Selective memory, re-enactment, and settler landscapes: Bruce Erickson, ‘Embodied heritage on the French River: Canoe routes and colonial history’, The Canadian Geographer, 2015
Abstract: In 1985, Ontario’s French River was designated one of the inaugural Canadian Heritage Rivers by the Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS), highlighting the important natural and cultural heritage of the French River to the Canadian nation. Specifically, the designation noted the role the French River played in the fur trade as a major link between the port of Montreal and the trading posts of the interior. Important to the CHRS is the ability to recreationally experience the French River by canoe, replicating the voyageur mode of travel. The connection between landscape, colonial heritage, and recreational vehicles is emblematic of a particular historiographic reading of Canadian rivers that celebrates the land of the nation as an encounter with the nation’s origins. In this heritage production, the tangled politics of colonialism, particularly the dynamics of the fur trade, are elided in the celebration of the nation as emerging from the landscape—not the social and political history of that landscape. By promoting this heritage through the embodied experience of a canoe trip, heritage promotion on the French risks reading history through a very limited lens, thus missing the value of understanding the historical geography of the French River as a contested space.
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