nav-left cat-right

Skills of the Hivernant

If you follow any historical reenacting/trekking message boards, it seems that labels are commonly created for/by reenacting folks to separate out and make fun of/belittle each other. Most of this is self-harming, juvenile non-sense, but it has had me thinking in a constructive fashion (as this post will show). Anyway, a current “division” being assigned is that of “Librarians” and that of “Do-ers.” Basically, those that research and read vs. those that get out and DO history. Odd thing is that many of those I know and hang out with are both… sort of messes up the ability to separate then, eh?

Thinking about this did, however, have me wanting to look back over what skills a wintering voyageur (hivernant or homme du nord) might have. Going back through a few wintering journals of the NWCo and XYCo of the late 1700-early 1800s, I created the following list of skills utilized by these men, which I will not elaborate on at this point but will list out for the fun of considering.

-Paddling and portaging (of course, they are voyageurs)
-Construction (building of posts and outbuildings… includes basic construction, felling of trees, hewing logs, making shingles, whitewashing, etc.)
-Canoe repair (and even building)
-Woodwork (mentions of building chairs, tables, carts, traineaux, etc.)
-Cutting, splitting, hauling firewood
-Snowshoe making
-Trap making (and even some trapping)
-Fishing (especially with net)
-Maple Sugaring
-Gardening (planting, hoeing, harvesting… the whole works)
-Animal husbandry (at posts that had animals… includes carting dung, building stables, mowing hay, and driving animals.. horses, dogs, etc.)
-Dance, games, and music (we could mention many things amongst this that were winter entertainment)
-Guiding and interpreting (language and navigating knowledge)
-Sewing and mending (even some tailoring is mentioned among some men)
-Oven building

-????? I know there are skills I have skipped over and some that I didn’t read and list about in this quick review, but the point is that many of these men had a variety of skills that they were required to use, NOT just paddling (or hunting, trapping, etc.) . As a person that portrays a person such as this, I personally try and am continuing to try to learn, working on, and experience the skills listed above.

One Response to “Skills of the Hivernant”

  1. Jeff says:

    Just a note to say thank you for putting up a great website. I used to participate in the reenacting aspect several years ago but quickly grew tired of caste system LOL. I especially enjoyed reading your trap modification tutorial as well as the skills list. Think I’m doing pretty good with everything on your list except canoe building. Anyway, thanks again and I appreciate your time and effort involved in this site. Jeff


  1. Word of the week…hivernant | French Canadian Cultural Alliance of the Great Lakes - […] be considered the progenitors of the metis peoples as well as masters of the fur trade. See also: French…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *