I have Native Indian in my blood, and I grew up listening to stories about my heritage, the people, the customs, and the history. I was always fascinated with this part of my family’s history because I think we all need to understand where we came from.
In Grade 7, that was my favourite year of history class because we learned more in-depth about the Algonquin Indians, and their story of meeting the Europeans. This may be why I have such love for Algonquin Provincial Park, and why I feel a bit of a sense of ownership when I camp there, and it’s only recently that I learned that the Algonquin tribe was spread out across Canada and the United States, they weren’t just concentrated in one area.
Today, I’m writing about, wait for it, my great-great-great-great grandfather. I think I have it right, I’m not “great” with the greats.
So, my ancestor is Mathew Bernard of Ontario. I wish I had had a chance to meet him, but he passed away 2 years before I was born. Wow, what he must have seen within his lifetime!
Mathew Bernard is renowned for building the world’s largest birch-bark canoe, which is currently on display at the National Museum of Canada. It was built in 1955, with my great-great-great-great grand-uncle (yeah, it gets a LITTLE confusing. LOL).
My pride in this entire story though, is NOT about the canoe at all, although, it IS pretty awesome, right? No… my great-great-great-great grandmother was Christiane Aird Partridge, and from what I have been told, was an Indian princess. Other than that, I don’t really know a lot about her, but I am hoping to uncover more information about her life.
When he was 81, my ancestor, Mathew Bernard, was commissioned to construct a replica of canoes used over 150 years ago by fur traders, explorers and traders, called a “Montreal Canoe” or “Canoe du Maitre”. Unfortunately, the canoe was not finished in time for the opening of the Museum in Ottawa, but enjoyed a maiden voyage across Golden Lake (where a few of my maternal relatives STILL live today), manned by 16 Algonquin paddlers.
What makes this kind of canoe so special and rare? There are ZERO nails or modern materials used in the entire construction of the canoe. The goal of any canoe construction is to keep the vessel light and easy to carry, as much as possible.
I’m unsure of the relation, but I found a photo and a tiny bit of information about the grandson of my great-great-great-great grandfather, but haven’t yet been able to contact him, or establish what our exact relation actually is. I hope that I can find a way to do so in the near future 🙂
Have you ever written about an ancestor of yours? I invite you to share your story!