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Songs Upon the Rivers
Songs Upon the Rivers

Songs Upon the Rivers

The Buried History of the French-Speaking Canadiens and Métis from the Great Lakes and the Mississippi across to the Pacific


448 Pages, 6.5 x 9.5

Formats: Trade Paper, PDF, Mobipocket, EPUB

Trade Paper, $34.95 (US $34.95) (CA $34.95)

Publication Date: October 2016

ISBN 9781771860819

Rights: WOR

Baraka Books (Oct 2016)


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Before the Davie Crockets, the Daniel Boones and Jim Bridgers, the French had pushed far west and north establishing trade and kin networks across the continent. They founded settlements that would become great cities such as Detroit, Saint Louis, and New Orleans, but their history has been largely buried or relegated to local lore or confined to Quebec. In this seminal work, Foxcurran, Bouchard, and Malette Scrutinize primary sources and uncover the alliances, organic links and métissage, or mixing, between early French settlers and voyageurs and the indigenous nations. It began with the founding of New France by Samuel de Champlain in the early 1600s and continued well into the 19th century long after France was no longer a force in North America. The authors' keen and accessible story telling, combined with vintage maps, forgotten documents (such as the little known writings of Alexis de Tocqueville), and old photos or paintings propel the account of the peoples engendered and still thriving, their French lingua franca, and their ways of life back into the heart of the narrative of North American history where they belong. Songs Upon the Rivers also challenges historical orthodoxies regarding the Canadien Métis. These descendants of the French with mixed ancestry developed a hybrid culture with close kinship ties with indigenous peoples across the continent. They kept their French songs and language, which effectively made French the lingua franca of the American and Canadian West well into the 19th century.


"This new work explores a fascinating and under-explored area of North American civilization: the history of the French 'Canadiens' and Métis . . . not overly 'jargony' . . . it will appeal to anyone with a strong interest in French North America but uncomfortable with academic terminology . . . refreshing scholarship that adds value, Highly Recommended." —James LaForest, Voyageur Heritage

"Songs Upon the Rivers continues to break through the barriers of sugar-coated and watered down standard depictions of early Canadian history ensuring that even the most sinister stories of our past will finally be told. With each copy that is sold readers are rejecting the rosy veneer of revisionism and demanding factual honesty as the basis of Canada's national identity . . . The book boasts a rich array of unearthed photographs and archived maps giving the reader a vivid visual perspective of the history unfolding on the page." —Regan Treewater, Alberta Native News

"Foxcurran, Bouchard, and Malette are serious researchers; they consulted published primary sources (from the Internet) and secondary publications written in both French and English. French traders, the authors argue, were not only indefatigable explorers, they were also brokers of a hybrid culture with indigenous people, which became so strong that it remained dominant on the Pacific Northwest frontier until the middle of the 19th century . . . the writing, maps, historic images, and excellent index happily extend our understanding of the Canadien and Métis cultures." —Robert C. Carriker, Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History

"This book is a major undertaking from three authors who are diverse in their interests and experience . . . . Songs Upon the Rivers is a valuable contribution, illuminating areas of North American Canadien and Métis history that have lingered too long in the shadows of larger national narratives." —Jennifer S.H. Brown, Canada's History

Author Biography

Dr. Michel Bouchard is Chair and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Northern British Columbia. He was born in northern Alberta and grew up in a French-speaking community that was in the shadow of the historical fur economy. His research on ethnicity and nationalism took him from his small town to the city of Narva in Estonia, located on the border with Russia, and deep into the territories of northern Russia. He has examined both contemporary identity as well as the historical origins of nationhood in the medieval period. His recent research has been examining the history of the French-speaking populations of western Canada and British Columbia in the 18th and 19th centuries. Robert Foxcurran is an independent historian who grew up in up in a military family, including several years each in France and Japan. He holds undergraduate degrees in French and Japanese studies and a Masters in Business Economics and Business History. He worked for 30 years at Boeing. Author of NATO: A Business History (Boeing, 1986) and "Les Canadiens: Resettlement of the Metis into the Backcountry of the Pacific Northwes" in, Columbia: Quarterly of the Washington State Historical Society (Fall 2012) Sébastien Malette is an Assistant Professor of law at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. He holds a PhD from the University of Victoria (BC) and did Postdoc studies at the University of Melbourne. He has specialized on Métis and French-Canadian heritage with ties and friendships within indigenous communities in different parts of North America. He is an expert in Aboriginal Law with a focus on access to justice, Indigenous legal traditions, relational politics and worldviews. His work also focuses on ostracized Métis or "mixed-Heritage" Indigenous communities, their histories and resilience. Sébastien Malette lives in Gatineau, Québec.