unknown (possibly Frank Randford "Budge" Crawley)
Production Date: 
1946 (final edit date unknown)
Crawley Films (uncredited)
Run Time: 
Canadian Geographical Society; Distributed by International Film Bureau, Inc.

Establishing shot: Men in forest approaching a tree
Named locations:  The indigenous territories of Canada (“5,000 miles of wilderness”); northern and western Canada (“the Fur-land”); Montreal; Hudson’s Bay; the Huron; the St. Lawrence waterway; Nipigon River; Ottawa; Madagascar River; Petawawa
Major themes covered: combines two short films - "How Indians Build Canoes" and "Traders and Trappers" into a single viewing experience
Native activities shown: The film describes the fur trade, especially beaver, among the Algonquin peoples. The film places the fur trade within the context of European contact and the fur trade’s dependence on seasonality and waterways (via Algonquin canoes). The process of “portage” is portrayed, with indigenous men carrying bundles of trade materials and canoes (with the aid of tumplines) across land until they reach the next waterway.

The film also portrays the step-by-step process of using mostly indigenous resources to build a traditional Algonquin canoe.

Some of the footage from Trappers and Traders features possible traditional Algonquin drumming and singing (although the singing seems to be a “chant”-style rather than using actual Algonquin words).

Named Individuals: Mathew or Matthew (Chief Matt) Bernard; Maurice Bernard (son of Mathew). 
Native language spoken: English-language narration interspersed with words in Algonquin language and French (some words in French are credited as “Indian” words).
Noteworthy elements:  The film’s two main canoe builders, Mathew (Chief Matt) Bernard and his son, Maurice, are described by the narrator as following the multi-generational tradition of native canoe-making. Mathew Bernard is a noted Algonquin canoe builder, having built with others (in 1957) the world’s largest birch bark “war” canoe (36-foot long) for the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa/Hull (“Mathew Bernard” n. pag.; “History of the BAFN” n. pag.)

Mathew (Chief Matt) Bernard (b. 1875) is credited as Chief of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn from the years 1903-05 and 1909-25. Mathew (Chief Matt) Bernard kept the tradition of canoe-building alive within the Algonquin tribe (“History of the BAFN” n. pag.; “Matt Bernard” n. pag.).

Other notes:

According to A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture and Peoples, the word, “Algonquin” or “Algonkin” is likely derived from a Micmac word meaning, “at the place of spearing fish and eels from the bow of a canoe”. The original self-designation for the Algonquin peoples was “Anishinabeg,” which means “true men” (Pritzker 404).

In April 1928, Johnson claims,  the Algonquin at Golden Lake, Ontario, called themselves, “Ininwezi,” which means “we people here alone” (173). In the same article, Johnson notes that the Algonquin of River Desert called the Golden Lake Band by the name “Nozebi’ wininawag,” which means “Pike-water people” (174).

Pritzker states that animal pelts were historically traded with neighboring tribes, and later the French, for “corn, tobacco, fishing gear, and wampum” (405). For transportation, Algonquin men “made birch-bark canoes, snowshoes, and toboggans” (405). Johnson  also writes that showshoes and bark canoes (as portrayed in Portage) were key elements of the then-contemporary Algonquin “economic life” (176).

Pritzker claims that some contemporary (as of 2000) Algonquin peoples still “maintain a traditional hunting and trapping life” for economic means (p. 406).

Adney and Chapelle, in their 1983 text The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America, give an overview of basic Algonquin canoe types and their history and usage. The authors identify two main types (with variations) of “Algonkin” canoe, the “old Algonkin model” – which was more prevalent pre-European contact – and the later, “common form of Algonkin canoe…the wabinaki chiman” (113-14). The authors claim the latter type was especially popular during the late Nineteenth Century (115). The canoe built by the Bernards in Portage looks more like a variation of the “wabinaki chiman” described by Adney and Chapelle, and diagramed and labeled as “Hybrid Algonkin Canoes: Eastern Algonkin Canoes: Eastern 2 ½-fathom…and northeastern 2-fathom adaptation” (117).

Adney and Chapelle admit that it is difficult to decide what defines a traditional, pre-contact Algonquin canoe: “The foregoing description of building methods and construction is based largely upon what is known of the old canoes…later…the Algonkin copied the eastern canoes and their procedure altered...As a result, it has become difficult to determine what their tribal practices were” (122). 

Adney and Chapelle claim that the increase in bark canoe production among the Algonquins in the Seventeenth Century was caused by the French demand for more canoes for transportation within the fur trade. The authors hypothesize that the “old,” high-ended “Algonkin model” of canoe may have been the “tribal type from which the fur-trade canoe was developed” (113).

Adnet and Chapelle also describe in detail the act of “portaging” among the “Algonkins”. The authors’ description includes placement of paddles, how the canoe was positioned when carried, and the use of a “tump line” (a phrase invented by the “white man”) as a headband to prevent the canoe from slipping during portaging (p. 122).

Johnson, in 1928, wrote of the position and responsibilities of the Chief of the Algonquins of Golden Lake. The Chief, Johnson states, is “elected for life… [and is in charge] of the reservation of 1500 acres and acts according to the direction of the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs” (p. 177).

Crawley Films was an independent Canadian film production company formed by experimental documentary filmmaker Frank Randford "Budge" Crawley (b. 1911) and his wife, Judith, in 1939. Frank Crawley also produced and/or directed several films on the subject of canoeing, although Portage lacks any specific directing credits.  During World War II, Crawley Films produced military training films. By the mid-Twentieth Century, Crawley Films made newsreels and corporate and government-sponsored films, and went on to produce full-length films, television programs and animated films. Crawley Films’ productions won many accolades, including the first Canadian Film Award for “Film of the Year” for The Loon’s Necklace (1949), the first Canadian feature-film “Oscar” for the feature-length documentary The Man Who Skied Down Everest (1975) and “over 270” international awards. Frank Crawley sold Crawley Films to Atkinson Film Arts in 1982, and in 1984 the Crawley films collection was purchased by the National Archives. Frank Crawley passed away in 1987, and Crawley Films eventually declared bankruptcy in 1989 (Handling n. pag.; “Frank ‘Budge’ Crawley” n. pag.).

The International Film Bureau (based in Chicago, Illinois) was founded in 1937 by Wesley Green. (Alexander 204; Manchel 2251).


General information on Algonquin of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation (Golden Lake First Nation, Ontario):

Johnson, Frederick. “The Algonquin at Golden Lake, Ontario.” Indian Notes. 5.2 (1928) : 173-8. Print.

Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture and Peoples. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. Print.

History of the post-European contact Beaver Trade in Canada, including involvement of Algonquin peoples:

Innis, Harold A. The Fur Trade in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999. Print.

Jennings, Francis. The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire: The Covenant Chain Confederation of Indian Tribes with English Colonies from Its Beginnings to the Lancaster Treaty of 1744. New York: W. W. Norton, 1984. Print.

Algonquin canoe history, construction and designs:

Adney, Edwin Tappey, and Howard I. Chapelle. The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983. Print.

Mathew (Chief Matt) Bernard of Golden Lake, Ontario (Pikwàkanagàn First Nation):

“Birch Bark Canoe, The”. Canoe Builders of Pikwàkanagàn. Virtualmuseums.ca, 2013. Web. 9 January 2013. http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=story_line&lg=English&fl=0&ex=00000384&sl=2312&pos=1

Bond, Hallie E. Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks. Blue Mountain Lake, NY: Adirondack Museum, The, 1998. Web. 10 January 2013. http://books.google.com/books?id=5hi_q3AmXKIC&pg=PA239&lpg=PA239&dq=matthew+bernard+algonquin&source=bl&ots=Hfrw72PSTd&sig=7KFGW8vW-4XX1g30-ZafREaue7Y&hl=en&sa=X&ei=rJDsULj3Ma650AGMh4DwDQ&ved=0CFYQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=matthew%20bernard%20algonquin&f=false

“History of the BAFN: The Bonnechere Algonquin Community”.  Bonnechere Algonquin First Nation, n.d. Web. 9 January 2013.  http://www.bafn.ca/history.html

“Mathew Bernard”. Ancestry.com, 2008. Web. 9 January 2013.  http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/s/c/h/Alicia-M-Schutt/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0895.html

 “Matt Bernard”. Tanakiwin – country, homeland for Ontario Algonquins. Algonquin Treaty Negotiation Funding Trust, 2009. Web. 9 January 2013. http://www.tanakiwin.com/stories.htm

Pictures of Mr. and Mrs. (Mathew) Matthew Bernard and Maurice Bernard:

Algonquin: Native American Encyclopedia. Pinterest, n.d. Web. 9 January 2013. http://pinterest.com/nativeamericans/algonquin/

Online Algonquin language conversion:

Dictionary. OP Online, n.d. Web. 10 January 2013. http://www.thealgonquinway.ca/English/dictionary-e.php

Crawley Films:

“Frank ‘Budge’ Crawley” Northernstars.ca: The Canadian Movie Database.  n.d. Web. 8 January 2013. http://www.northernstars.ca/directorsal/crawley_budge.html

Handling, Piers. “Budge Crawley”. Canadian Encyclopedia, The. Historica-Dominion Institute, n.d. Web. 8 January 2013.  http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/budge-crawley

International Film Bureau:

Alexander, Geoff. Academic Films for the Classroom: A History. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2010. Web. 8 January 2013. http://books.google.com/books?id=wLMxASznLzoC&pg=PA204&lpg=PA204&dq=international+film+bureau+1946&source=bl&ots=LMZG0m5AKt&sig=HdEvDlg3vzk05zZ5rZyZBLu0Xfo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=nUHrUKayNrOz0QGLnIGwDA&ved=0CFIQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=international%20film%20bureau%201946&f=false

Manchel, Frank. Film Study: An Analytical Bibliography, Volume 4.Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1990. Web. 8 January 2013. http://books.google.com/books?id=qZN5d7jelgcC&pg=PA2251&dq=international+film+bureau&hl=en&sa=X&ei=kELrUJ-XBbSP0QHyvIC4DA&ved=0CGwQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=international%20film%20bureau&f=false

--Eric Maynard (Mohegan), 2013