Our story

Les Bûcherons started in October of 1982 out of an extraordinary experience of successful touring with Joanne Martineau.

Gilbert Parent owner and artistic director, wrote his first song “Scie le bois” the night he decided to quit  L’Arche a house for handicaps Jean Vanier started years ago.  He prayed on it and expected a clear message in the morning which was ”Hit the Road Jack”.

After his first solo show, he realized he needed a partner and asked another “L’Archian” Yves Manseau, a high spirited hunk from Quebec who learned to fiddle and step dance that summer. He later went back to the priesthood and is now happily married. Gilbert on faith bought a sound system for $700, hired Yves at $6/hr. produced and distributed a brochure that proved fruitful about two months later. Students gave Yves and Gilbert and Ives the name Les Bûcherons / The Lumberjacks after seeing them dressed in knickers and dancing with axes. The name stuck for the next 28 years. With every concert two others were booked and repeat business made for abundant service given the sale of 1000 spoons and 1000 dancing men that Gilbert’s parents Albert and Marie built every year.  This first years proved entertaining because of participation and stories , the Axe and saw Dance, a spoon competition, the use of 10 dancing men, and 150 spoons which were distributed to the audience.  These 3 items, the dance, spoons and dancing men, were the foundation of audience participation that has become renowned with Les Bûcherons.

Since their inception, Les Bûcherons have given about 5,500 performances worldwide. They have entertained at schools, festivals, for various community and corporate shows.



One of our famous first explorers was Jacques Cartier. In 1534 he was commissioned by the King of France to set sail and find the North West Passage, a shortcut to Asia and the Orient. There were two obvious routes to travel inland. One was discovered by Henry Hudson in 1610, hence this straight and bay are now named after him. The Hudson Straight was one of two main ways to access the interior of Canada. The second obvious way was using “La Grande Rivière du Canada”, or the St Lawrence river. It was on this main river where Samuel de Champlain set up the first settlement of Quebec in 1608.

1456 marks the start of the craze for fur hats in Europe. The hats were a symbol of authority and importance for those who owned them. These hats were a fashion trend that was so huge that the industry quickly exhausted all the beavers in Europe. The fur trade industry was now looking elsewhere to supply the growing demand for beaver pelts.

In the 1650’s, Raddisson and Grosseilliers were the two notorious “Coureurs de Bois”. Known for their ambition and adventure, they kicked off an industry of bringing traded goods from Europe in exchange for the furs that the natives supplied. The French governor, at that time, was taxing them heavily on their profits. They were certainly more committed to their growing industry than to their country, so they decided to seek support from England.

Raddisson, Grosseillers and support from the English were responsible for the establishment of the first fur trading posts, or forts, which were located at the south end of James Bay including Fort Charles, Moose Factory and Fort Albany. These were the first of many forts that would be scattered across Canada where the natives could bring the furs and trade for things such as blankets, axes, knives, saws, as well as pots and pans.

Soon after these forts were built an official charter, signed on May 2 of 1670, established the Hudson’s Bay Company, which had three goals; the fur trade, mineral exploration and the discovery of the North West passage.

If the native people didn’t make the trek and come to the forts, then the fur trade had to send people into the wild to do the trading. The easiest way to navigate the wilderness of this new country was by paddling up and down the rivers. These paddlers were known as the voyageurs, who packed and hauled trading goods and provisions in birch-bark Canoes.

The only personal belongings of a voyageur who was “en route” would have been a blanket, moccasins and clothes and perhaps a rosary. Their shirts, sashes and tuques were often red, a popular color among voyageurs. Each sash was unique in color and design, handmade by their families or loved ones. Paddles were hand-carved, covered in designs and became an extension of a voyageur’s arm.

There were two types of birch-bark canoe. Canoe de Maître or Montreal Canoes were very large, almost 40 feet long, and easily carried lots of trading goods via the extensive system of rivers and lakes. Canoe du Nord or North Canoes, were much smaller, holding only six to eight people and were preferred when navigating smaller rivers carrying less cargo. These canoes often needed repair and most evenings were spent patching small leaks or large rips in the birch bark.

To keep their spirits up and paddling in sync, they often sang songs about the good times as well as the bad. A sense of power, teamwork and camaraderie was cultivated as they paddled hard and enthusiastically sang together. Many French voyageurs came from the Catholic tradition and St. Anne was the patron saint of the voyageurs. Prayers often brought faith and courage to a fearful or weary voyageur. They believed that offerings to the “old lady”, or “mother nature”, would keep the pouring rain from drenching them to the bone. The harsh weather and treacherous conditions were very often extremely difficult and sometimes a death by drowning or illness would occur. They would often mark the burial of a lost voyageur by making a cross from broken paddles.

Women played a very important role in the survival of these untamed explorers, especially during the harsh, cold winters. Most women were either native or Métis. Clothing and equipment such as Moccasins and Snowshoes were made almost exclusively by women. Hard-working and ingenious they also prepared food and provided shelter using buffalo for both pemmican and tepee, or tent coverings. Many women could speak more than one language and were also useful to the voyageurs as interpreters.

From 1670 to 1874 many independent traders or “coureur de bois” roamed the wild intercepting the natives before they reached the trading posts. In 1774 the North West Company was formed creating competition for the Hudson’s Bay Company and for the next 40 years numerous forts would be constructed along the many rivers that spanned the vast Canadian wilderness. Many more explorers and adventurers would penetrate further westward in search of better beaver fields.

Eventually however, the dawn of the age of railroads was the sunset of the voyageur era. In 1821 the Hudson’s Bay Company merged with the Northwest Company and retired many of them to small farms in western Canada.

The only evidence that remains of these great, historical figures of the 18th century culture is documented in museums, books, on CD and DVD. We hope you catch the force and enthusiasm of the many wonderful songs and stories of these hardy and courageous voyageurs, who played such a pivotal role in Canada’s history!

Voyageur Time Line

1456 – Start of the fur hats fashion craze in Europe which become a symbol of authority and importance

– Coureurs de Bois – saves the French fur trade after the destruction of Huronia

1608 – Champlain est. Quebec – first trading post

– Hurons emerge as the greatest source of furs for the French

1663 – New France becomes a royal colony under King Louis XIV

1610 – Henry Hudson discovers Hudson Bay

1650 – Launch of the trading empire under French colonial government

– 60 canoes confiscated and taxed for having left without permission

1665 – Des Groseilliers and Raddisson go to England to present a plan to King Charles II (time of the plague) with hopes of riches and the North-West passage

1668 – Trade expedition to Hudson Bay

– With agreement and financial support from King Charles, Radisson and Des Groseilliers sail over on Nonsuch and Eaglet to establish…

1. Fort Charles (in honour of the King), Ruperts’ House, Waskaganish

2. Moose Fort, Factory (where the factor lived)

3. Fort Abany

1670 – King Charles II, Royal Charter Hudson’s Bay Co. (HBC)

1671 – The Governor and the adventurers begin trading in the Hudson Bay

1675 – Des Groseilliers and Raddisson officially sever ties to the HBC

1679 – La Chesnaye meets Radisson in Paris, formation of La Conpagnie du Nord

1682 – Des Groseilliers and Radisson show up on the St. Pierre and the St. Anne representing the Company du Nord

– Rival fur trade company with partners from New France, First Fort – Fort Bourbon at the mouth of the Hayes River

1683 – Radisson takes control of HBC at Port Nelson

1684 – Des Groseilliers retires

1685 – Commando raids from The Company du Nord take over HBC posts and capture Radisson. Commander Chevalier Pierre de Troyes

1685 – Radisson back working for HBC

1690 – Inland expeditions by Henry Kelsey

1713 – Treaty of Utrecht – Hudson’s Bay Company – takes over Hudson Bay

1728 – La Vérendrye – Company du Nord – established trading forts in western Canada

1754 – Inland expeditions by Anthony Henday

1759 – Britain defeats French at Plains of Abraham

1771 – Samuel Hearn makes expedition through the Barrens to Arctic Ocean

1774 – Samuel Hearne establishes first inland trading post – Cumberland House

1782 – Prince of Wales fort is destroyed by the French

1784 – North West Company established – partnership of nine different fur-trading groups (Les Montrealais, Les Hivernants)

1820 – North-west company sends a delegation to propose merger with HBC1826

1826 – George Simpson becomes governor of the HBC

1870 – HBC sells land holdings to the dominion of Canada

DID YOU KNOW..recovery.

The three leaves of the Fleurs-de-lis represent the medieval social classes: those who worked, those who fought and those who prayed. Fleurs-de-lis crossed the Atlantic along with Europeans going to the New World, especially with French settlers. The fleur-de-lis appears on the Canadian coat of arms, the flags of Quebec and Nova Scotiain Canada, and south of the border on that of Detroit (originally a French name, though at present pronounced quite differently), New Orleans, and elsewhere. The Acadian region and various cities in southern Louisiana, such as Lafayette, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, also use the fleur-de-lis. On 9 July 2008, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill into law making the fleur-de-lis an official symbol of the state. Following Hurricane Katrina, the fleur-de-lis has been widely used in New Orleans as a symbol of grassroots support for New Orleans’

Benefits for your students

Experiential learning benefits your students Teacher’s and principals all agree that an excellent way to improve life long learning for students’ is through a transactive process and learning through experience. There are a lot of educational benefits to having The Lumberjacks be of service at your school. It encourages students to understand the traditions and …

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Testimonies from Highwood French Immersion School, Calgary, AB. after a 1 week Residency with Gilbert Le Bûcheron:   Grade 1, Mme Banks It’s been amazing.  This has been a very valuable experience for the students and myself.  We’ve all learned so much and had a lot a fun.  This enriched the students’ lives and education.  It …

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