Full "Tracing the Columbia" video will be available after its tour of the festival circuit.
Entry Submission: Interpretation Canada Awards of Excellence
Entry Title: 2011 David Thompson Columbia River Canoe Brigade
Entrant name: Ross MacDonald
Organization: David Thompson Columbia River Canoe Brigade Society
Job title and role in project: Chair
Project Team (Presenters, Authors, Designers, etc.) Ross MacDonald (Chair) Eloise Meredith (Vice Chair, Community Engagement) Mary Fitl (Media and Community Engagement) Matt Roy (Fur Trade Reenactment lead)
1. Project Description: 200 Years, Many Nations, One River Basin
For hundreds of years the French and British fur trade shaped European exploration of North America and ultimately its geopolitical boundaries. David Thompson, trader, surveyor, and mapmaker helped push the trade across the Rockies. On July 15, 1811 he reached the Columbia River's mouth thus completing a river highway that stretched from Montreal to the Pacific. Thompson was the first person to travel and survey the Columbia from its source near Invermere, British Columbia to its mouth at Astoria, Oregon.
On June 3, 2011 ten voyageur style canoes departed from Invermere on a 1,600 km retracing of Thompson's 1811 route. On July 15, 2011 the David Thompson Columbia Brigade (DTCB) completed this 45-day trek, safely arriving at Astoria exactly 200 years after Thompson. The paddlers were 80% Canadian, 20% American, and 45% women.
Among the 200 paddlers were 15 fur trade interpreters (alumni of Fort William Historic Site, ON and Lower Fort Gary, MB), representatives of the Surveyors Historical Society, communication specialists from Alberta Parks and Parks Canada, teachers, musicians, Thompson experts and descendants. They and other participants created a meaningful international interpretive event that reconnected Columbia Basin residents to the rivers and related history of Western North America.
The DTCB had significant impacts on 38 river communities. The brigade arrived at each community with pageantry (costumes, flags, banners, paddling demonstrations, black powder salutes and bagpipers). On shore, public participated in voyageur song and dance, geocache events, attempted traditional crafts (fire starting, clothing making and food preparation and saw skits about the trade and demonstrations of sextant use. We provided opportunities for community members to experience paddling. Non-personal media augmented personal interpretation.
In Canada, the Brigade had significant public events at the headwaters of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers in BC (Invermere, Canal Flats, Wasa, Bummers Flats, Fort Steele and the International border) before continuing into the USA. In addition to the regular brigade offerings these communities received school programs, Metis and Aboriginal dancing, parades, exhibits, and display unveilings.
The DTCB was a catalyst for community-organized events and educational projects that coincided with our arrival. We assisted community led school programming (1600 students in pre-brigade programming), parades, canoe races, and museum exhibits. Opportunities were given to Aboriginal nations along the route to showcase their ties to the rivers and the fur trade.
2. What are the program's goals and objectives? - Ignite enthusiasm for the fur trade heritage of the Columbia River Basin by showcasing the role of canoe in trade and transport.
- Raise the profile of David Thompson and related history
- Increase awareness of these heritage waterways
3. Who was your intended audience?
a) residents within the Canadian and American Columbia River Basin
b) Participants of the brigade
4. What was the one key idea you wanted participants to take away (theme)?
These waterways have united our nations (Aboriginal and modern) through time and we remain interdependent residents of the Columbia Basin
5. How is your Site's/Organization's/Agency's mandate fulfilled? (if applicable) The purpose(s) of the society are:
a) To raise awareness across along the international Columbia basin of the significance of our rich historical past as it relates to the Columbia River, David Thompson, Charlotte Small, the French voyageurs, and the essential relationships that existed between the First Nations and the European fur trading companies
Achievement - Extensive personal and non-personal interpretation commemorated these themes and messages. First Nations were involved as participants and presenters. Extensive newspaper (50 articles), radio interviews, and TV coverage carried our messages beyond the river edge to an estimated audience of over one million.
b) To promote recreational paddling to all people as an environmentally sensible and healthy recreational pursuit.
Achievement - 198 participants in the brigade. 519 public had opportunity to paddle in the People in Boats project. Participant materials emphasized sustainable camping and canoeing practices. Brigade legacies include funding and best practices that will support future canoe brigades. Our award winning documentary video is currently touring North America. The DTCB has inspired 4 upcoming voyageur canoe brigades through 2017 (Canada's sesquicentennial).
c) To interact with communities about the state of the Columbia basin
Achievement - 38 communities were engaged in the Brigade through personal and non-personal interpretive programming to salute their historic and ongoing ties to the basin. Extensive media coverage communicated brigade themes and messages to a broader community. 3 communities developed related museum and river-side displays that explore the rivers past and present.
Brigade participants now have a deep understanding of the historical and present waterways of the basin.
d) To maintain a safe and healthy canoe brigade experience
Achievement - The brigade was completed with no injuries, on time and under budget.
e) To affiliate with and cooperate with individuals, organizations, business and government agencies whose aims are consistent with those of the Society.
Achievement - The brigade attracted highly competent participants, sponsors, and stakeholders representing recreational, interpretation, heritage, environmental, all levels of government, and Aboriginal interests.
6. Background information about the asset being interpreted. The Columbia, Kootenay, Clark Fork, Snake and Pend Oreille Rivers make up the Columbia Basin, home to 7 million people. It is the traditional home of many First Nations (including the Ktunaxa, Kalispell, Colville, Clatsop, who welcomed the DTCB). The rivers were travel and trade routes and sources of food for Aboriginal people and later, European traders, gold miners, and immigrants.
Geography influences history and these traditional travel corridors are now paralleled by rail and roads. Towns have grown up at the sites of Aboriginal gathering spots and later trading posts. These rivers are the most dammed in North America. (The DTCB route had 15 dams.) Despite the development footprint these rivers continue to flow between Canada and the United States as critical sources of water, power, recreation, and transportation (on the lower Columbia and Snake). They still shape the sense of place and identity of basin residents.
7. How does your project demonstrate sustainable practices in interpretation?
The project was based around the canoe, the craft that stitched together Canada through the waterways of the continent and facilitated the collaboration of Aboriginal and European peoples in trade. Although the brigade used modern boats for safety and logistics, the practice of paddling a canoe remains much as it has been since the voyageur era. Our arrival ceremonies evoked the spirit of traditional brigades. The songs, dance, and fur trade activities are those that North West Company voyageurs practiced when arriving at communities. This was the 4th fur trade themed canoe brigade in 5 years and as before we found when water, paddles and interpretation are mixed together - magic happens. The brigade was deeply meaningful for participants and communities.
In order to be good guests care was made to consult with authorities before the brigade and secure all necessary permits. In addition to performances the brigade gave back to the communities with on stage gifts of voyageur sashes, brigade flags and toasts of "high wine" (iced tea). So communities continued to think well of us after we left Brigade participants adhered to no impact camping rules along the routes, and assigned people to ensure that our campsites were left clean.
We were respectful of Aboriginal sensitivities about the fur trade and presented the brigade as a commemoration of a unique and turbulent era, not as a celebration. We always recognized the tribal territory that we were in along our route. Aboriginal communities shared their culture and perspectives of the river and the fur trade with brigade participants and sometimes with other audiences.
8. How does it demonstrate excellence and best practice in heritage interpretation?
Our offering was developed to be adaptable and integrated program that allowed trained interpreters to present key personal interpretation components such as music and song, dance, fur trade crafts, school programs, and skits while allowing roles for other brigade participants in arrival ceremonies, parades, staffing of exhibits, geocache events, and people in boats. Content experts were used for special presentations, sextant demonstrations and media interviews.
DTCB encouraged communities to share their perspectives on the changes on the river and several did through museum exhibits and guest speakers.
Our interpretive offering followed Tilden's principles though:
- Attention to authenticity - the brigade and its interpretation saluted place and documented events, historical information was vetted by experts, when costumes and reproductions were used they were period accurate. We did not attempt animation because of the nature of our event.
- Providing experiences - participants and for community members were involved in dance, song, traditional crafts, geocache events, and paddling We designed programming that involved the senses, sight, sound, smell, touch and occasionally taste.
- Adapting to audience (ages, skills and interests) - as an example our school programming included age appropriate fur trade era game. We adapted to different levels of knowledge by our audiences. Canadians are aware of the fur trade and David Thompson. As we moved south we capitalized on the wide awareness of Lewis and Clark by presenting Thompson purpose having similarities and differences to the Corps of Discovery. We left audiences to make their own conclusions about who might have been the better explorer, mapmaker, etc.
- Unveiling meaning – trade existed long before Europeans; a fire can be made just as fast without matches, the Pony Express lasted months but the Columbia River Express lasted more than 40 years.
- Balancing information and presentation – nothing is communicated if the audience falls asleep. A message such as 'these rivers were highways' might be touched upon at an arrival ceremony but explored more deeply via storytelling, with handouts, maps, and exhibits giving additional detail for those who wished.
- Provoking insights - we asked questions of the audience (How might this tool have been used? Why create maps? Why would Aboriginal peoples trade with Thompson?) However, care was taken about how sensitive topics were presented. We paid particularly attentive on how we discussed the ecological and social impacts of dams, and the impact on Aboriginal peoples since the arrival of Europeans. The DTBC approach was to acknowledge that the rivers and cultures had changed over 200 years but not to make value judgments about the changes. Instead we talked about: the historic rivers and trade they fostered; the brigade experience on the river; and that these rivers continue as lifeblood of our communities and countries. We encouraged Aboriginal communities to present their own stories to avoid concern about cultural appropriation.
8. Please include the names and a description of the roles of the members of the project team.
Ross MacDonald (Chair) Planning and coordination of brigade, fundraising lead, non-personal media development, historical review, liaison with David Thompson Bicentennial Partnership, spokesperson, community liaison during brigade
Eloise Meredith (Vice Chair, Community Engagement) Planning and coordination of brigade, negotiation with communities, community education project coordinator, community liaison during brigade, banner project lead, spokesperson
Mary Fitl (Media and Community Engagement) Media contact, negotiation with communities, communication and marketing planning, logo and flag development, non-personal media development, spokesperson
Matt Roy (Fur Trade Re-enactment lead) Planning and development of fur trade themed interpretation, recruitment and training of fur trade re-enactors, historical review
9. Please provide a brief project plan, including the project milestones and a rough budget.
It is difficult to provide a brief project plan due the complexity of the brigade and the overlapping nature of projects that contributed to the interpretive offering. Our core organizing committee consisted of 12 people with additional subcommittees.
Fall 2008 - initial brigade conception and recruitment of planning committee
2009 - establishment of Thompson Columbia Brigade Society - establishment of themes and likely route - initial contact with anchor communities - develop website and awareness materials
2010 - secure grant funding for community interpretive projects - route scouting and contact of all communities - develop core planning documents (budget, communication strategy, marketing plan, community engagement strategy, safety plan, water manual, water and ground maps, training plan) - participant recruitment - Interpretive related: - People in Boats concept - planning anchor events, (launch and end of event/ border event, geocache events) - development of tear sheet, touring exhibits - seek community designs for banners - finalize logo and other identifiers - develop terms of reference for documentary video - start planning Geocache events - recruit fur trade re-enactors
2011 - secure funding for People in Boats project - purchase support materials for People in Boats (paddles, PFDs) - complete community negotiations / finalize route and schedule - produce participant support materials - Interpretive related: - produced non personal interpretation - produce identifiers: flags, brigade shirts, sashes and signs - hand painting of 35 banners for parade use - rehearsals of interpretive programs - gather fur trade costumes and craft materials - secure black powder guns, trained people, permissions - support 3rd party displays and pre-brigade school programs with advice, materials and volunteers - award contract for documentary production
June 1st - Brigade paddlers gather in Invermere 2nd - training (safety, arrival ceremonies, People in Boat, logistics) - community parade to David Thompson/Charlotte Small statue 3rd - Brigade launch - arrival ceremony, fur trade activities and display - stage show on Charlotte Small and David Thompson - Metis and Ktunaxa performances 4th - community breakfast event Canal Flats 5th - community breakfast event at Wasa, - History of Kootenay River exhibit unveiled at Bummer's Flat - Ft Steele arrival ceremony, parade, trade demonstrations, dance, displays, geocache event 6th - school presentations at Ft Steele 7th - ceremonial water crossing of border, unveiling of plaque
June 8 - Complete remaining portion of brigade stopping at another -July 15 33 communities
Fall - brigade documentary wins awards from Reel Paddle and Water Walker film festivals - evaluation of DTCB - tour of exhibit and banners
2012 - surplus funds will be distributed to support Thompson related education projects and future voyageur canoe brigades - Dismantle Thompson Columbia Brigade Society
Financial overview The brigade finances were not broken down by personal and non-personal interpretation as these were designed to complement each other. For example: marketing and community event expenditures supported both types of interpretation. The hand-painted banners supported parades, presentations and also displays.
Revenue (as of September 9/11) Source Amount 2008 David Thompson Brigade 2200 Land Surveyors Historic Association 1000 Northwest Surveying and GPS 1000 Teck Minerals 5000 Team registrations (8 full time, 3 part time) 57,008 Brigade memberships (198) 9,444 DTCB Fundraising projects 14,585 Video Presales 360 Merchandise sales 4,761 Columbia Basin Trust 29,500 Total 124,858 $38,700 of this revenue was earmarked to community education projects.
Expenses (as of Sept 9/11) Category Subcategory Amount Administration Administrative Costs 9,357.32 Insurance 1,332.00 Brigade Camp Costs 1,852.00 Safety, Navigation, Training, etc. 4116.07 Advance Crew 10,189.18 Recognition (medals, bands, parties) 3,219.05 Other Brigade Expenses 4,499.50 Marketing and Education Identifiers (decals, flags, etc) 16,062.92 Video production 25,000.00 Community (cards, gifts, displays, edukits) 26,042.61 Merchandise 4,665.75 Other Marketing (cards, etc.) 1,535.94 Total 107,872.34 In excess of $51,042.61 was spent on community education related projects.
The DTCB was a 100% volunteer project with no staff. Consequently, in-kind contributions to the brigade were enormous.
Estimated In Kind Donations (as of Sept 9/11) (donated time valued at $10/hour) Agency/Company Donation Item Amount Arcturus Consulting Educational tearsheet map 3,000 Joseph Cross Artwork usage 1,000 Palisade Printing Printing discount 500 BC Recreational Canoe and Kayak Assoc Safety review and pre-scout 1,000 Communities (38 communities) Marketing 10,000 Meals 22,500 Entertainment 12,000 Gifts 4,000 Exhibits/events/misc 25,000 Motorized boat escort 2,000 Camping 22,000 North American Land Surveyors Loan of exhibits 10,000 David Thompson brochure 5,000 Brigade organizers Volunteer hours (travel/ website/mapbook/accounting/ registration/planning/signage, design, advance crew, etc) (11,449 hours documented) 114,490 Artists Painting community banners 5,000 American Canoe Assoc and Suburu Insurance donation 2,876 Total 240,366 Interpretation related in-kind is estimated as $82,376