wrap herself in blankets.
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